Outrage exposes the pain of being secretly gay

If there's a central message to Kirby Dick's Outrage, it's that living life denying one's sexual orientation is an awful existence. Not only is the closeted person lying to their family and friends — often at great emotional cost to everyone involved — they are lying to themselves. There's a lot of self-hatred hanging in the closet, and it's an old saw that the most homophobic folks are the most in denial. Still, a person's choice to keep their preference private is their own. But what about politicians living in the closet who work to advance anti-gay-rights legislation? Don't they deserve to be exposed?

Michael Rogers certainly thinks so. Rogers is an activist and writer who works to out closeted gay politicians, and he's kind of the hero of Outrage. One of his early scores was Republican Congressman Ed Schrock of Virginia, a sponsor of a bill banning gay marriage, who was caught on tape soliciting sex with men by leaving messages on a telephone hook-up service. Schrock never copped to being the voice on the tape, but the evidence was compelling enough that he resigned. Rogers has the goods on many more.

Outrage appeals to our base cultural instinct to speculate on the sexual preferences of the rich and famous (it's practically sport online), and Schrock is far from the most notable politician in the film's crosshairs. Some are obvious, like Sen. Larry Craig, he of the airport bathroom "wide stance," who comes across as an incredibly sad man. More surprising (for me anyway) were ex-New York City Mayor Ed Koch, singled out for his awful response to the Big Apple's 1980's AIDS crisis, and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who's front and center on a network that works daily to undermine the LGBT community.

Closer to home, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is one of Outrage's big fish, and the film spends a good amount of time laying out the case against his heterosexuality. Props to reporter Bob Norman of Miami New Times, a vet of the Mark Foley affair, who dug up much of Crist's backstory after being contacted by multiple unrelated sources claiming Crist staffers had been bragging at dinner parties about sexual relationships with the then-still-future governor. Crist is shown repeatedly denying the rumors, with each denial slightly creepier than the last. (His take of the famed Seinfeld riff, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," comes across as oddly angry.)

But the case against Charlie ultimately lacks a smoking gun as potent as the Schrock tapes. Is it interesting that Crist was married to first wife Amanda Morrow for only 6 months, and his ex found post-breakup comfort with new partner Mildred Harrison? Or that another ex, Kelly Crosby Heyniger, told the film's producers, "I think I should just keep my mouth shut. ... Call me in 10 years and I'll tell you a story." Absolutely. But it doesn't exactly prove Crist is gay.

So, yes, much of the information presented in Outrage is circumstantial. But that by no means sinks the film. Director Kirby Dick knows the salacious nature of this material will attract an audience, but he's ultimately after a larger point about the vicious cycle of our public discourse, where leaders responsible for making the laws deny their own nature and essentially persecute themselves in an effort to keep their own truth hidden. In particular, I'd point to the scenes featuring former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, with McGreevey and his wife talking candidly about the Governor's resignation from office after his affair with a male Homeland Security appointee came to light. There is truth and power in McGreevey's words. And pain.

Ultimately, outing someone is a tricky thing. As the film angrily points out, the media will often go out of its way to avoid discussing someone's sexual orientation — even when it's germane to the subject. Even the LGBT community is divided on whether or not outing is over the line. Though Outrage is clearly in favor of exposing the hypocrites in D.C., the film does offer some conversation on the subject. Among the points of view, Journalist Andrew Sullivan expresses sympathy for the exposed and Congressman Barney Frank argues that hypocrisy by those passing the laws ought to be routed out. In the end, I agree with Frank, and as such I enjoyed Outrage. How you feel about the question should tell you whether this is a movie for you.

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