This morning while I was engaging in my normal morning routine of perusing my Facebook feed, I came across several posts about Congressman Aaron Schock, whose sexuality has come into question once again. Journalist, Itay Hod, made a rather overt attempt to out Schock on Friday with a post on Facebook that includes the following (taken from Huffington post):
“here’s a hypothetical: what if you know a certain GOP congressman, let’s just say from Illinois, is gay… and you know this because one of your friends, a journalist for a reputable network, told you in no uncertain terms that he caught that GOP congressman and his male roommate in the shower… together. now they could have been good friends just trying to conserve water. but there’s more. what if this congressman has also been caught by tmz cameras trolling gay bars. now what if you know that this very same guy, the darling of the gop, has also voted against repeal of don’t ask don’t tell, opposed the repeal of doma, is against gay marriage; and for the federal marriage amendment, which would add language to the us constitution banning gay marriage and would likely strike down every gay rights law and ordinance in the country?”
Schock has clearly been very adamantly against progress for the gay community for quite some time now, contributing his vote and voice to countless hurdles that our community has faced from his vote against the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” to his support of the federal marriage amendment, which would ban gay marriage and unravel all positive legislation that the gay community has accomplished.
To be perfectly honest after coming across this story this morning, I couldn’t care less whether or not this man is gay. His sexuality (like that of any other person) is more or less inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. While he is a public figure and has some clout in the political arena, he is just one of many who opposes my basic human right to a happy life. I simply don’t care about it or him as an individual. I do, however, take interest in another aspect of this story; the question that it brings to the forefront of my mind: Is it okay to “out” someone who maliciously acts against a group to which he (speculatively) belongs?
My initial response is that it is never okay to “out” another person because I too have been where that person has been. I remember the terror and remember every stage I went through to get to where I am now: the sadness, the fear, the isolation, the anger, etc. I know firsthand how difficult it is to live with something you can’t control and to be unable to accept it as a part of yourself, allowing it to gradually chip away at you. I remember the shame that others inadvertently made me feel and the weight I felt upon my shoulders every day leading up to my acceptance of it.
To even think that I could have been outed before I was ready to come to terms with my sexual orientation is a terrifying thought because there is no way for me to know if I would have been strong enough at the time (both mentally and emotionally) to cope with the situation.
Coming out is such a profound thing for most gay individuals; so profound in fact that if outed too early or before being equipped with the tools to handle it, the results could be catastrophic with depression, anxiety, and self-harm, which often leads to suicide. When outing someone, there is no possible way we could know how that person will respond.
With that being said, we are now faced with the opposing side to this, which touches upon the fact that there are arguable circumstances in which a person needs to or should be outed. We have a public figure who is meant to represent the people (arguably all people and not just his party), but chooses to campaign against the basic human rights of a group. He has been steadfast in his opposition and will most likely remain so if he continues down the path that he’s on. If we add in the idea of this man – this public figure – being the very thing that he has been fighting against, we are faced with a tremendous amount of hypocrisy that understandably angers those who he has done and will continue to do harm against.
Let’s strip away this man’s sexuality for a minute. Let’s just take him at face value as either a man who does good or a man who does evil. If this man is a man who does evil, which many would argue he does, then don’t we, as those he has trespassed against, have a moral obligation to intervene in a way that may have a positive impact on the masses, but a negative impact on this man as an individual? Isn’t it our duty to act? Furthermore, couldn’t our intervention be seen as a positive action that will benefit everyone (including him) in the long run?
These are the questions that we are faced with, among countless others; questions of moral obligation, character, and the lesser of two evils. These are questions that bring about the age old struggle between right and wrong, and the middle ground that we must sometimes take.
While I want to believe that he is a just a man trying to navigate this world like the rest of us in the best way that he knows how, I can’t help but think that his actions – done out of fear or simple ill intent – negatively impact an entire community of people; a community that has been fighting for years to not only be heard, but to be recognized as an equal. For that I’m left to wonder if maybe there are circumstances in which we have to do the wrong thing in order to do the right thing, no matter how unsettling it may be.
These were just some of my thoughts regarding this story. Feel free to share your own in the comments below. I’d love to know what you think.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry