Double reverse outing is so gay!

I'm having some trouble understanding something. When I was a kid, it was a smear to say that someone was gay. That's because homosexuality tended to be frowned upon, and even if you didn't care about someone's sexuality, unless you were among close friends, making that assertion was inherently problematic. If made falsely, it could get you sued. (It probably still can, although it's debatable.)

As social conventions changed over the years, it became more or less acceptable to acknowledge another person's homosexuality -- so long as this wasn't done in a bigoted manner. Like, "He's gay, but it doesn't bother me at all." Eventually, though, as identity politics took hold, what mattered was not the intent of the statement, but whether or not anyone might take offense. Thus, the individual's "coming out" was usually left up to him and no one else. (Again, I'm speaking generally, and I know there are exceptions.)

Yet this was complicated by the phenomenon called "outing" (something I have long abhorred as invasive of privacy and destructive of sexual freedom). Outing these days has become a political tactic used to punish gay conservatives who are closeted, or who work for politicians who don't support gay marriage. It gets more complicated when the subject is already out (and thus unlikely to be fired), but he is considered a political non-conformist. When Andrew Sullivan was seen as not toeing the line, all sorts of sexual innuendo was directed towards him. Obviously, it wasn't enough to assert he was gay, so they had to make him look like as much of an out-of-control sexual reprobate as possible. The problem is complicated by the fact that a lot of people aren't especially interested in other people's sex lives, and they quickly see through these attacks. Which means that, when dealing with especially recalcitrant non-conforming gays, a secondary line of attack must be launched. They are to be "pitied" -- and called "self hating." (A topic I've discussed before.)

This quick review of the history of outing is not meant to be comprehensive, but I thought it was in order in light of the amazing attack on Glenn Reynolds for criticizing right wing commenters who opined that Kos was gay. For this, Glenn was called a pig. And a "Nasty, Nasty Little Pig" at that!) Apparently, we have a new rule in American politics: when Glenn says someone is NOT gay, he really means that he is gay. Wink! Wink! What is this to be called? Double reverse outing, by means of carefully nuanced praeteritio?

What I want to know is, why should Glenn Reynolds be so uniquely privileged? If I say that someone isn't gay, no one will accuse me of covertly outing that person. Will they? Let me try.





Sorry, but even if I found some comments alleging that the above were gay, and then disagreed with them, I just don't think it works as an outing technique. Nor as a "double reverse" outing.

What I find most disturbing about this is that I'm pretty sure Glenn really doesn't care whether Kos is gay. Nor do I. It's about as relevant to me as what he eats with his morning coffee. Which means that there's a completely new taboo. To not care whether someone is gay is a new form of slander.

Um, only if you're Glenn Reynolds. The rest of us can glance through the latest tabloid headlines that this or that Hollywood star is rumored to be gay, and we can say, "Oh, I don't think he's gay. He has a wife and kids!" and no one will accuse us of engaging in double reverse innuendo -- much less of being nasty nasty little pigs.

I think that there's an assumption that Glenn's readers are a bunch of right-wing, anti-gay bigots who actually do care very much whether people are gay. That Glenn is pandering to their prejudices, and fanning the flames. From where derives this assumption? Doesn't it matter at all that Glenn isn't that sort of person himself? That he chided the rumor-mongerers for acting like seventh graders?

Suppose I asserted that I don't think Glenn Reynolds is gay. Let's see, what are the proper words? an aside, I see some blog-commenters are speculating that Reynolds is gay. Why that should matter, I don't know, but I remember -- back when the blogosphere was younger and people were nicer -- that Glenn had a daughter, and that his wife had miscarriages.
Blah blah blah.

No one would accuse me of engaging in a double reverse imputation. That's because my readers know I really don't care one way or another, and that I am free to infer that things like having a wife and children, while not conclusive of anything, tend to be evidence of a propensity to engage in at least occasional heterosexual conduct. To speculate beyond that would be to act like a seventh grader.

However, the people who attack Glenn would say that my hypothetical fails because I am a fan of Glenn, and thus wish him no harm, and could be expected not to be engaged in double reverse outing tactics.

They'd be right; I don't think Glenn is bigoted in the least, and I think this whole "double reverse outing" thing is about as absurd as it gets. It's a good example of why I'm rapidly losing patience with the blogosphere.

Still, we're all human.

And as I thought it over, I remembered that I did once reflect on the sexuality of a blogger with whom I couldn't disagree more: James Wolcott. Perhaps I shouldn't have, but it was late at night, so if ever I were to smear someone's sexuality, it would have been then. But all I said was that I was disappointed in Wolcott (who brought up the topic himself) for being straight (and for not drinking):

Frankly, I was a bit sorry to see this, and not just because of my distaste for the type of ad hominem attacks that put Wolcott on the defensive. While I've tried to avoid speculating about James Wolcott's personal life, there's a side of me that would have liked him all the more if he was in fact a gay drunk.
There's no avoiding speculation, and thus, there's no way to win.

Glenn is right. We're stuck in the 7th grade.

(Probably has something to do with arrested sexual development, but I'd better not go there. . .)

MORE: Not that it's any of my business, but I just checked Wolcott's latest post -- syruping praise on Digby for carrying on about George W. Bush's, um, "presidential bulge."

I think attributing homoeroticism to people you disagree with belongs in the ashcan of 7th grade history.

AFTERTHOUGHT: At the risk of being completely crazy (and completely serious, which in this context is the same thing), let's play reverse the roles and swap Glenn Reynolds for Kos in a game of "reverse the double reverse" psychology. This sounds complicated, but it isn't, really. Just assume that Kos had chided some leftie bloggers for suggesting Glenn was gay, said he didn't care, but noted Glenn's marriage and daughter.

Would there have been a similar outcry against Kos? I don't think so.

Or am I missing something? (Maybe I'm beyond caring; perhaps I've gotten too old for this sort of thing.)

UPDATE: Thanks Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post!

In the update, Glenn also links to Catallarchy's Jonathan Wilde, with whose thoughts about the dark side I concur:

When someone vilifies another for something sincere and just, I can only conclude that he's no longer dealing with facts, but rather arguing from hatred. It comes from the dark side of human nature.
This vilification of sincerity is, I think, a typical example of the phenomenon so amply documented by Jeff Goldstein -- the subordination of the intent of a speaker to the dynamics of identity politics. And collectivism.

posted by Eric on 06.23.06 at 09:19 AM


What this episode shows is that most people, in their heart of hearts, still think homosexuals are sick wierdos. Your assertion that "it becaem more or less acceptable to acknowledge one's homsexuality" is only how the media's portrays things, which is always to the left of society. In reality, people are no more comfortable about homosexuals than they ever were, and that's why it's still a weapon to brand someone a fag. Even the lefties know it, and that's why theyre always attemting to out people.

Robin Jeanette   ·  June 23, 2006 3:01 PM

owww. my brain hurts just trying to follow this. Andrew Sullivan? Kos? are those guys still around?

ray   ·  June 23, 2006 7:42 PM

Sexual development has been arrested? What was the charge?

triticale   ·  June 24, 2006 12:35 AM

Kos is married. He just had a kid.

Dan   ·  June 24, 2006 5:30 PM

I can say the following with certainty:

Gay people exist. So does Kos.

Honestly, with 15,000 people being killed every year in America, you'd think we'd be worried about, I don't know, crime?

Nope. Gays should feel special; for some reason, society has decided that thinking about them, good or bad, is more important than anything else.

That would make me feel special.

Jon Thompson   ·  June 25, 2006 2:16 AM

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