Stop ‘Outing’ People Unless You Have Real Evidence

Please, let’s stop this ridiculous and embarrassing mystery gay-date game of Outing people. I am referring to the ‘Clue’-like hints and speculation that constantly come up about celebrities, politicians and other public figures who are rumored to be gay; i.e., ‘it was a very well-know action hero; on a yacht; with some Gun Oil’ or ‘My aunt Mary’s hairdresser’s cousin saw this sports figure at the white party in Miami with the cousin’s electrician; who he knows is gay.’ The latest person to be trotted out in this increasingly tiring parade is politician Aaron Schock. From gaystarnews.com:

The story involved the friend’s gay roommate and Schock, a young politician who has gotten more attention for displaying his impressive physique on the pages of Men’s Health than for any legislation he has championed.

[Freelance journalist Itay] Hod, appearing at an event held by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association earlier this month, told the crowd:

‘While (my friend) was living in Washington DC and working for a reputable network that we all watch, he comes home one day and he catches his roommate, who is gay, coming out of the shower with Aaron Schock.’

[snip]

Although he openly mentioned Schock by name at the NLGJA event in Los Angeles, his original Facebook post detailed the shower story but referred to a hypothetical congressman from Illinois and included a link to an AmericaBlog item about Schock’s Instagram tastes.

‘I knew that it was a very sensitive subject … I didn’t mention his name and sort of presented it as a hypothetical even though it wasn’t a hypothetical one,’ Hod said. ‘I made it very clear as to who I was talking about. … I stand 100% behind what I said.’

If it isn’t hypothetical, where is the evidence? I can’t imagine that Hod’s friend; one who works for a “reputable network that we all watch” doesn’t have a phone that is capable of taking photos. Why didn’t he snap a few of Schock to accompany his claim? People routinely take clandestinely photos of folks at the gym, in the grocery store, at Wal-Mart and post them to Facebook with some kind of commentary. Would it be so hard to take the same of a dripping wet Pol? If Schock was coming out of the the shower as Hod’s friend claims, wouldn’t that have given enough time to access a phone camera were it not at the ready?

Even if there were no photos to be had, who the heck are these “friends”? Why do we hear these stories second, third, sometimes fifth and six hand? Why do we never hear about them directly from the source? As well-known columnist Dan Savage says in his book Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love and Politics, when anti-gay politicians claim to have gay friends who support them we should demanded to talk with sources to verify them. We should ask for names and numbers to talk with these, as Savage puts it, “deranged homos.” (pg. 199) We should expect no less from those who are claiming to know someone who has first-hand knowledge to Out someone. Give us names; give us numbers so that we can also verify the source. If we don’t we are engaging in the same don’t ask, don’t tell policy that Hod rails against:

Hod told his fellow journalists at the NLGJA event that he is frustrated with news organizations – both LGBT and mainstream – being so reluctant to out public figures.

He shared that the friend who told him about the shower incident told a superior at his network what he had seen and was told ‘you can’t out anyone, it’s a personal journey.’

‘I was livid,’ Hod said. ‘The problem I saw was not just that Aaron Schock is able to do what he’s able to do and get away with it, he’s able to get away with it because we are not doing our jobs in making sure that that doesn’t happen. We still have an issue with outing people, we still have an issue with a very sensitive subject and we need to change that perception.’

If that’s how Hod feels, he should challenge the very people who provide and share hard evidence to Out folks. Twitter and Facebook are both accessible to anyone. Anyone can post a status update or tweet complete with accompanying photos. Anyone can create a blog and do their own citizen journalism on the suspected subjects. And while a “reputable network” might not be interested in evidence to Out someone, there are a whole host of other rags that would do cartwheels to report a story on secret gay public figures that they could actually back up.

Itay Hod has a right to be livid, but his anger shouldn’t be directed to those however many degrees of separation from the story. He should be angry with the source of it. There’s more than one way to get a story out there, but what you need first is the actual evidence to prove that it is fact. In every single one of these stories, that evidence never seems to exist or materialize.

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