“Outing” is over? Good riddance.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

Related Post Roulette

111 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    “But let’s all just assume that Mr. Smith is as gay as a treeful of hummingbirds.”

    Dude, after all that you went and outed trees full of hummingbirds?Report

  2. trizzlor says:

    … one single person whose mind was changed in our favor by this spiteful, hypocritical tactic.

    What do you think the Ted Haggard fiasco, was it wrong of his masseur to out him? I would think that for somebody devoted to that movement, seeing the guy in charge be revealed as such a shameless hypocrite makes you doubt your convictions. Or perhaps it makes you fear gays even more. I imagine that the folks at Gawker and other professional “outers” tell themselves that they’re just taking down the next Haggard.Report

    • Rod in reply to trizzlor says:

      I doubt it changed their opinion of gays any more than it changed their opinion of drug use. In fact those two things in concert likely strengthened the “gay sex = immoral behavior” connection if anything.

      I also doubt if Chelsea Manning’s coming out helped the trans cause much. Just reinforces the image of a really confused individual.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Rod says:

        Maybe it made them think “hmm, even respectable people can fall prey to the evils of drug abuse”, which leads to empathy for drug users replacing the desire for them to be ostracized or attacked?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Rod says:

        If something changed because of the Haggard Incident, I think it was the fact that it was Yet Another One Like That and it became a tipping point in the “Christians need to be opposed to The Gay but not *TOO* opposed, because being *TOO* opposed makes us sound like we’re seriously repressing something and, let me tell you, I’m not suppressing anything. I love chicks. Look at that chick over there! Hubba hubba! With perfect respect, of course, because we’re also all about that too.”Report

    • Glyph in reply to trizzlor says:

      Agreed in full that outing most people against their wishes is a crappy thing, and glad it’s on its way out as any sort of “thing”. There was no reason to out AC or Smith and I am glad the response has largely been, “who cares?”

      But the Doc is a better person than I, if he doesn’t think outing is defensible when it comes to people (like Haggard) who are engaged in actively persecuting or agitating against others for their personal bidness, whilst engaging in that very same bidness. Their exposure as rank hypocrites may not turn their followers pro-gay, but it certainly may demoralize them and make them less likely to work hard at being anti-gay. They aren’t being “smeared” (a word I associate more with untruths than with truths, but that’s a different discussion) for being gay, they are being smeared for being full of shit. Losing standing and influence for being exposed as full of shit is a good thing.

      If it came out that Putin was into rent boys, would we bemoan the invasion of his privacy and the nasty tactics?

      Or would we hope the average homophobic Russian might experience just a wee bit of doubt that the cause his hero espoused was as right as he’d thought it was?

      Again, I limit this outing exception to those who actively seek to harm others for doing what they themselves do. I think prostitution should not be a crime and that ppl’s sex lives should be their own business, but also think that Eliot Spitzer should remain a joke. But if they are hassling no one, no hassle should come to them.

      Look at it this way – I shouldn’t read anyone’s mail, it’s an invasion of their privacy…but if some NSA mail fell into my lap, I might be justified in reading it, if they are already reading mine.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

        They aren’t being “smeared” … for being gay, they are being smeared for being full of shit.

        How confident are you that the reason you think they were being smeared is the same reason that other people felt they were being smeared?

        I’m reminded of how Dave Chappelle said he stopped doing comedy when he felt that some people were laughing at the race jokes he was telling in a way other than what was intended.Report

      • Rod in reply to Glyph says:

        Is “advancing the cause” the only legitimate metric for these things? I mean, as long as it’s deserved, doesn’t harm the cause, and doesn’t harm innocents I’m not sure what the issue is.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @Vikram How confident are you that the reason you think they were being smeared is the same reason that other people felt they were being smeared?

        I submit that doesn’t matter unless it increases overall harm to innocent parties. My exception proposes very specific circumstances and intent which may make an outing justifiable, similar to how specific circumstances and intent can make a killing “self-defense” rather than “murder”.

        Look, I hypo’d Putin above, but let’s go full Godwin. (Never go full Godwin!) The Nazi regime was actively engaged in persecuting homosexuals, and the Allies get hold of photos of Adolph cavorting with Quentin Crisp.

        Does anyone here think it would not be justified to distribute those photos to Germans? So what if the REASON they discredit Adolph is because the average Nazi of the time is a homophobe? Will the action make those Nazis MORE homophobic than they are?

        Or will such a scandal (hopefully) shake not only the power structure of the regime up, but cause a non-zero number of Nazis start to doubt the strength and rightness of their cause, after their god has been exposed to have (from their POV) feet of clay?

        And the only cost for this as far as I can see (because I have trouble seeing how it would make the average gay German’s life any worse, and in the long run, if the cult of personality around Adolph collapses, it’s likely to get better), is telling the truth about Adolph.

        (Adolph’s life may get worse, but it should – he should get a taste of the medicine he’s been spooning out. Who knows, maybe he’d turn his charisma to better ends, and help *end* the persecution of homosexuals.)Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

        That makes sense to me, actually.

        OK, let’s go back to outing people.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        OK, let’s go back to outing people.

        I assume you are being snarky to make a point, but I think my point is clear.

        We make exceptions to such seemingly hard and fast rules as “do not kill” and “do not lie” all the time.

        I think it’s clear that there may be exceptions to a rule that essentially says “do not tell the truth”; and as in the above instances, those exceptions come when the rule needs to be broken in legitimate defense of self and others.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

        Sorry, I actually did get your point and agree with it. I understand it is selectively outing in the strict cases where it is merited.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph says:


        Not that I necessarily disagree that “outing” Hitler would be wrong, but as you (and Vikram) point out, the outing must be done selectively (as you know, that invokes the problem of Godwinning in the first place).

        I also imagine the impact would not necessarily damage the dictator’s reputation. He’d likely find a way to blame some sort of scapegoat and perhaps resort to a couple of show trials and public executions. And it’s not clear he wouldn’t use it as an excuse to ramp up his already existing persecution against gays, so it could in some guise be harmful.

        But again, selective outing might in some cases be justified as a tactic, even though I side mostly with Russell, believing as I do that in 2013, it’s probably an ethically suspect tactic in most cases, and probably not usually effective one (or not as effective as some hope it would be, save in the narrow short term).Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph says:

        Not that I necessarily disagree that “outing” Hitler would be wrong,….

        Darn double negatives! All I meant was that Glyph is probably right that outing in the circumstances he describes in his comment would probably be justifiable.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to trizzlor says:

      I think the callout to the Ted Haggard outing is incisive. IIRC, the Doc was displeased at the Ted Haggard outing too, consistently with the thesis articulated in the OP.

      I’m a little embarrassed by how titillated I allowed myself to be with l’affaire du Haggard. And I think a lot of other people were the same way. That, perhaps, was the learning experience we went through as a culture — the shaming of Ted Haggard reached such a fever pitch that we reached a collective tipping point. Enough people looked at themselves and said, “Whoa. This ain’t right.”

      Seems to me that since the Haggard shaming, there really has been pretty much a massive cultural shrug-off. I join the Doc’s celebration of bland acceptances wholly and without reservation.Report

      • Rod in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Has Shep a rep as a culture warrior? Not to my knowledge. Therefore “ho-hum, whatever” is the appropriate and welcome response. But Haggert? That seems different to me. And while he may have been technically outed, I think spending naughty time with a meth-snorting male prostitute (IIRC) is pretty much self-outing.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        not for public officials.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The thing is, Rev. Haggard was not a hypocrite. He thought that same-sex attraction was a blind, unstoppable passion that caused people to do things they knew to be deadly sins, because for him it was. Not for me (because I don’t feel it) or for Doc (because he sensibly knows that love isn’t a sin), but for Haggard? Absolutely.

        His crime wasn’t hypocrisy, it was generalizing from one example.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    “First of all, you’ll take my square-toed shoes from me when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

    Dude, even I know shoes go on your feet.Report

  4. Chris says:

    Smith’s Katrina coverage was very touching. If only he’d added a little Kanye:


  5. Mike Dwyer says:

    I this post is pretty important for what it represents Russell. It seems like a lot of social movements go through a period where they get a little over-zealous. Getting through that period to the point where you no longer feel it is necessary is a pretty major milestone. I know that the gay rights movement isn’t finished with its work and I know that it has its roots much further back than my own memories, but it really is astounding how far it has come in a relatively short time. I think the support of pop culture, especially Hollywood, is something that can’t be over-stated. Very cool.Report

    • Rod in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Indeed. The progress has been and continues to be astounding. And I know it’s a trite cliche but it’s not just gay rights, it really is human rights. Another big brick being torn out of the wall.Report

  6. The Sanity Inspector says:

    There are some really nasty pieces of work among gay activists. Think of that guy who bullied Anderson Cooper into coming out. This was so that AC’s “private life” could be put to political use, to support The Cause. Or think of Mathew Shepard, who, having served his political purpose, turns out not to have been the victim of an anti-gay crime at all. There’s more than a whiff of totalitarianism around machinations like that.Report

    • NobAkimoto in reply to The Sanity Inspector says:

      You’re right. Gay rights activists are totalitarian thugs. Meanwhile their opponents are shining beacons of liberty. Nothing screams “freedom” and “anti-totalitarian” than denying people equal rights and advocating reeducation camps.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to The Sanity Inspector says:

      At the time of Matthew Shepard’s murder, there were legitimate reasons to think that it was the result of a hate crime rather than a robbery that got out of hand. His murderers never exactly confessed that they just wanted Shepard’s money but things led to a killing. It was also when then LBGT rights movement was really beggining to enter into mainstream consiousness and it was becoming more normal for homosexuals and bisexuals not to pretend to be straight. Matthew Shepard was an important symbol for them even if the interpretation of events at the time ended up being a little off. Its not the first time this happened in a minority rights movement.Report

  7. Patrick says:

    they left without catching Teh Gay despite the potent combination of well-mixed cocktails and getting discreetly checked out!

    Oh, they got Teh Gay, but it was a mild case. Two musicals and a nice classy wine and some salacious dreaming for a night and they were all ready to get back to the hetero salt mines the next day.Report

  8. Nathaniel Costo says:

    “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.”

