Extend the Outrage
BY Amity P. Buxton
May 12 2009 12:00 AM ET
The experience of straight spouses, first hidden in their partners' closets and then overlooked in the excitement of their husbands' or wives' breaking out, affords us a personal window onto a rising conflict in our society that needs to be faced head on. Their trauma can be traced back to the prevailing mind-set about traditional marriage and antigay attitudes and stereotypes still found in many parts of our country. That is where we need to direct our outrage and take action to change the status quo. Anger at the hypocrisy in the film has to extend to the underlying negative attitudes about homosexuality and gay people in our society. These attitudes say, often louder than words, that being gay is a detriment to success -- thereby propelling hopeful gay politicians into the glass closet, where they do harm to fellow gay and lesbian Americans as well as betray their own integrity.
If we could take action to help more people in more communities to comprehend the reasons why many gay men marry unsuspecting women, they might grasp the deep connection between, on the one hand, the tragedies for everyone involved in these marriages and the hypocrisy of gay people in the public square, and on the other hand, their own role in causing these tragic stories by their encouragement of heterosexual marriage and discouragement of anyone's being gay or lesbian.
At a national level, the film's exposure of the harm done by closeted gay politicians is a rallying cry for outrage and activism against hypocrisy. As Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin state and demonstrate by their own behavior, it's one's character and devotion to the common good that matter. May Outrage also be a wake-up call to increase awareness of the harm done to straight spouses and children in mixed-orientation marriages, attitudes that make it difficult for gay persons to be who they are. Most important, may it encourage gay men and lesbians to come out to their family, friends, and communities, a strategy that will lead to dissipating stereotypical assumptions about gay people and antigay attitudes. That is the social change needed for electing more honest leaders at the state and national level, benefiting us all.
In the end, increased acceptance and welcoming of gay men and lesbians as equal members of our communities will lead to stronger governmental institutions with leaders of integrity who can implement American ideals. Acceptance will also diminish societal pressures for gay men or lesbians to enter heterosexual marriages as the "right thing to do," only to later reveal their truth, which in the majority of cases triggers divorce -- an act that truly does weaken the institution of marriage.
Once accepted universally as individuals or government leaders, gay and lesbian persons can help America as a nation and all Americans to create a society based on truth, one that provides equality and justice for all.