More on Public ‘Outing’: Ted Haggard — Hypocrite, Liar, Self-hating Homophobe 3 November 2006Posted by Todd in Christianity, Ethics, Gay and Lesbian Culture, Gay Rights, News, Political Commentary, Queer Theory, Sexuality.
A former hustler by the name of Mike Jones went on the air in Colorado yesterday and accused the Rev. Ted Haggard — founder of a megachurch and current president of the National Association of Evangelicals — of using his services for the past three year (that is, paying him for sex). [See this Denver Post article, which pisses me off because of its equivocating and burying the evidence nearly half-way down the article; the paper bent over backward to make Haggard look innocent and honorable.]
Another example of why I’m in favor of public outing: Individuals who actively fight against homosexual freedom and equality, or even who seek to maintain the cultural hold over homosexuality by teaching that it’s immoral, must have no expectation of privacy. This is not a question of simple hypocrisy. This is a man who uses his position of immense power and influence (he’s the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents millions of people) to work positvely for the oppression of an entire class of people. Although Barney Franks’ recent ascent to “Elder Statesmanhood” still confuses me, I have to agree with him on this issue: When you are part of an organization and/or you yourself are actively working to oppress the people who are like you, your self-hatred and your sexual behavior are public issues and reason for scorn and derision and for losing your job. I am absolutely in favor of public outing in this case, as I was in the Foley case.
I agree with Dr. Myers on Pharyngula, however, that these are not the rationales given by either the NAE or the DNC for why either Haggard or Foley are unethical and/or corrupt men. The evangelicals, when/if they accept that Haggard is a self-hating closeted gay, will simply see this as evidence that they are right, that gayness is indeed a moral disease, that gay people are deceitful and untrustworthy, and that they are justified in their campaign of bigotry. Similarly, the Democrats and liberals are using the Foley case to say that the Republicans are corrupt because they have closeted gay men in their ranks. This is a bit more subtle, but in its subtlety, may even be worse than the rather straight-forward homophobia of the NAE. The Democrats in their approach to using the Foley scandal are perpetuating the same association of homosexuality with deceitfulness and untrustworthiness. Mr. Franks has been the only congressman I’ve heard speak about this who, for obvious reasons, gets it.
There is also a problem with the liberal critique of the outing itself, which is that Haggard’s (or Foley’s) sexuality is a “private” matter. This is, albeit probably unintentionally, a subtle reinforcing of the Closet, something we’ve been trying to destroy for years. One’s homosexuality is as much a part of oneself as another’s heterosexuality. And when one is in a position of public power, one’s sexuality may very well be of issue in one’s actions in the public sphere. To insist that (homo)sexuality is private is to miss two important points: 1) our sexuality is always intimately public in the way we regulate sexual behavior, legally, morally, and socially; and 2) forcing homosexuality into the “private” is a coded way of insisting that it be hidden from view. The effect of taking the position that homosexuality is “private” is to maintain its position of shame; it says that in the public sphere, you can be gay as long as you don’t act gay (which is called “flaunting”). This is the oppression of the closet in our world where many gay people are openly gay: Their acceptability from context to context depends on their ability to “cover” their gayness. [I’m currently reading Kenji Yoshino’s analysis of this phenomenon, of which I’ll post a review later this weekend. Here’s an article-length piece by Yoshino in the New York Times Magazine on the same topic.]
In both the Evangelical and the Democratic critique of these two men, homosexuality is the culprit, the reason for their downfall. Both critiques miss the reality that it is the hatred of homosexuality, homophobia, and the social pressures of the closet (one must pass as straight to maintain social status and power in a homophobic culture) that created the corruption, not the desire to have sex with another man nor even the sex itself. Even Haggard’s adultery must be considered and evaluated in light of the demands of homophobia and the closet. It is not the same act of adultery as a straight man, who is not penalized for merely having the desire, and even when shamed for the adultery, it’s nearly always with a wink and a grin.