Extend the Outrage

The recent documentary Outrage exposes the hypocrisy of politicians who live in the closet while voting antigay -- but it also shines a light on the devastation it causes unsuspecting spouses and children.

BY Amity P. Buxton

May 12 2009 12:00 AM ET

Stark and slick, Outrage makes a piercing, sobering indictment of the hypocrisy of closeted gay politicians who, in their straight persona, deny their fellow gays equality and justice by voting against gay rights ranging from hate-crime protections to same-sex marriage to adoptions by gay and lesbian parents. America is not well led, nor are its populations well served by politicians who seek power and forget the truth of who they are. The betrayal of their own integrity as gay persons in order to gain political power and the subsequent use of that power to cause harm to gay and lesbian citizens is enough to raise our adrenaline. Yet below the layers of the film's crisscrossing of personal and political events lies a side story of betrayal and pain that also needs to be addressed. I fear it may get lost amid the core message of the film.

I'm not referring to the individual snapshots of the private relationships and straight-faced denials of men like Idaho senator Larry Craig and Florida governor Charlie Crist, who engage in double talk when their same-sex activities are revealed. No, the side story that needs to be raised to a higher level of awareness is that of the straight wives who find themselves in the glass closets of politicians who rose in the ranks to take the helm of a state government or to represent their constituencies in the House of Representatives or the Senate by denying who they were. The wives' stories spotlight the costs paid by everyone in a family and community when a gay person feels obliged to hide who he or she is and pretend to be someone else in order to be accepted and gain power. More important, their story is a cautionary tale that reveals the far-reaching damage done by antigay attitudes and heterosexist expectations that still prevail in America.

We get glimpses in the film of the impact of closeting on the women in these men's lives. The few we see, like the wives of Senator Craig and Governor Crist, look stunned or disbelieving when their husbands are found in compromising situations. We see former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey's wife, frozen in place in her light blue suit beside him as he announces to a national TV audience, "I am a gay American." The three women are but a tiny fraction of the up to 2 million straight wives (and husbands) in the United States who were or are married to gay or lesbian partners. Altogether, they form an invisible minority, an untold chapter in the history of the gay movement.

Tags: Politics

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