By Erika Milvy
Originally published on Advocate.com April 27 2009 12:00 AM ET
In 1983, Edwin Edwards,
a famously corrupt Democratic politician from Louisiana,
boasted, "The only way I can lose this election is if
I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live
boy." He voiced what most closeted politicians fear most:
Getting outed is comparable to murder -- or, at least, career
Having taken on the
MPAA ratings board in
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week,
director Kirby Dick lays bare a long list of
right-wing politicians who fight against gay rights and work
even harder to make sure they don't get caught with a live
In working on
Dick found that for people outside of politics, both gay and
straight, the revelations are surprising. "I prefer to make
films where the people don't know the subject matter
backwards and forwards," he said. "I don't want to make
another film on global warming."
Not that there's
anything wrong with that.
maintains that D.C. is crawling with high-powered closeted gay
men. You spill the beans on politicians like U.S.
representative Ed Schrock of Virginia, U.S. representative
David Dreier of California, Florida governor Charlie Crist,
former New York mayor Ed Koch, and others. Does this film
actually out anyone who wasn't already outed?
They're all people who have been outed in some other forms;
one of the themes of the film is that while the gay press has
been writing about these issues for almost two decades now, the
mainstream press, for the most part, has not picked this
Do you really think this is a "brilliantly orchestrated
conspiracy" to conceal homosexuality among D.C. politicians,
as your film attests? That seems to suggest a unified plan?
Well, it revolves around the definition of conspiracy.
Certainly there's collusion -- there are not people sitting
in the same room, but there's a lot that's unspoken
that can go on. A powerful journalist is going to be reluctant
to ask a hard question, say, to Larry Craig or Charlie Crist
even, because it could mean that he or she would lose access to
The thing about Larry
Craig was there was an incredible amount of news, late-night
talk show hosts made some very funny jokes, but the media did
not go deeply into the issue. They did not examine the
political circumstances, the hypocrisy or the psychology of it.
For the most part, they treated it in a tabloid way. When
something like Mark Foley or Larry Craig happens, the media
treats it as anomalous -- this one person has been exposed --
not that there's a system at play. It's really more about
the closet than an individual person.
So what's your position on outing?
In situations where someone is closeted and in a position of
power to vote against gay rights, I think that rises to the
level of hypocrisy and I think reporting on that hypocrisy is
appropriate, and I think the right thing to do. I think once
you move beyond that, there's an open debate to be had, but
I chose to limit my film to instances of hypocrisy.
When is it not OK to out someone?
Of course, if someone is not in a powerful or influential role,
it's totally inappropriate. I considered looking at what are
the responsibilities of celebrities who are closeted; they are
certainly powerful role models and an argument could be made
that, in some ways, some well-known movie actors might be able
to affect more change by coming out than a closeted politician
could by voting for gay rights issue.
How did you come to choose this subject matter for a
When I made
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
, I knew about that story only because I was in the film
business; I thought, there must be stories in D.C. that would
make a really fascinating documentary, ones that are only known
by people in D.C. or in politics. And I started asking around
and, in conversations, it quickly came up that Karl Rove is
gay. And I thought,
Really? That's pretty fascinating.
Wow. I've never heard that one.
Now, there's no corroboration for that, but that is a rumor
floating around. I'm not saying it's not true, but I had
not even one hint of something that substantiated it, so it's
pure rumor. But from there, discussions moved quickly to the
fact that there were closeted politicians who were gay and were
Like Rep. Ed Schrock, who cosponsored the Federal Marriage
Amendment. In the film you reveal that tapes later surfaced of
him placing ads on a gay men's phone line.
It's a very interesting psychological dynamic. These are people
who chose to go into the closet, maybe in their 20s, and have
lived their life there for decades. It's almost Shakespearean
in a way -- and very rich subject matter for a documentary. You
have some significant hypocrisy in the government and you have
a situation where the press is reluctant to write about
In your investigations, were there any Deep Throat
] You know there were. I can't go into any specifics, but these
are people who have a great deal of power and people are afraid
there will be some repercussion if they talk. Oftentimes people
would say yes and then back out. I was very surprised by how
fearful sources were at times, and I was glad for the people
who did speak. There's reluctance, but there's also
courage on their part.
Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey was very
forthright, very honest. Were you surprised he was willing to
Yes, I was. I thought he would be a little more guarded. He's
had time to really think through these issues. Like Jim Kolbe
of Arizona [who has said he's relieved to be out, even
though he was forced out only after voting for the Defense of
Marriage Act in 1996]. Their experience of finally being free
of the closet was such a release that it did allow them to
probe the kind of pain they had experienced. I think there was
something cathartic about talking about it.
They are both former politicians, but the story of Charlie
Crist is really scary. You said he is a very likely choice for
the Republican presidential candidate in 2012.
It's a sad story in my opinion. Charlie Crist is very moderate,
and I think he truly is a very nice person. On the other hand,
there's no doubt in my mind that if he wasn't concerned
about the closet, [he would not have been such a champion
of Florida's Amendment 2, which constitutionally
banned marriage or similar forms of relationship recognition
for same-sex couples]. It was a political calculation on his
part. He did it because he had greater political ambitions and
I think that's the same reason he got married, and in some
ways that's actually more reprehensible than if he actually
believed it -- if he was against gay marriage. It shows the
cost of the closet. It shows how the closet can contort the
You do discuss the political considerations that cause some
people to decide to remain closeted, but you don't talk
much about internalized homophobia.
For some, there is the issue of self-hatred, but for some, they
actually do accept the fact that they're gay but they're not
going to come out. Some closeted gays consider the gays who are
out to be weaker than they were. I kind of see their
perspective; they're saying, "Look, we're not going to
let our personal lives get in the way of our political
ambitions." And as scary as that is, I suppose, in one
definition, that is being stronger.
Are you gay?
Some might argue that it's somewhat unusual for a
documentary filmmaker to focus on gay subjects when he is
In my opinion the gay rights struggle is the most important
civil rights issue of its time in this country and it affects
all Americans. When any particular group of people is denied
rights, the whole country is harmed by it. I've become more
and more appalled that the right wing has advanced their
platform on the backs of gays and lesbians. I follow politics
very, very closely, and this was an opportunity for me to have
my say and not just have others legislate upon me, so to
Is it easier for a straight person to make this film because
others won't assume you have an ax to grind?
Sometimes, as a filmmaker, not having an investment is more of
a challenge. If I were gay, I could personalize this in a way.
I could talk about coming out of the closet myself and that
could give the film more impact. In some ways being gay is
slightly an advantage.
Do you think this is your most controversial film?
I have to wait and see; I can probably answer that in two