The bizarre quasi-"outing" of Aaron Schock

Dan Savage and others lead a witch hunt about a congressman who's said to be gay, and who's "gay-acting." Huh?

Published January 6, 2014 5:15PM (EST)

Aaron Schock            (AP/Seth Perlman)
Aaron Schock (AP/Seth Perlman)

Over the weekend, the journalist Itay Hod posted to Facebook a lengthy blind item of sorts, asking what one ought to do with personal knowledge of a public figure's purported homosexuality. His hypothetical:

what if you know a certain GOP congressman, let's just say from Illinois, is gay ... and you know this because one of your friends, a journalist for a reputable network, told you in no uncertain terms that he caught that GOP congressman and his male roommate in the shower ... together.

Hod's citation, further down, of the hypothetical congressman's anti-gay votes and his citation of Illinois was widely taken as a reference to Aaron Schock, whose flamboyant wardrobe and attention to personal fitness have long been read by those in the know as indicators of his sexuality.

There's a long history of outing politicians -- particularly those whose policies fly in the face of their sexuality. But there's a difference between concrete, reported evidence of the sort OutWeek magazine used to run when it outed Malcolm Forbes, and claims so shaky that Hod himself won't commit to connecting them with Schock's name. Hod got attention while proving nothing that hasn't already been surmised by "gaydar"; his scoop that he heard Schock (or, tee-hee, some other Illinois Republican congressman!) was showering with another man ought either to be (preferably) reported out or left alone.

Outing is important -- still. In the case of politicians, it can expose hypocrisy like that of Schock's consistent votes against gay marriage equality ... were Schock gay. But a different sort of hypocrisy has been exposed by tittering gay journalists, a group of people who took a break from describing just how awful bullying is to mock perceived effeminacy and vanity. The liberal AMERICAblog ran a list of Schock's "gayest" Instagram photos (none of which depict him having homosexual sex, the thing that makes a person gay). Business Insider's Josh Barro probed Schock's Instagram follow list, and raised an eyebrow at the fact Schock follows Tom Daley, an openly bisexual Olympic athlete.

This is nothing new; Dan Savage, three months before starting the It Gets Better project, called Schock's clothing "flaming." He's apparently decided to stop just short of taking Hod's hypothetical, unsourced Facebook post as fact, noting that Schock is being "victimized by the homophobia [he works] to advance" while not mentioning Savage himself is promulgating that homophobia.

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Knowing whether a public figure is gay is important for many reasons, not simply because it informs the degree to which one should take their political positions as hypocrisy. Visibility, as advanced when, say, Tom Daley or "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts come out of the closet is, itself, a good goal. But the willingness to fixate on how "gay-acting" someone is means nothing other than that the writer has a prurient sort of blood lust.

Gay causes are, in the main, winning across America. What, possibly, could derail the long string of successes in changing the hearts and minds of homophobes across this land? I'd posit it could be a bizarre witch hunt in which gay folks and news outlets put into print unsourced allegations about "homo attributes." Hod's journalist friend, if this person actually exists, is doing his readers a disservice by not reporting out the purported fact that an anti-gay congressman might be gay. (And, for that matter, if TMZ actually has footage of Schock in gay bars, as Hod alleges with zero proof, not merely ought it broadcast it but it's shocking that it wouldn't.)

Everyone else is doing the public a disservice by presenting "acting" gay as something shameful and laughable. If Schock is gay, his hypocrisy is laughable. If he isn't -- and all we have to go on is his words, given Hod's lack of sourcing or credibility -- what the gay press is laughing at is someone who acts like a fag. I've heard that sort of thing before, but not often since the middle school cafeteria.

By Daniel D'Addario

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Aaron Schock Dan Savage Gay Itay Hod Outing