Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Those Living In Glass Closets Should Not Throw Stones

The outing of Grey's Anatomy star T.R. Knight by costar Isaiah Washington in an unprovoked outburst during a press conference at the 2007 Golden Globe Awards in which he falsely denied having called Knight a “faggot” during an argument on set, as well as the very moving sight of a visibly shaken T.R. Knight responding to it on Ellen Degeneres' show, has prompted me to dredge up an old e-mail exchange with my good friend Brendan Keefe, responding to his blog entry Closet Cases, itself commenting on a 20 Oct 06 Salon article titled The glass closet about the Mark Foley incident asking the question: “As Foleygate shows, Washington has a unique definition of what it means to be ‘openly gay.’ Should the media keep playing along?”

The answer is, accoring to Salon:

Within the mainstream media, the general standard for reporting on the sexual orientation of those who are at least partially closeted is a combination of newsworthiness and the guideline used by many gay activists, the "Barney Frank rule." Based on a rationale offered by Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay Massachusetts Democrat, when he threatened to release a list of closeted gay Republicans in 1989, the "Frank rule" maintains that outing is acceptable when done to a closeted public figure who is working against the interests of the gay community at large.

I agree with that rule. Here is my story:

When I was hired by a Defense subcontractor, in order to obtain a needed security clearance for my job, I was forced to go from office to office telling coworkers whom I hardly (at that time) knew that I was gay. This was presumably to forstall any risk to being “blackmailed.” It was deeply embarrassing for me to inflict my private life without context or prior acquaintance onto unsuspecting colleagues left speechless by my spontaneous need to confess. I might well have rung a leper's bell first to let them know I was coming.

Before you get too outraged, remember that the only reason I even had this “privilege” at all was because only months before, the gay news magazine Advocate featured a cover story by maverick columnist Michelangelo Signorile exposing the Pentagon's then active purging of gay personnel, even as one of its assistant secretaries of defense, Pete Williams, was gay and appeared to be accepted as such by then President George Bush and then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. The subsequent worldwide attention put Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney on the spot, who refused to fire his outed gay underling and offered the following explanation:

I have operated on the basis over the years with respect to my personal staff that I don't ask them about their private lives. As long as they perform their professional responsibilities in a responsible manner, their private lives are their business.

Cheney's statement upended overnight the witchhunt of civilian gays in the Executive Branch and, together with the timely intervention of the openly gay Mass. Rep. Barney Frank and the very strong support of my employer (for which I will be forever grateful), I got my security clearance and enjoyed seven very successful years in the Defense industry.

Now that I have switched to the Entertainment industry and want to marry my longtime “domestic partner”, as the State of California labels him, I am stopped by the likes of David Dreier.

According to Wikipedia, my fellow Californian David Dreier, Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since January 1981 representing the California's 26th congressional district, who at one time was so powerful that he was slated under Dennis Hastert for Majority Leader, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by President Clinton), against gay adoption, and against inclusion of homosexuality as a protected status in hate crime and employment discrimination legislation.

That track record has proven too much for his political opponents, gay rights groups, and most recently Hustler magazine, who have “outed” him as a homosexual.

Rep. Dreier has yet to comment on his sexual orientation. But Mr. Dreier, when you voted against my would-be marriage, you gave up your right to privacy. It is no longer your right to hide the truth, and no longer your privilege to be the first one to tell it.

No comments: