“Outing” is over? Good riddance.
So it turns out that maybe Shep Smith is gay. And it further turns out that nobody gives much of a shit about it.
Quoth the New York Times:
What if they threw open the closet door and nobody cared to look inside?
That was the overall effect of two recent items on Gawker, the gossip site, that revealed that Shepard Smith, the Fox News anchor, had been seen at a Chelsea bar with a date described as “a muscular 6-foot-2 30-something white male.”
I am not much of a Fox News watcher. I leave that kind of overt masochism to my good friend Tod, who suffers for his art in ways I could never endure myself. I have this vague sense that Mr. Smith is the network’s token sane person, but having viewed essentially none of its programming I cannot comment with authority. I did see this glorious moment of candor and humanity, and thus insofar as I have an opinion of Mr. Smith it is positive, if tepidly so.
The revelation that Mr. Smith sings at my church (so to speak) does not alter my opinion one eensy little iota of a jot of a whiff. My reactions to those Gawker pieces (of which I learned indirectly though articles like the one above) were:
1) Kudos to you, Shepard Smith. Your date sounds fetching.
2) I wonder which bar it was, and if I’ve ever been there.
Now, Mr. Smith may not actually be gay. Sometimes even straight guys go to gay bars on occasion. Hold onto your hats, America, but I’ve actually taken straight male friends to gay bars and they left without catching Teh Gay despite the potent combination of well-mixed cocktails and getting discreetly checked out! So let’s all admit the non-zero possibility that Shepard Smith might possibly have gone to a gay bar (even in the company of some dishy dude!) and returned home with his previous affection for the ladies undimmed.
But let’s all just assume that Mr. Smith is as gay as a treeful of hummingbirds. The collective “so, what?” the world has offered in response is delightful in its indifference. Because maybe that means we can all bid a long-overdue goodbye to the vile and ugly practice of outing.
At a time when gay people can marry and fly helicopters in the Marines, is it time to consign outing to history, alongside other ’90s crazes like Zima and square-toed shoes?
“The apparent lack of shock waves when celebs are outed these days is a good thing,” said Michael Musto, the Out.com columnist who outed several celebrities in his days with The Village Voice. “It means there are so many out celebs on the landscape that the news about another one doesn’t raise that many eyebrows.”
Wan attitudes like that are a far cry from the fierce debates (both within the gay community and the larger public) during the first Bush presidency, when combative gay groups like Queer Nation outed people it deemed hypocrites; one group, OutPost, blanketed New York with street posters modeled on Absolut vodka ads that read “Absolutely Queer” under the faces of various celebrities.
First of all, you’ll take my square-toed shoes from me when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. They were the first “fashionable” thing I bought in anticipation of my move to New York City, and my loyalty to them is too deep to discard them now that their vogue is long over.
Outing, on the other hand, stank on ice from the minute it was devised. The LGBT movement has made enormous strides since the days when I first came out, and it had made tremendous strides in the decades beforehand. There is much we can be genuinely proud of. Outing is not on that list.
I will buy you a drink at the Chelsea bar of your choice (or, preferably, just mix you one myself) if you can find one single person whose mind was changed in our favor by this spiteful, hypocritical tactic. Using gayness as a smear isn’t any less shameful when it’s gay people doing it, and if I thought so from within the big rainbow tent I have a hard time believing anyone on the outside found it particularly commendable. Sure, fine… maybe we destroyed the careers or reputations of some of our enemies? If that? Awesome. Just like I fail to see how banning marriage equality makes straight people’s lives any better, it escapes me completely how making our opponents’ lives worse got us any closer to achieving our real goals.
LGBT people have made the strides we have through the slow process of being honest about ourselves with the people we love, who have come to view us as real people deserving of respect, dignity and equality. That is how minds get changed. Outing was never really about changing minds. It was merely about hurting people we didn’t like, in an obvious manner your average junior high mean girl would recognize immediately.
So good riddance. And good luck to Mr. Smith, though I doubt he needs it. When three of the past four presidents seem OK with gay marriage, I suspect even the lunatics at Fox News don’t really care that much. He’s more likely to get into trouble from the undue straightforwardness than from the (presumed) homosexuality. Which, if not quite as it should be, is a hell of a lot closer than it has been.