The Media and ‘Outing’

Regarding your pieces (Commentary, Aug. 7) by Randy Shilts and Marshal Alan Phillips:

It goes without saying that it is possible and (as Pee-wee Herman has unfortunately learned) prudent to confine sexual activity within a private place. But the same is not true with romantic activity. Every time The Times has reported a comment about who someone is married to, living with, dating or lusting after, the paper has revealed something about that person’s sexual orientation. It is nearly impossible to imagine a world where such relationships are not discussed. Except, of course, when the issue is homosexual relationships.

The Times assumes we should refrain from discussing the relationships of lesbians and gay men, because talking about who they are dating or in a relationship with will violate their sexual privacy. Revealing someone’s homosexuality, though, by itself, is no more a violation of sexual privacy than “revealing” that someone is married.

The Times has “outed” Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by reporting that he is married--a clear report of his sexual orientation. But no one views that as violating his sexual privacy. It is unfortunate that we force some of his advisers to live in a different world.



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