    The purpose of outing someone who opposes LGBT rights is to demonstrate their rank hypocrisy and strip them of their moral and intellectual legitimacy. It means that there is one less prominent opponent to contend with. It also prompts second-guessing from third-party donors and promotes dissent within the ranks of organizations opposing LGBT rights. Outing may not challenge the beliefs of the die hard, but it certainly makes the organizations they run and support seem less appealing to those on the fence.

    “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.”

    Ted Haggard more or less reversed himself on homosexuality after his activities were outed.Report

  9. Darwy says:

    “Outing” of any sort is vile.

    It shows how spiteful and vindictive people can be, when they have to resort to such underhanded attempts at character assassination. Because “Teh Gay” is such a terrible, terrible thing (to them).

    On of my HS classmates was ‘outed’ in my senior year. By a spiteful, vindictive bitch whom he turned down for a date to the prom. Because, OBVIOUSLY if he wasn’t willing to take a turn on the town bike, he MUST be gay, AMIRITE?

    He’s now a Catholic Minister – and I have no idea if he actually IS gay or not (nor do I give a shit, either. It’s none of my damned business) – and his devotion to his calling was apparent EVEN THEN (if you were observant). So I wasn’t surprised he shot her down.

    But I remember the snickering, the whispering the, “OMG – like, did you HEAR that he’s GAY?!??!” To which I replied, “Did he TELL you he’s gay?” “Well, no – I wouldn’t ASK that!” “Well then, how do you KNOW he’s gay?” “He turned down so-and-so!” “And that immediately equals gay, HOW? I think it shows he has both class AND taste – because she sure as fuck has neither.”

    Yeah, I wasn’t popular in HS. Still don’t give a shit.Report

    • Rod in reply to Darwy says:

      I hear where you’re coming from there, but what you’re talking about seems like a different kind of evil than what Russell’s talking about. I see at least three different cases:

      First, the public personality- – politician, clergy, activist- – that actively works against LGBTQ interests and denigrates gays and lesbians and then is discovered to be gay/lesbian him or herself. Outing in this case is arguably justified in service of exposing rank hypocrisy.

      Second is the public personality that keeps their sex life to themselves and is then discovered to be gay or lesbian. Outing in this case is justified by some on the grounds that the personality, by dint of their celebrity status, owes it to “the cause” to come out.

      The false outing like you described. Used as a weapon by those who see such a revelation as an accusation of… something horrible, I guess,

      I don’t have much problem with #1. Such people deserve any resulting misery. Karma and shit, you know? #2 is just wrong because while it’s nice and potentially helpful when popular celebs come out, they don’t really have the obligation and, frankly, I’m happier the less these people reveal of their sex lives (and genitalia in most cases). #3 is just vile on multiple levels starting with thinking it’s an insult.Report

      • Murali in reply to Rod says:

        It is not that it is an insult. It exposes him to social opprobrium and bullying as well as lowering his chances of getting a girlfriend if said false rumour becomes widely believed.Report

      • Rod in reply to Rod says:

        You and I don’t consider it an insult and objectively it isn’t one. But I’m pretty sure the “accuser” meant it as such.Report

      • Darwy in reply to Rod says:

        Whether or not one chooses to be ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the closet is solely up to the owner of said closet.

        I would not ‘out’ someone, period – for any of your scenarios.

        As far as a ‘false’ outing – I have no idea if it was, or wasn’t. I never asked the person whether or not he was gay – because I really didn’t give a shit.

        I don’t give a shit about anyone’s sexual orientation. If it becomes my business, it’ll be between myself and the other person and it will be in confidence.

        If someone wants to dance their way out of the closet to Liza Minelli singing show tunes – that’s their business. If they want to remain in the closet – that’s their business.Report

  10. Damon says:

    You know, I never really understood the idea of “outing”. I can see why anti gay groups would do it, since it furthers their agenda, but not if done by gay groups or publications. Either way, it’s just vile, and cruel.

    It’s the same as standing up in a crowed area, pointing, and shouting “GAAAAYYY”, aka “invasion of the body snachers”. If done by a gay group, this is going to cause people to stand with you and support this crap? And it’s one thing to do it to a person who’s “out” but not public about it, but to do it to someone in the closet? Christ, that can put people at risk of serious harm. Just despicible.Report

  11. Kazzy says:

    One thing I never understood about outings or attempted outings is the language we use around them, specifically “accusations” or “allegations”. I’ve had people think I was gay for one reason or another. But to term such mistakes as “accusations” or “allegations”… ugh… that is language we use in relation to crimes or other negative behavior. It shouldn’t be used with regards to someone’s sexuality. You don’t accuse someone of being gay. You can’t be allegedly lesbian.Report

    • krogerfoot in reply to Kazzy says:

      Well, that’s an issue to be taken up with the English language. “Accuse” and “allege” have specific meanings. If you “accuse” someone of being gay, your POV with regard to homosexuality is clear. If I accuse you of being a Nasserite, you don’t need any familiarity with pan-Arabism or Egyptian political science to know that I don’t think being a Nasserite is a good thing.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to krogerfoot says:

        Sure, but when major media outlets discuss “Celebrity X responds to gay accusations”, it sends a message.

