Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Closet Corrupts, Absolutely

A Republican Mayor in Mississippi is the latest GOP anti-gay politician to get caught being gay himself. While preaching his family values he was apparently using public funds to buy gay porn in Canada.

The typical reaction of many in the gay community is to want to see him burn with the maximum amount of scorn and laughter heaped on his hypocritical head. Witness some of the comments on this Joe.My.God post.

I understand the emotion to pillory the guy. I just can't take part in the lynching. As despicable as his behavior seems to be, he too, is a victim.

This doesn't mean that I approve or justify the actions of those public officials in the closet who take anti-gay positions (or make anti-gay jokes, or tease, humiliate or even beat up gays when in school as part of their closet smokescreen - it's all part of the same pattern). It's wrong, it's hurtful, it's hypocritical, and on and on. I can condemn these behaviors but I can't bring myself to hate or gleefully mock those found cowering inside the closet. Instead, it's more productive to turn my scorn and anger toward the homophobia and hate that makes the closet seem necessary in the first place.

Let's remember what happens in the closet. The closet isn't a passive place where you go to hide and merely wait, a harbor protecting you while you lie calmly at anchor as the storm rages around you. No, the closet forces you to lie and deceive willfully and at times aggressively, to those closest to you and oftentimes to yourself. It is not a place where one finds courage or virtue. It's also a place that many (most?) of us who are gay, at least my generation and older, have chosen to reside for a time. It's a loathsome place, but memories of my time in the closet makes it difficult for me to loathe those still languishing within its narrow confines. The closet creates many victims and a pattern of self-destructive personal behavior that, if carried too far in life, will catch up with you. The Mayor is the latest example. Recent public life is full of other examples of smoldering wrecked public reputations.

I don't believe any one should hide in the closet. Coming out is the firmer moral choice and I have great respect for any gay man or woman who has done so, especially at the risk of losing the love and esteem of family, friends and colleagues. But having faced that choice myself and blinked I can understand it when someone else does. Count me opposed to any public official (closeted gay or not) who takes anti-gay actions. Just don't expect me to cheer when the closet finally crushes the unfortunate who sought its illusory safety in world still full of callous homophobia.