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Monday, February 14, 2005

An Open Letter to Jeff Gannon

Well, this week's gotta be a bitch for you.  With each new embarrassing layer of information that gets peeled away I'm sure you're feeling extremely vulnerable. When I saw you on Wolf Blitzer I have to admit that even as a confirmed lefty, I still felt really bad for you.  You looked like you were struggling for air, just trying to keep your head above water.  And now all this personal stuff comes out.  As someone with a colorful personal history myself, I can well imagine that having it all laundered in public by other people couldn't have been easy.   But I digress.

I'm writing because I wanted to have a chat about the whole outing thing.  Okay, a one-way chat, but still.  I can understand that you might be feeling that your privacy has been invaded, that your sexuality is your business, and that whoever took it upon themselves to expose your personal life was really striking a low blow.  

But you see, there's a whole segment of the population right now who feel just like you do, that they've had targets placed on their backs.  By an administration whose policies you have been doing your utmost to promote.  Can you understand that people who are having their civil liberties stripped away might look at your complicity and resent the hypocrisy of someone who insulates themselves from the consequences of such policies with money and power?  And that they might rightly assume that the only way to defend themselves is to expose the grand hypocrisy of the policy makers in the first place?

I don't know for certain that you're gay.  I've known a few straight men who have turned a few tricks in the past, though nobody with a web site quite like that, so I'm pretty much assuming that you are. And I have no idea what kind of a life you lead that brought you to turning tricks, but as a fallen Magdalene type myself I'm guessing it was a big relief to leave that life behind and be accepted into the white house press corps, even if it entailed shilling for people who would hate you and shun you if they knew what you were.  

Harvey Milk said that coming out to the people you know was the most important political act any gay person could commit.  Not only was it an act of extreme self-respect, but Harvey felt that while it's easy to hate people you don't know, it's much harder to hate someone based on their sexuality if they have a name and a face. Rather than comport with people who despise what you are and live a shame-filled life of deep identity conflict and extreme self-loathing, I think you might want to take some time and read up on Harvey.

And Christopher Isherwood.  Leonard Bernstein. Walt Whitman. Vita Sackville-West.  James Baldwin.  Colette.  The list of phenomenal gay thinkers, artists, writers, philosophers and other historical figures is endless.  A study of gay culture should give anyone something to be proud of.  It would certainly strike a sharp contrast with what your website reflects to be your self-image.  'Cos right now, fella, you look like you could use a little positive identity affirmation.

When I was a teenager I was a little punk rocker living in San Francisco and working as a cub reporter for the Bay Guardian. I'd met Harvey Milk, he was always around, always at the center of progressive causes.  He was someone who really made a difference in people's lives, both gay and straight.  And the week he was killed, it seemed like the whole world was turned upside down. Only a week before the People's Temple members who had fled San Francisco had killed themselves in Guyana.  And then Dan White climbed in to City Hall and shot both Harvey and George Moscone.  

I was living on my own for the first time, trying to make sense of it all and coming up short in the way of answers.  There was so much rage and hatred and violence and confusion in the air that it all could've exploded into complete nihilism.    I didn't know squat about gay culture or really much of anything at that point.  I only knew a deep sense of loss and fury that this guy, Dan White, was being totally coddled by the police as one of their own.  You just knew that this was not going to end well.

And then it just happened. Rather than vent their rage in senseless destruction that would have been a poor tribute to the man who had given so much, everyone in the city came together.  Gay and straight.   They say it was a hundred thousand strong but I couldn't tell you, it seemed like the whole city was there.  Marching silently down the street carrying candles. The river of people stretching so far you couldn't see to the end.  I remember the incredible healing power of that march that reminded us that no amount of hate or persecution could take away what Harvey had done or had meant to so many.  A lot of people found the courage to come out that night.  It was an amazing tribute to both gay culture and the human spirit.

That strength is available to you if only you look above the chaos of the moment and avail yourself of it.

So I really wish you well.  On a personal level, I mean.  On a political level, I hope this is only the beginning and that it doesn't stop until the whole Administration and all their deep-seeded corruption and hypocrisy comes tumbling down.  But speaking to someone who has been newly outed, I hope that this experience, although awfully painful, can help you liberate yourself from that shame-filled place and bring you into the light where there are a lot of people who won't hate you and fear you and manipulate you for what you are.

You're only as sick as your secrets.