        I will say that it seems as if that language has been toned down lately, but I do still here it.Report

    • Rod in reply to Kazzy says:

      You know, I was struggling for the right word to use in my reply to darcy above. I finally had to recast the sentence to the passive “discovered to be” for lack of an appropriate active verb.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Rod says:

        It’s tricky. I would say “…comes out as gay”, provided they came out themselves. Otherwise, “…was discovered to be gay” or “…we learned was gay” but might be best, so those still feel a bit off.

        It seems inherently heteronormative. Then again, assuming everyone is gay probably isn’t any better. Should we assume no sexual orientation until it is explicitly stated or expressed? That still doesn’t do us much good if someone presents one way publicly while living another way privately.Report

      • krogerfoot in reply to Rod says:

        Respectfully, this daintiness seems to me to be as likely to annoy as anything. Maybe Russell could chime in, though I think this is part of his thesis—people’s sexual orientation has, remarkably quickly, become something that the public is uninterested in being shocked about. It’s an unambiguously good development, and we’ll eventually muddle into a way of talking about it that will make this discussion seem like a poorly-subtitled kung-fu movie.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Rod says:

        Indeed, @krogerfoot , I meant to note that we should take our lead from the LGBTQ community on what language to use.

        More broadly, I do think the language we use is important, because it not only reflects but promotes. If we say that an individual denied allegations that he is gay, then it reflects a negative sentiment about homosexuality AND promotes the furtherance of that sentiment. And while I agree with Russell that we have made tremendous strides in this area, I still have enough conversations with people about why gay people feel the need to come out at all when straight people don’t come out or about how they put their sexuality on display in a way that straight people don’t to know there is still work to be done.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Rod says:

        I prefer to call them undocumented gays.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Rod says:

        Your soft on sexuality, @vikram-bath . They’re illegals… through and through.Report

      • Rod in reply to Rod says:


      • krogerfoot in reply to Rod says:

        More broadly, I do think the language we use is important, because it not only reflects but promotes.

        Again respectfully, this is how I fear we turn into endlessly mockable effete liberals. You’re giving too much power to the word “allegations” when you fret that “if we say that an individual denied allegations that he is gay, then it reflects a negative sentiment about homosexuality AND promotes the furtherance of that sentiment.”

        I know I’m being a tremendously annoying pedant, but I disagree with that statement. Asking people not to use “allege” because it sounds negative just gets in the way of something better, which is letting people choose their words for themselves to express sincerely what they feel. If I say “he denied the accusation that he was gay,” and you say “he said that he wasn’t gay,” third parties can judge for themselves how you and I think about the matter.* By policing how we have these discussions, you take away the rope that people use to hang themselves.

        * I mean, soon the Seinfeldesque “not that there’s anything wrong with that” will lose its punch, because people will just not get it. It seems like the typical arc of the “allegedly gay” stories is for the target to finally say “it never occurred to me that it was anybody’s business, or something you can “accuse” someone of,” no matter what team they turn out to be playing for.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Rod says:

        Should we assume no sexual orientation until it is explicitly stated or expressed?

        Um, I have always assumed everyone I meet is straight unless otherwise specified. Probabilistically, it’s a good default assumption. I can see how it might be an annoying thing to have to correct if you are actually gay, but is that the fault of the person making the otherwise reasonable assumption or the fault of biology for making relatively few gay people compared to straight people.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Rod says:

        \I assume that someone’s sexual orientation is neither relevant to me nor really any of my business unless they choose to share it with me.

        I *do* assume that everyone *has* a sexual orientation, which is itself a bias because not everyone does.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Rod says:


        Let me be clear and say that I am in no way saying that people can’t or should be barred from using such language. But if people are wanting to avoid further stigmatizing homosexuality, I would advise them to avoid certain language that does just that.

        The dictionary definition I have for allege indicates it is used with regards to something illegal or immoral. So, “alleging” that someone is homosexual is to imply that it is illegal or immoral. And if you think that homosexuality is immoral or ought to be illegal, they are free to use “allege” or whatever other word they choose. And people are free to respond accordingly.

        I’m just a firm believer that words have meaning and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

        PS: No need to add “respectfully” to your comments. I have the utmost confidence that you are engaging respectfully and constructively. And think your concern about becoming a liberal caricature are fair and should generally be heeded.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Rod says:

        I find terms such as “allege” or “accuse,” when used in relation to my gender or sexuality, to be gross and offensive. When someone uses them, I assume they are probably kinda horrible.

        And I don’t worry about seeming “effete” — I’m queer-as-fuck and will end you.

        There is a difference between thinking it more likely that someone is straight and thinking they are straight.

        Sure, it is more probable, but why make any assumptions at all? It seems easy to be unsure.

        If it actually-really matters, you can ask.Report

      • Russell Saunders in reply to Rod says:


        I’m queer-as-fuck and will end you.

