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Feel Outraged?: New Movie Raises Controversy, Outs Politicians

By L. K. Regan

A new documentary film is making waves in Washington and around the country. That's because Outrage, by Academy Award-nominated director Kirby Dick, both defends the practice of outing secretly gay politicians, and attempts to make a case for suspecting several current political figures of being less than honest about their sexuality. As a result, Outrage is both a study of and participant in the recent practice of pursuing politicians believed to be guilty of sexual hypocrisy, and it poses serious questions about the limits of privacy for public figures.

Outrage is a defense of the practice of outing politicians who pursue anti-gay political agendas while they privately seek out gay sexual relationships. Director Kirby Dick (whose other major work, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, takes on the movie ratings system) attempts to reveal the, as he calls it, "brilliant conspiracy" that shelters these politicians while denying the LGBT community basic civil rights. The argument of hypocrisy is made by several figures in the film, but primarily by Michael Rogers, a blogger who outed Senator Larry Craig (whose story figures large in the film) and Republican National Committee Field Director Dan Gurley. The history and controversies of coming out and getting outed for gay political figures is discussed in commentary from such prominent gay figures as Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, and blogger Andrew Sullivan. Footage of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey lets viewers see an outed politician reflect on the effect the experience had on his life and career.

Yet all of these elements unfold within a film that is itself a large-scale act of outing. Outrage's controversy is not rooted in its allegations about Idaho Senator Larry Craig, whose toe-tapping bathroom antics are the stuff of legend. The movie goes on to make allegations about several currently or recently serving politicians who have continuously denied any suggestions that they are gay. The list includes Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Congressman David Dreier of California, newly retired Louisiana Senator Jim McCrery, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, among others. All of these are figures who have consistently advanced an anti-gay political agenda.

In naming names and making a detailed case against each of these men, Outrage uncomfortably pits the gay community's dislike of the practice of outing against the costs of hypocrisy in politicians whose active pursuit of an anti-gay agenda, director Kirby Dick theorizes, is key to maintaining their closeted life fiction. Out them, he suggests, and they will no longer feel the need to do so much harm to the gay community in order to hide their own shameful secret. For Kirby Dick, clearly, they have brought this exposure upon themselves. As Barney Frank succinctly puts it in the film, "There is a right to privacy; there is no right to hypocrisy." Viewers will have to decide for themselves where they stand on the individual allegations and the question of the moral defense of outing in general.

Outrage is opening only in select cities; check here to see if yours is among them. Want a taste of what you'll be seeing? Watch the trailer!