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    I’m living without you / I know all about you

    Eric likes the Constitution State’s Supreme Court’s ruling on a First Amendment case a few days ago. (Well, the actual opinion is here.) Eric refers to a prior post of his:

    Whether the imputation of homosexuality is defamatory these days is open to question, at least in some places.

    Should it be?

    If the imputation of homosexuality is defamation, then is that not itself an outright admission by the tort system that there is something so dreadful about homosexuality that we will allow you to sue others if they accuse you of it?

    I’m kind of hors de combat on this particular issue, of course. I don’t think people should get away with telling lies, but I don’t see identifying someone as homosexual as some kind of smear in and of itself.

    At the same time, I wish there weren’t this sort of blanket statement (from Michigan’s Between the Lines) from the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s representative of what we hear in the run up to National Coming Out Day every year:

    Readers of BTL’s editorial pages in the past have heard us say it before, but it bears repeating: come out, come out wherever you are.

    It is difficult to imagine how one could argue that staying in the closet enables a person to live a full, rewarding and emotionally healthy life. Heterosexuals, for example, would never dream of keeping their wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends and even children a secret from their coworkers, neighbors, family and friends.

    Oh, wouldn’t they? People have been known to keep marriages secret for the sake of not angering parents who didn’t give permission, or not giving the appearance of a conflict of interest if they met through business. Those arrangements aren’t the hetero default setting, but you can’t say straight people would “never dream” of keeping their relationships a secret.

    Besides, everyone is subject to intrusive questions these days. I know more than one single straight person who’s heartily sick of being asked when he’s going to get married or why she hasn’t settled down and had children yet. “Maybe if people thought I was gay they’d shut up and give me some peace,” one exasperated career-focused acquaintance said to me once.

    I don’t want to slush things together to the point of being obtuse about the real issues that remain. I assume, though I haven’t run about polling people, that most closeted gays would prefer not to have to be secretive about the relationships that matter to them most. Being known as gay, risky though it is, means that you don’t have to mask something important about yourself when interacting with people. I think it’s great to have public voices reminding closeted gays that, if they meet a hostile reception when coming out, their gay friends will stick by them and they won’t be left to deal with the fallout alone.

    But some people really do think that their sexuality is an individual matter and appreciate the way remaining unmarried allows them to avoid opening their private lives to public scrutiny. Why is it hard to believe that the way they live is “full, rewarding and emotionally healthy”? If you value personal liberty, you believe that people get to choose their own trade-offs, even if those trade-offs wouldn’t suit you. The only people I think should be pressured into coming out–not, just so I’m clear, forcibly outed, but pitilessly encouraged to put their money where their squalling mouths are–are those who bitch that our public advocates haven’t yet made it safe for them to do so. It’s not Michelangelo Signorile’s job to take your risks for you, honey.

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