        So that’d be a dire warning, then.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Rod says:


        I make a semi-conscious effort to not assume anything about folks. It’s not easy. I wish we had better language. Hopefully this is something that develops.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Rod says:

        @kazzy — We all make assumptions — I have; everyone has. But some people seem to turn their assumptions into policy, instead of an unfortunate glitch in our psychology that we can work to overcome.

        Big difference:

        1. I assume everyone is straight for reasons.

        2. I sometimes make incorrect assumptions, but I try to do better.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Rod says:

        re: “allege”‘s association with crime/wrongdoing and legal proceedings.

        While that meaning is bound up in the origin of “allege” and the word is often still used that way, I think “alleged” also now has a more general meaning of “any statement presented without proof” – and in fact, the term is often used nowadays to impugn the alleger, not the allegee.

        If a person is alleging a Bigfoot sighting, we don’t assume that person is a Yetiphobe.

        And when we re-tell their story, we emphasize the word “allegedly”, to imply the sighter may be a little cuckoo; not to reinforce institutional Sasquatchism. All we are saying is that they are making a statement without proof.


        I make a semi-conscious effort to not assume anything about folks. It’s not easy.


      • krogerfoot in reply to Rod says:

        And I don’t worry about seeming “effete” — I’m queer-as-fuck and will end you.

        As long as we’re all gathered around the dictionary, we might want to look up effete before putting up our dukes.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Rod says:


        With regards to sexual orientation, the odds would peg any particular individual as more likely to be straight than to be gay. That doesn’t mean I have an excuse to say, “Do you have a girlfriend?” when asking, “Are you in a relationship?” is just as easy.

        Gender is trickier. I don’t know that I’ve ever asked someone what gender they identify as. So it is not a matter of replacing one question with another, but finding an appropriate way to ask, if at all.

        If someone is making a clear effort to present/identify as a particular gender, is it appropriate to assume? For instance (and I apologize in advance for admittedly clunky language), if I were to see someone who, were I to see them naked, I would identify as a male, but who presents in a dress, with shaved legs, and subtle makeup on the face, should I assume this is someone who identifies as female or as a trans woman? And what of people for whom it is not clear what gender they identify as? Is it appropriate to ask? Offensive?

        I recognize there are unlikely to be universal answers to these questions. But as our understanding and acceptance of gender diversity is still largely in its nascent stage, I know I would greatly appreciate any advice you might have on this (while fully conceding you are under no obligation to act as my or anyone’s guide).Report

      • Veronica Dire in reply to Rod says:

        @kazzy — I think all of use are still figuring out how to approach gender socially. I certainly want to be read as a woman and like very much when I am.

        (Recently I was in a random little pub in New Hampshire when I asked where the restroom was. The maitre-d said, “Down the hall, second door on the left.” The second door on the left was the woman’s room.

        This pleased me very much.)

        (On the other hand, I was recently buying makeup and the shopgirl was calling around to different stores to find a product. She kept referring to me as “the customer,” in a way that sounded awkward. Clearly she was reading me as trans, but was afraid to make an assumption.

        Which is fine. But I wish she had asked.)

        (But then, the other night I was out dancing and a trans dude approached me and said, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I said, “No, go ahead” — I knew what was coming. He said, “How do you identify?” “I’m a trans woman.”

        Big smile on his face. He was sweet.)

        But then, I have friends who identify as some flavor of genderqueer who in fact prefer “they” in all cases.

        In queer circles, people are learning to always ask. It is tricky and complicated, but worth it.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Rod says:


        So your opinion is that it is appropriate — appreciated even — to be asked in a respectful tone? That is very helpful.

        I do wonder if at any point we risk trading one bias for another. For instance, there may be a man out there who presents in a similar manner to you but who identifies as a male who resists gender norms. Directing him to the women’s room could be offensive.

        It’d still probably be progress, but imperfect. I do hope we figure this out. I’m sure your desire is that much stronger.


      • Veronica Dire in reply to Rod says:

        @kazzy — Well, let me make it more complicated: when you ask me, you do in fact other me, since I am darn sure you do not ask in general.

        (And I suspect many cis folks would get pretty huffy if asked, “What is your gender identity?”)

        (On that topic, you ever notice that only trans folks have a “gender identity,” when everyone else just has a “gender”? Which is bullshit. Everyone has a gender identity.)

        In queer spaces this is fine. In non-queer spaces, I’m not so sure. I’d rather be asked than called “they” (or “it”), but what I really want is to be seen as a woman.

        But yes, a male-identified andro-femme might get offended if called “she.” I don’t know what to do about that.

        (Here I feel compelled to recommend Julia Serano’s new book, Excluded, where she lays out some solid theory about gender and othering. Short version: we are all trapped in a double bind with no good solution, as the problem is society-wide and no one person can fix that. My suggestion for now: ask respectfully.)Report

  12. Kolohe says:

    Shep Smith seems ok now, but he didn’t make a good first impression on me.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Kolohe says:

      Kolohe, are you in Tally? I have family there.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Glyph says:

        No, I was living in Georgia at the time. I just happened to be visiting Tallahassee on a long scheduled business trip in the middle of November, 2000.

