Monday, December 01, 2003

Read this Book

University of Wisconsin Press has just published a 10th anniversary edition of Michelangelo Signorile's book Queer in America: Sex, the Media, and the Closets of Power. It's really a fascinating read - part personal memoir, part description of the gonzo activism used by the gay community to bring attention to the AIDS crisis, and part scathing indictment of the media's double standards (or really, lack of any coherent standards) regarding the personal lives of public figures.

The centerpiece of the book is probably the story of the "outing" of then-Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams. This was at a time when the justifcation for not allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military was partially because they were claimed to be a security risk due to their susceptability of being blackmailed over their personal lives. So, the sexual orientation of Williams, who wasn't really "in the closet" anyway, was a relevant issue. The story of how this "open secret" swirled around various media circles and outlets before finally bubbling up, as well as the hysterical reactions to the very notion of talking about the personal lives of gay people in the same way that you would unthinkingly do for straight people are quite interesting.

Times have changed somewhat since then, but these issues keep coming up again and again.

...Jim C. remembers.