Closeted anti-gay politicians go on an outing in documentary ‘Outrage’
Opens today at the Magnolia Theater
If you have any interest in closeted gay politicians, you’ve probably heard the stories that Kirby Dick covers in the documentary "Out-rage," but when you see all of them together, the cumulative impact is impressive. In the nightly news, there’s often a year or two gap between gay political sex scandals, making each seem like an isolated incident. When you see them in a montage it’s something else again, almost enough to make you believe Dick’s charge of "a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy to keep politicians as closeted as possible."
Rather than outing for outing’s sake, "Outrage" takes the position that even closeted gay politicians have a right to privacy… unless they’re waging war on their own people from behind that shield. Their crime isn’t being gay; it’s being hypocritical.
Michelangelo Signorile, one of the first outers of note, compares it to the gay-bashing he participated in as a teenager to prove to the other kids he was straight: Voting against nondiscrimination and hate crimes legislation, HIV/AIDS funding and gays in the military — and in favor of constitutional amendments excluding gays and lesbians from marriage — are ways for legislators to deflect suspicions from their constituents that they’re gay themselves.
But they are, Blanche! They are … some at least. (By the end of "Outrage," you may think they all are.) Referring mainly to the number of gays on politicians’ staffs one observer says Washington, D.C. is "gayer than San Francisco."
Whether you laugh or cry at "Outrage" — and some stories make you want to do both — you should feel the emotion of the title at the hypocrisy on display.
Legislators who have come out (Barney Frank, Jim Kolbe, Tammy Baldwin, James McGreevey) talk about themselves and how good it felt to get that weight off their shoulders. Daniel Gurley, once a rising star in the Republican Party, became a gay activist after being outed.
Mixed with new interviews with politicians and journalists are clips, some of them familiar, such as McGreevey coming out ("I am a gay American") and Idaho Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig not coming out ("I am not gay. I don’t do those kinds of things").
In cases where the politicians themselves are not yet forthcoming, Dick amasses mountains of evidence. Some is anecdotal hearsay, ranking somewhere between Perez Hilton and Woodward & Bernstein in terms of trustworthiness; but the talk has been out there for years and in most cases the mainstream media have ignored it until a major incident made it unavoidable.
Charlie Crist, elected as "Florida’s first bachelor governor in 40 years," was married to a lesbian for six months in 1979 but is shown dating, campaigning and dodging rumors simultaneously. When he’s floated as a possible McCain running mate in 2008, he gets engaged to a woman, even marrying her after the election to keep his hopes alive for a 2012 bid (and a Senate run in 2010). In the meantime, he supports Florida’s Amendment 2 to ban gay marriage and fights to keep Florida the only state to ban adoption by same-sex couples.
There’s a wealth of information here and Dick doesn’t always arrange it in optimal fashion. If he can find three related quotes on a topic, such as the wives of closeted politicians or the difficulty of living in the closet (although McGreevey notes it’s good training for being a politician), he’ll present them, then jump to something else so quickly it gives the viewer whiplash. Perhaps in a miniseries he could have made more gentle transitions.
The last word goes to the late Harvey Milk, urging all gay men and lesbians to come out. Forty years after his death it’s still not considered a good campaign strategy.
Q CINEMA ANNOUNCES WINNERS
Q Cinema, the Fort Worth International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, ended its run last month with the presentation of awards for excellence among the more than 40 films that screened over four days.
Winners were selected by panel reviews and audience ratings in 11 categories.
Dallas-based filmmaker Robert L. Camina, far right, won best comedic short (men’s) for his musical "Martini the Movie," starring local comedian Steven Jay Crabtree, left. The best comedic short (women’s) winner had the Lone Star-affirming title "Don’t Mess with Texas."
The other winners:
Best overall film: "Fruit Fly"
Best gay film: "Watercolors"
Best lesbian film: "Drool"
Best documentary: "Fallen Angel"
Best dramatic short: "James" (men’s) and "Private Life" (women’s)
IQ Online viral video award: "The Big Fat Gay Collaboration"
Shawn A. Moore award: "Flight to Sinai"
Audience Choice award: "Watercolors"
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2009.