        (which incidentally, was the first such trip I had taken in that job, and thought at first that mediocre but nontheless free beer happy hours were always a thing at hotel chains)Report

  13. Boegiboe says:

    All I can say is I’m furious Shep Smith took my HUSBAND on a date without asking me first!Report

  14. Burt Likko says:

    I wonder the extent to which the cultural push towards acceptance of gays in the mainstream required not only the Model Gay Citizens Brigade but also Queer Nation. There were both, so of course we’ll never be able to know for sure. If all we’d ever had were Model Gay Citizens living monogamous, crime-free, vanilla lives and only outing themselves to very close and trusted friends and relatives, then perhaps it would have been too easy for folks in general maintain their homosexual anxiety and moral condemnation, and treat their gay friends and relatives as “exceptions who prove the rule.” I wonder if a degree of aggressive confrontation — “We’re here, we’re queer, deal with it” — was needed to challenge people into saying “Yeah, I guess we have to deal with it after all” until eventually they did deal with it and decided that they could enjoy Neil Patrick Harris playing a straight guy on TV.Report

  15. Several people have made reference to Ted Haggard and the revelation that he was enjoying the attentions of a masseur in a particularly intimate way.

    I agree that there seems to be more of an argument in outing someone like Haggard, whose peccadillos revealed a deep hypocrisy about his publicly anti-gay agenda. But that raises the further goal of what outing him is meant to accomplish. Is it to destroy Ted Haggard? Well, mission accomplished I suppose. However, like all ad hominem arguments, it fails to address what he was saying and merely destroys him as a messenger.

    His followers can all too easily say he’s a broken, fallen sinner and pray for his repentance and forgiveness while simply swapping someone else in to do his work. Outside observers can shake their heads at his own personal failings while making no change whatsoever about gays and lesbians as a whole.

    It’s not a positive argument. It accomplishes little beyond the destruction of one individual opponent. It does not end discrimination or advance our actual cause in any meaningful way. And certainly (as Burt noted supra ) the manifest glee his downfall caused was unseemly and embarrassing in its excess.

    And that’s to say nothing of outing celebrities who simply were living their private lives privately.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      I also wonder if destroying such people is really what we ought to desire. I don’t know who this Haggard fellow is, but I imagine any closeted gay man who public denounces homosexuality is likely dealing with some intense psychological and emotional issues as a result of the double-life. Yes, his public life might harm real people and that should not be forgotten. But he is also very much a victim of the homophobia in addition to being a perpetrator of it. I doubt his position is one any of us would envy or want for ourselves.

      Plus there is something curious about attempting to further gay rights by attacking a gay man who is clearly struggling deeply with his sexuality. Even if his struggles do harm real people.Report

      • Zane in reply to Kazzy says:

        It might be worthwhile to look at another example of the practice of “outing”. George Rekers is a psychiatrist who has been very important in the conversion therapy movement. His practice and advocacy have focused on making lgbt kids heterosexual but also on making kids conform to gender norms. He co-founded the Family Research Council. He served on the board of NARTH (the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality). He has been a foundational part of one whole wing of the antigay movement. He testified on behalf of the states of Arkansas and Florida in court cases defending laws preventing homosexuals from being foster parents and/or adopting, for which he received at least $180,000.

        In 2010 he was found traveling to Europe with a man he hired from a site used to find male prostitutes. This was all over the news. Am I glad he was exposed and his credibility was undermined? Without question. He is without a doubt someone struggling with his sexuality, but the harm he was causing to others was real and of larger concern.

        He caused direct harm in his psychiatric practice (one family has alleged his treatment is responsible for the suicide of their brother). He caused indirect harm in his advocacy work. He benefited financially from his attacks on gay people. If outing him was a way to stop him, was it not worth it?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Was it worth it to out him? Probably. But I would hope that no glee is found in the downfall of this man as an individual. Seek to cease his work, seek to minimize his influence, seek to end his harm… absolutely. But when it becomes about harming him, it seems that vengeance is the goal.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      But that raises the further goal of what outing him is meant to accomplish. Is it to destroy Ted Haggard? Well, mission accomplished I suppose. However, like all ad hominem arguments, it fails to address what he was saying and merely destroys him as a messenger.

      I wouldn’t consider outing a Haggard ad hominem argument per se: as you note, his activities or personal life have nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of his argument. Gay marriage/rights, as a proposition, is right or wrong regardless of whether it’s being argued for or against by Haggard or Casanova; there’s no “logical” impact to the Haggard revelation (and 2 + 2 still = 4, no matter who says it).

      So outing him is not intended to address his argument; rather it is, as you note, strictly a tactical move to expose his hypocrisy, and hopefully reduce his influence as a result of that exposed hypocrisy.

      It accomplishes little beyond the destruction of one individual opponent. It does not end discrimination or advance our actual cause in any meaningful way.

      Sowing dissent and dissatisfaction and demoralization amongst the ranks of an organization militating against gays (and dissuading fence-sitters from joining that organization) certainly has the potential to accomplish more than the destruction of one individual. Also, as Haggard appears, as a result of his troubles, to have come to a greater understanding/acceptance of his own sexuality, I’d question whether he was “destroyed” – or perhaps “liberated”. From wiki:

      In the February 2011 issue of GQ, however, Haggard said “…probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.”[5]

      the manifest glee his downfall caused was unseemly and embarrassing in its excess.

