Before, after, or during this post, you should click here and read Bill's post. I'm the unnamed coworker. It's almost like being famous!
So, last night I was thinking about my response, considering my argument. Just in case you haven't yet clicked on the link and checked out what I'm responding to, I'll give you a brief break down. Bill and I were discussing the HBO documentary Outraged, which chronicles a man's journey to out closeted gay politicians who consistently vote against gay rights legislation.
I argued that this man's actions probably made for riveting documentary film-making, but they were ethically tenuous at best. Sometimes politics have the propensity to turn us all into drama queens. I should know. I used to be one of those feminists who figured having a penis was an automatic qualifier for being sexist. Talk about having an agenda.
Now, my feelings on the outing have nothing to do with what I think should be done politically. I am a woman who believes in the legalization of everything. You wanna do heroin bought with the money you got for giving a blowjob in a back alley? Go for it. Same goes for gay marriage. Not that gay marriage is anything like doing heroin with blowjob money, but my point is that my political leanings are such that I pretty much think that as long as you're not forcing anyone else to do something they're not interested in doing, you should be allowed to do whatever you want. No stealing. No murder. No rape. Otherwise, bring on the trans fats and supersize it, please. I don't think it's the government's job to save us from ourselves.
Or keep us from getting married to each other. Some people might argue that the two are one and the same.
So, at any rate, if you read Bill's post, you know that I argued that it was not ethical for this man to out these politicians. I argued that it was not ethical even though they're being hypocritical. I argued this because they may have many different motivations for both their voting records and their decisions to keep their homosexuality (or varying degrees thereof) private. Part of my argument was that, as elected officials, their duty is to vote the way the majority of their constituents would have them vote. This argument was backed up by a conversation I had with another gay friend about a Texas state senator he knows. She's a conservative elected in a majority conservative district, and she once told my friend that she disagrees with the way she votes on gay issues, and she votes that way because that was the job she was elected to do. If she voted the way she wanted in spite of her constituents, she'd be acting as if she knew better than they did how they want their community to run. And, like it or not, that's just not the way our government was designed to work.
In theory, it's a government for the people, by the people.
But on some level I felt that his decision to out these people was unethical because it just seems malicious. It almost seems downright childish. All it will really accomplish is the embarrassment, grief and emotional upheaval of a few politicians lives. It will not change much of anything else. If you believe that hurting these people puts us any closer to legalizing gay marriage, you're insane. Effectively all it will change is which politician holds their seat come next election.
You know, from a closeted gay one who votes against gay rights to a hopefully really straight one who votes against gay rights.
During my argument with Bill I posed the question, "So, if you knew your friend's boyfriend was cheating on him, would you tell him?" We both initially agreed that it would be none of our business, thus supposedly strengthening my argument. I love it when that happens. But he has since changed his position and said he would tell his friend. Well, guess what. I'm changing my position, too! And I've actually decided that question is different than whether or not it's ethical to out a politician.
I would tell my friend if his or her boyfriend or girlfriend was cheating on him or her. Man, gender inclusion really lengthens a sentence. I would not, however, tell an acquaintance. I have intimate knowledge of my friend's situation. I do not have intimate knowledge of my acquaintance's situation. Therefore, all of my acquaintance's private matters are none of my business until he or she makes them my business. Relationships rely very much on nuance.
But even if I decided to tell an acquaintance, it's still different from the political scenario. If I tell an individual that his or her boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on him or her, I've given that individual full working knowledge with which to make a choice. He or she can stay or go knowing the truth about the situation. But that is not the motivation behind outing these politicians. Odds are good that if they lied about their sexual orientation and vote against gay rights legislation, they ran on that platform--the anti-gay-rights-legislation platform. So did they lie in a political sense? Nope. They said they would do X, I voted for them because I wanted them to do X, and then they did X. Sounds like doing their job to me. Outing them doesn't give anyone a choice to do anything about anything.
Whenever one finds oneself pondering an action, it's best to ask oneself, "Is it helpful?" If the answer is, "No," then one really should reconsider said action. Even if said action will make one famous.
Outing people--any people, even politicians--against their will is just mean. It isn't high-minded. It doesn't open the floor for constructive discussion. It just hurts some people, pisses some other people off and allows some other people to shout, "Fuck yeah! Stick it to the man!" at their television sets on a Saturday night.
And I don't think any of those things are on the to-do list.