KIRBY DICK – RIPPING THE DOORS OFF THE POLITICAL GAY CLOSET
Acclaimed independent filmmaker Kirby Dick tackles the topics mainstream media won’t touch. In 1997 he scored a cult hit with the provocative documentary Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. Then in 2006, Dick went after the Hollywood censors. His exposé of the Motion Picture Association of America’s secretive movie ratings system, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, grabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. His most explosive and entertaining work yet, Outrage, skewers the homosexual hypocrites who push the GOP’s anti-gay party line while living a closeted lifestyle.
Interview from HUSTLER Magazine – December 2009
HUSTLER: In Outrage you name names: Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who’s bucking for a GOP Presidential nomination; Larry Craig, who was caught trying to solicit gay sex; and California Congressman David Dreier, whom we outed a couple of years ago.
KIRBY DICK: Crist is the most high-profile one, due to his political prominence right now. But the film also looks at Jim McCrery, recently retired representative from Louisiana. He had been outed by [gay and lesbian publication] The Advocate in the early ’90s, but the mainstream media almost universally avoided the story. I also include a section about former New York Mayor Ed Koch.We talked to a couple of very credible people who had never spoken to the media before, which finally established what everybody already suspected about him. And then there was former U.S. Representative from Virginia Ed Schrock, outed by D.C. blogger Mike Rogers. We looked into a number of other very powerful politicians and were able to get some information on them, but not adequate sourcing. There’s nothing wrong with reporting on rumors, but I wanted this film to be respected.
Right after Outrage was released, Charlie Crist announced that he’s running for the Senate. How do you think your film will affect his chances?
I did not make my film to have an impact on his career. I don’t know that my film should necessarily force the resignation of Charlie Crist. In fact, if he were to be completely honest, I would say that would be so much to his credit and he shouldn’t resign. What I want is for all closeted politicians to tell the truth, especially those voting anti-gay. Part of the problem I saw with the media coverage around Mark Foley and Larry Craig was that they viewed these as isolated incidents, not part of something that was systemic. The issue is big ger than just one politician. I hope the film compels the press to ask hard questions of any politician whom they perceive may be acting hypocritically.
Why won’t the mainstream media cover this?
They’re very happy to report on rumors outing American Idol contestants, but they’re not going to report on the hypocrisy of closeted politicians. In the case of corporate media, they’re reluctant to report on gay sexuality because they don’t want to offend their straight audience. In the case of government- funded media, t h e y d o n ’ t w a n t to offend powerful politicians. Reporters themselves want to cover it. It’s the people higher up the ladder who are making the decision to stay away from it.
That said, the response to Outrage has been phenomenal. It is now starting to cause a discussion within the mainstream media about these policies. National Public Radio reviewer Nathan Lee, for instance, wrote a very positive review about the film online in which he mentioned Larry Craig and Charlie Crist. He had not been told that there was any NPR policy to not name names. But without his approval, NPR pulled the names out of his review.
In response, he pulled his name off the review and then posted a critique in the comment section following the article. NPR then pulled his critique off the comments, claiming they had a policy against writing about the private lives of politicians unless it had an overriding public interest. But of course, it does. These are people who are closeted and voting anti-gay.
You state clearly in your film that this is not about being gay; it’s about hypocrisy.
First of all, if you’re part of the gay community, and you’re having sex within that community, you can’t really expect that community to protect you if you’re passing laws harming the lives of millions of gay and lesbian citizens. And then there’s the issue of transparency and honesty. If you’re passing laws and telling the public that there’s something wrong with being gay and lesbian while secretly being gay yourself, that is corrosive to the body politic. It’s the responsibility of journalists and documentary filmmakers to report on that.
Let’s put it this way: If Edward Kennedy, who is for the assault weapons ban, secretly had a collection of assault weapons that he was shooting in his backyard, and some reporter poked his head over the wall and took a photograph, everybody in the country would say it’s a good thing to reveal Edward Kennedy’s hypocrisy. Saying issues surrounding gay sexuality are off limits is a kind of homophobia. The press is very happy to report on straight sexuality; look at the whole Bill Clinton affair. Sure, everybody is entitled to a private sex life. That should go for politicians as well, except when there are issues involving hypocrisy or public policy. Then people should be allowed to investigate.
What if politicians say they are merely representing the majority of their constituents who don’t want pro-gay legislation?
They’re not saying, “We’re voting anti-gay because our constituency is anti-gay.” They’re saying, “Marriage is something that should only be between a man and a woman.” If they said, “Look, I’m just making a political calculation here, but I really don’t believe it,” that would at least be transparency. But they’re not. They’re saying, “I believe this as well.” And that rises to the level of hypocrisy.
You say in your film that there is a conspiracy to keep this stuff hidden, to preserve the Republican closet.
There is a conspiracy, a political “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but it’s not only Republican. This is a nonpartisan issue. In addition to Ed Koch, the Democratic exmayor of New York, we also looked into rumors of other closeted Democrats who voted anti-gay. D.C. is a very gay town. There are as many gay Republicans in D.C. as there are gay Democrats.
Many people are aware that these people in the closet are voting anti-gay, and they’re doing nothing to tell the truth about it. Party leaders clearly feel that if somebody were to say a powerful party member were closeted, the doublespeak of the party would be exposed. Throughout history, political parties have been successful attacking minorities; it’s sort of a time-honored strategy. It’s abhorrent, and it’s the responsibility of the media to expose the hypocrisy around that strategy. Aside from that, gays and lesbians are a very substantial, wealthy and accomplished part of our society. The GOP loses a lot by alienating that constituency.
You point out in your film that the emotional effect of being in the closet is underestimated. Does anti-gay policy result in part from that personal torment?
Jim McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey who came out publicly when he resigned, spoke to me about it. He was personally for samesex marriage in 2000, but he came out against it publicly because he was afraid people would think he was gay. That’s one of the examples of how the closet contorts the American political system. Another thing that happens is these politicians have been in the closet for so long, they’re trapped. If they come out, they’re admitting to 20 years of misleading their constituency. So they have to continue to vote and act in that manner, which just continues the damaging effects of being in the closet.
Are some of them truly in denial about their own sexuality and what they are doing?
That may be more true with people Larry Craig’s age, who grew up during the homophobic 1950s. I’ve heard people tell stories about having sex with a politician, and as soon as the sex act was over, he’d say, “You know, you’re going to go to hell for having gay sex.”
There is a thriving gay Republican culture in D.C. and in politics. Some are very accepting of their own homosexuality; they just keep it to themselves. But there’s another group that is very ashamed of it and self-loathing.
Is this kind of political homophobia eventually going to die out?
I certainly hope so. I actually think this is not so much a lingering effect of past attitudes as it is a calculated strategy. The Christian Right, of course, viewed this as an issue within its constituency. I think there was a very cynical calculation by the Republican Party to align itself with this. That decision was made over the last 20 or 30 years. Many in the Republican Party, including George W. Bush, are not homophobic at all, but they chose to vilify gays and lesbians as a way of getting in power and staying in power. In some ways that’s more abhorrent than if George W. Bush actually were homophobic. Demographically, things suggest a brighter future. The younger people are, the more accepting they are of gays and lesbians, and the more they think it’s really a nonissue. That’s hopefully the way everyone will look at it in 50 years. I hope people going into politics now will see my film and realize it could be a mistake politically to be closeted. It’s also very painful on a personal level to live that double life. If they’re wise, they’ll choose to run as openly gay politicians, whether Democrat, Republican or independent.
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