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Peeking into the private lives of gay politicians


8 p.m. Tue., June 23

Prytania Theatre, 5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; or

Tickets $15 general admission, $12 Film Society Members

click to enlarge Massachussetts Rep. Barney Frank is one of very few openly gay - elected politicians. - © 2009 MAGNOLIA PICTURES
  • © 2009 Magnolia Pictures
  • Massachussetts Rep. Barney Frank is one of very few openly gay elected politicians.

There's nothing quite like the headline-grabbing hypocrisy of a "family values" Republican like Larry Craig getting arrested for soliciting sex in an airport men's room. The exposure seems like poetic justice, except it does nothing to undo anti-gay marriage campaigning or laws supported by closeted gay politicians.

  Craig says he is not gay, though the 2007 Minnesota bathroom sting wasn't the first time the issue has been raised. Clearly on the record, however, is his history of opposing gay rights legislation. Figures like Craig and other allegedly gay politicians who vehemently oppose gay rights drive Kirby Dick's Outrage, a film about Washington D.C.'s vast political closet and the way its secrecy harms gay Americans. Dick will attend a screening June 23 and participate in a discussion afterwards.

  Washington, D.C., has long had a large gay population — consisting of politicians, congressional and party staffers and lobbyists. The problems of private versus public life became a political issue in the 1980s during the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, when silence on the issue had deadly consequences. Today, as the GOP has exploited opposition to gay marriage for political benefits, activists are again outraged at closeted politicians. Dick looks at how gay and allegedly gay politicians negotiate the closet, including high-profile Republicans who have come out.

  The film features Democrats like former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and a moving interview with former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey. But it focuses on the GOP and a campaign by people like Michael Rogers ( to "out" closeted gay politicians who publicly oppose gay rights.

  Dick's earlier films took on obscure subjects, including performance artist and masochist Bob Flanagan (Sick) and literary theorist Jacques Derrida (Derrida). Since Twist of Faith (2004), about Catholic clergy abuse, Dick's films have taken increasingly activist positions on issues, often exposing hypocrisy and secrecy. His acclaimed This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006) exposed the way major motion picture studios created and run the movie-rating system. In Outrage, his sympathies clearly lie with activists like Rogers and Michelangelo Signorile, who discusses double standards in media coverage.

  Beyond the politics, Outrage offers insight into the psychology of the closet.

  "From the outside, it doesn't seem to make sense," Dick said in an interview. "But a lot of politicians wanted to go into politics from a very young age. They were probably the president of their third grade class. To later find out they're gay is very difficult and they box it off — like you box off a lot of things when you are in politics. Once you see how necessary it is to align yourself with a party, it makes a lot of sense."

  Florida's Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, rumored to be gay, is discussed at length in the film. Married for six months in the late 1970s, he has ascended in politics as a bachelor. In a series of election contests, he has engaged in high-profile dating, but the relationships often sputtered after election day. He was married last year and was included on lists to be considered John McCain's running mate. It remains to be seen what his contribution to the institution of marriage will be. His support helped pass Amendment 2, a change to the Florida Constitution banning gay marriage and civil unions.

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