Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Ethics of Outing

I heard an interview yesterday on Fresh Air with Kirky Dick, the documentary maker whose latest work Outrage is just about to be released. The film examines the outing of gay politicians, mostly Republicans, who have anti-gay voting records. Mike Rogers' posts on Blogactive are the focus and he's done a lot of the heavy lifting in this movement.

Rogers justifies the outings by saying that he is exposing hypocrisy and that far from harming those he outs, indeed, he is freeing them, lifting their burdens. Once they are emancipated from the lie they had to live, he contends, they frequently change their voting patterns to actually reflect their values. In this way, there is a benefit from the outing.

At the same time, in a homophobic community, these people surely felt it necessary to hide their sexual orientation and have built careers around their created personae. To undermine these without their permission or against their wishes takes away from them a large measure of autonomy and potentially their life's work in public office or service.

Is there something immoral about outing?