      Excessive hypocrisy (and it don’t get much more excessive than Meth Masseuses) always elicits excessive glee. It has little to do with the “gay” part, and everything to do with the “hypocrisy” part. Remember Jimmy Swaggart? Straight as they come, according to those prostitutes. Wiki again, because this quote’s too good to pass up:

      When the patrolman asked Garcia why she was with Swaggart, she replied, “He asked me for sex. I mean, that’s why he stopped me. That’s what I do. I’m a prostitute.”


      • Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph says:


        I agree pretty much with what you’re saying, but I think the stakes have to be high enough to warrant destroying a person as part of a tactical move (and of course, as you suggest, maybe it wasn’t really a total destruction in the case of Mr. Haggard). I’m in no position to judge how gay people react to his outing, but it does strike me as akin to having to kill one’s enemy because there’s a war on. And maybe a few years ago when he was outed, the struggle for gay rights was enough of a “war” to demand the blunt instrument of personal revelation. (I suppose it’s complicated by the fact that it was the masseur and not some gay rights organization, if I understand correctly, that outed him.)

        As for the Swaggart quote, I’ll bring in something Russell said in his comment:

        His followers can all too easily say he’s a broken, fallen sinner and pray for his repentance and forgiveness while simply swapping someone else in to do his work.

        One thing some critics of Swaggart (and, I presume, of Haggard) don’t always understand or acknowledge is that the evangelical constituency Swaggart (and Haggard) appealed to have a ready-made explanation for persons’ violations of sexual mores, and once they express repentance or remorse, there is the possibility of re-acceptance back into the community. I’m not trying to justify what Swaggart did (or his hypocrisy before he ‘fessed up), and I’m agnostic on whether he ‘fessed up for cynical reasons (he knew would be exposed) or sincere reasons (he felt really guilty and needed to confess), or both, but I am trying to suggest that the tactical effectiveness of the revelation of hypocrisy may not be as great as it would seem to the combatants at the time.Report

  16. Zane says:

    There is another reason for “outing” hypocritical opponents of gay civil rights/LGBTQ equality, and Jaybird gets at it above. People like Ted Haggard, George Rekers, Eddie Long, Jim West, and Larry Craig were vociferous opponents of gay rights. Or they used the “gay smear” to accomplish their goals. They were also each having sex with guys.

    As instances like these get pointed out, then people start to assume that those who are strongly and vocally opposed to gay rights are only doing so because they have something to hide. That is, be too strongly focused on the evils of the gays, and even those who agree with you will look askance. It’s a way to blunt not only those who have been outed, but everyone who seems too obsessed with Teh Gays. Dan Savage has stated it is one of his goals to make everyone assume all strongly anti-gay advocates have some sexual secret they are trying to cover up.

    This is a strategic argument, and I find it fairly compelling (with some caveats).

    There is also an ethical aspect to it. We might ask, “Why should those who work to destroy us be allowed to benefit from our gains?”

    Now, Sheppard Smith? He doesn’t seem to fit the profile of the self-hating homophobe. There’s no apparent hypocrisy. His employer may not be great on gay issues, but many of us work for employers we don’t entirely agree with. The consensus seems to be that his situation isn’t really news. But if the leader of Focus on the Family were caught soliciting police officers in a public park? That would still be news.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Zane says:

      I think this brings up a significant distinction. The guy who is vociferously against gay rights, and the guy whose relationship to the issue is tangential (and who may even be working behind the scenes to moderate the party or network’s position on the matter).Report

  17. veronica dire says:

    As a trans person it is hard for me to relate to “strategic outing” as a concept. I mean, sometimes we get outed, but for us the “closet” is called “stealth,” and it works differently. I don’t think you’ll find many celebrities, preachers, or politicians who are secretly trans.

    (Instead of getting outed, we get doxed, which means our picture and contact information is published online so that bigots can find us and hurt us.)

    Unlike the doctor, I kinda wish I could out my enemies.

    See, if I discovered that someone like Cathy Brennan was secretly trans — whatever that would mean — I would out her in a second. No questions asked. I would scream it from the rooftops.

    What is the difference?

    I think gays have largely won their fight, so they get to be philosophical and detached. We do not.Report

    • For the record, I neither think gays have won the fight as of yet, nor is it one from which I am detached.Report

    • Murali in reply to veronica dire says:

      For a trans person who can pass very well, being outed could be about someone revealing their birth gender especially if they have found themselves in a community where their previous identity is unknownReport

      • Veronica Dire in reply to Murali says:

        @murali — That can (and does) happen, but I’m thinking in terms of strategic outing, where we discover that some high-profile person is secretly queer and then we reveal that person’s queerness to “further the cause.”

        That has happened quite a bit for gays. However, it seems not to happen for trans people. (Honestly, I can’t think of a single case.) In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine a situation where a high-profile transphobic person were secretly trans, the way that many high-profile homophobes turn out to be secretly gay. It’s just not the same.

        Myself, I would approve entirely outing those who actively hurt us. Sadly for us, that doesn’t seem possible.Report

      • Darwy in reply to Murali says:

        I had a co-worker who was unwillingly ‘outed’ by her former partner at work.

