Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Outing Hypocrisy

Signorile has another good column abou the media's "outing" hypocrisy:

TWO MONTHS AGO I received a telephone call from a reporter at the New York Daily News asking me if I knew of a certain Republican political strategist's imminent outing in a gay magazine.

"We don't do that sort of thing ourselves—you know, out people," the reporter claimed, "but with this individual it would be an issue of major hypocrisy if it were true, so we'd probably run with it. Who could object?"

In other words, we have certain standards that we like to herald, but if we can get away with it, let the presses roll! (Nothing ever came of the story about an imminent outing of a Republican strategist, which seems to have been just a rumor.)


All of this, as far as I'm concerned, is progress, uneven as it is. The romantic and sex lives of heterosexual public figures—including stars of hit tv series and members of Congress—are written about regularly, with or without the celebrities' permission. There's no reason why gay public figures should be treated differently, and it only serves to make homosexuality into a dirty little secret that is not reportable. So I have no problem at all with Cynthia Nixon or any other celebrity being reported on. I just wish that media organizations would stop the charades and the hypocrisy, claiming that they don't out people. I also wish they'd apply a standard evenly.

The simple standard should be that it is proper to discuss, report on and ask about the sexual orientation of public figures—and only public figures—when relevant to a larger story (and only when relevant). In that respect, Cynthia Nixon would actually not pass muster as much some antigay members of Congress do. Congressman David Dreier, for example, is someone reporters should now be scrutinizing heavily, asking the question every time he shows up in public, and reporting on the hypocrisy of his life. Dreier, as I wrote in this column two weeks ago, is the California Republican and major George W. Bush booster (throughout the convention the Bush campaign put him on tv as much as it could) who has voted against gay rights for years—from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the Marriage Protection Act just two months ago. There have been rumors about the unmarried 50-something congressman for years, and yet when I asked him about his sexual orientation at the Republican National Convention, he gave me the Cynthia Nixon response, refusing to deny that he was gay but refusing to confirm it.

That response, however, didn't land him on the front pages of the papers in his district the way Nixon was splashed across the front page of the New York Post. In fact, last week, Mark Cromer, features editor at Hustler magazine, which reportedly plans a sexual expose of Dreier for November, charged that the press in Dreier's San Gabriel Valley district is protecting the congressman. Cromer, a former reporter for a string of conservative newspapers in the Valley, told Doug Ireland in the LA Weekly that the papers have covered up the details of a relationship that Dreier has had with his chief of staff, Brad Smith. The CEO of the company that owns the papers, Dean Singleton, is a major contributor to the Republican Party.

Let me also add that public figures who go to gay bars, travel with their partners, and are not in anyway "closeted" in their private life shouldn't have any greater expectation of privacy than a straight public figure.

Look, as a quasi-public figure myself now, if I had a few too many drinks and started playing grab-ass with women at a bar in DC (note: not actually something I've ever done) and it showed up on Wonkette the next day, or whatever, I wouldn't have much right to complain (though, my wife would). Likewise, if I had a few too many drinks and started playing grab-ass with men I also couldn't complain if it got me wonk'd.