        The fallout was… messy – but ended with the ‘outer’ being fired without references (which severely limited her opportunities elsewhere). The ‘outee’ tried switching departments and shifts – but the rumor mill was far too effective and it followed her no matter where she went.

        I believe she went out to Vegas for work shortly afterwards. I lost touch with her when she resigned her position, unfortunately.Report

  18. To truth tell, I’m not sure I had even known who Sheppard Smith was. I probably had heard his name before (in one of Tod’s posts?) but I really didn’t remember. As far as I was concerned, he was completely forgettable. And frankly, in a week or two, I’ll probably forget who he is. (I don’t have cable, etc., etc.)

    At least with Anderson Cooper, I had some recollection of seeing him on some news show, and I knew he was/is a news anchor or reporter or something, so when he came out, part of me thought, “huh, so I guess he’s gay, too.” But otherwise I had no reaction.Report

  19. Kazzy says:


    Thanks so much. What you describe is exactly what I worry about. With my students (4/5-year-olds), I try to make a point of never assigning gender identity to them. I actually rarely even need to discuss it except in response to their comments; I don’t make boy groups or girl groups or make boy-girl patterns in line or anything. When we do our “All About Me” study, we do make a chart of who is what gender with each child placing their own card. As would be expected, all identify with the gender assigned to them. I have had one student who I think if left entirely to his own devices might have identified as female at that age… But we don’t leave children to their own devices, not with gender. He was more likely to say he wanted to be a girl and wear dresses and makeup than say that he was a girl. I don’t know how common that is for kids who eventually identify as trans. It is possible that expressing a desire is the same as expressing the identity but they are limited by their language and/or being told (explicitly and implicitly) what they are and assuming that’s just what is.

    I do still think about that student. He’d be about 13 now.Report

    • Veronica Dire in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy — I’ve read here and there that the number of trans folks is between 0.1% and 1%. Myself, I think it is at the low end of that scale, at least if you’re considering fully transsexual people who will, given the chance, seek transition. The remainder scatter among various flavors of cross dressing, gender-fluid, or genderqueer.

      However, there are no bright lines. I know genderqueer people who take hormones and transsexual people who do not.

      I read somewhere that about 5% of kids are notably gender variant. No idea if that is true.

      Of course, the hard truth is this: the number of people who will express gender variance will be inversely correlated to how actively (and violently) it is suppressed.

      What would queer utopia look like?Report

  20. K. Kaprow says:


    “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.”

    Precedes this:

    “I suspect even the lunatics at Fox News don’t really care that much.”

    I’m not fan of FOX News either, but how did you arrive at the conclusion that its employees are “lunatics” when you have “viewed essentially none of its programming”?Report

    • Fair question.

      I haven’t viewed much of its programming, it’s true. However, every single time I have watched it (including footage of Karl Rove furiously denouncing the [correct] election results coming out of Ohio), I have said to myself “these people are lunatics.” My in-laws watch it, they often have it on at the barber shop where I get my hair cut from time to time, I’ve seen 15-minute snippets here and there — always, without exception, I have been baffled that anyone could take a word they say seriously, as it is the most flagrantly unhinged propaganda I could imagine.Report

      • it is the most flagrantly unhinged propaganda I could imagine

        Whoa. First, “having viewed essentially none of its programming,” has evolved into, “the most flagrantly unhinged propaganda I could imagine”? I’m certainly no proponent of the Tu Quoque-fallacy school of tit-for-tat internet banter, but come on, Russell. You can’t “imagine” anything worse than FOX News? Have you seen MSNBC? Or any of the other leftish cable-news propaganda networks? Or Daily Kos? Or Breitbart? Or Twitchy? Sheesh.

        I’m familiar with the strange, weirdly apologetic preambles that FOX News-viewers (and NPR- and MSNBC-viewers and listeners) attach to their comments before launching into their hackneyed attacks on those particular entities. It’s always: “I was stuck at the dentist’s office and FOX News was on the TV…” or, “I was at the wife’s relatives’ house and they were all watching MSNBC…” or, “I was in a taxi and the driver was listening to All Things Considered…” These incidental exposures to the enemy’s product always seem to result in broad claims of “unhinged propaganda” from those victims who couldn’t help hearing it — if only for a moment or two — and always against their will. So a snippet becomes a brand — all the better to reinforce one’s biases amongst his fellows in the chatosphere.

        I share your concern that intelligent individuals might be influenced by transparently partisan or racist or “homophobic” propaganda. But maybe these individuals are not so intelligent after all. It’s certainly a concern for those of us who are honestly interested in the forward progression of the human race.Report

      • Yeah, I suppose Hitler’s/Stalin’s/Mao’s propaganda was much more “flagrantly unhinged” than anything FOX will do.

        And for what it’s worth, I tend to be oversensitive to hyperbole myself. But sometimes you just have to say, “c’mon, it’s just hyperbole.”Report

  21. Shelley says:

    I’m looking forward to the day when the more humane attitudes in the larger society seep down to junior high and high school.

    Why are those places such zoos?Report