In Washington, D.C., rumors have long swirled around a certain long-time Republican senator, a perennial bachelor, being not-so-secretly gay. But the long-simmering issue came to a boiling point recently when a concerted effort to “out” the senator, dubbed “Lady G,” went viral. The result was widespread derision and mockery of the senator. And a cadre of left-wing LGBT activists suddenly found themselves doing a complete reversal, arguing that it’s now actually okay to involuntarily “out” someone—expose a closeted person’s sexuality—if one finds their viewpoints to be disagreeable.
The sordid affair began when a male sex worker and gay porn star named Sean Harding publicly accused the senator of contracting his services—allegations that effectively outed the man as gay, to the extent one believes them.
“There is a homophobic republican senator who is no better than Trump who keeps passing legislation that is damaging to the lgbt and minority communities,” Harding wrote in a tweet that quickly went viral, receiving more than 100,000 likes. (I won’t be linking to it, because I don’t see any point in helping him add to the hit count.) “Every sex worker I know has been hired by this man. Wondering if enough of us spoke out if that could get him out of office?… I cannot do this alone. If you’d be willing to stand with me against LG please let me know.”
This prompted another male sex worker to post an article on the open blogging website Medium detailing an alleged encounter he had with “Lady G.” This article not only named the Republican senator, and outed him as gay, but included humiliating and demeaning intimate details about the elderly senator’s body. It was cruel and painful to read. The article has since been taken down, but the details it exposed will live forever on the Internet.
Throughout it all, many LGBT activists cheered on the mob—despite outing being a practice that normally is considered immoral and cruel by most gay people. Some explicitly stated that they were perfectly happy to violate their own principles if that’s what it took to ensure the Republican senator loses reelection. “Outing is a brutal tactic that should be reserved for brutes,” wrote LGBT activist Dan Savage. “Lady G more than qualifies.”
Savage was among a number of community members who tried to claim that they were acting on some well-defined, legalistic moral exception to the normal rules. Gay journalist Yashar Ali opined that “anyone who is in the closet should never be forced to come out or outed,” since it’s “a deeply personal journey and anyone who engages in outing closeted people is cruel beyond description.” But of course, “there is one exception”: public figures who support anti-LGBT policy. They are fair game.” How convenient.
Another widely-circulated tweet called “Lady G” a “traitor” and a “hateful turncoat.” Another read: “[The senator] isn’t a terrible person because he’s gay. He’s a terrible person because he has spent his life legislating against gay rights.” Meanwhile, many ostensibly “progressive” Twitter users circulated crude photoshopped images and memes demeaning the senator on the basis of his sexuality—an adult version of the sort of vicious bullying tactic that gay boys endure from bullies at schools across the United States. Even the mainstream LGBT media—including the Los Angeles Blade and Towleroad—jumped in on the story. Sadly, so did the Washington Post.
If reports are to be believed, the senator was allegedly not just sleeping with men, but soliciting prostitutes. That’s illegal, even if such laws are the subject of debate (especially within LGBT and progressive circles). But the prostitution angle didn’t feature prominently in the online hate campaign. The senator’s enemies don’t really care about the sex work. What they care about is the thoughtcrime committed by a gay politician who disagrees with progressive views and supports Donald Trump.
Let’s cut through the idea that these sexual doxers are doing angels’ work because they happened to be targeting a conservative. Political disagreement doesn’t justify this sort of cruelty. Ever. We are all human, and are morally obligated to treat others with a basic degree of dignity and respect—yes, even if you feel that a person hasn’t afforded you the same. Progressive LGBT activists who abandon their values so they can go all in on a digital hatefest are no better than the bigots they purport to oppose.
Still, it’s worth considering: Is the senator in question really a vicious “anti-LGBTQ” bigot who deserves to be taken down by any means necessary? Well, sure, “Lady G” has opposed gay marriage. And he voted against gay integration in the military during his many years in the Senate. But so did the current Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden—you know, the same guy most of these hashtaggers now openly endorse. The idea that this Republican senator has gone out of his way to vilify the LGBTQ community is unsubstantiated. He’s pretty much toed the Republican party line over the years. Yes, it happens to be a party line that’s out of step with most Americans on social issues. But if you don’t like it, vote it down at the polls. Don’t humiliate a man for his sexuality.
But even if “Lady G” had made opposition to LGBT rights the central theme of his political career, that still wouldn’t validate the cruel treatment that’s been meted out to him. People of good faith can disagree over issues such as gay marriage without necessarily being hateful bigots. Barack Obama opposed gay marriage as recently as 2011. Was he, too, the devil incarnate?
And here’s a larger question: Who gets to decide which politicians are “anti-LGBT” and which aren’t? The most powerful activist group within the US LGBT activist establishment, the Human Rights Campaign, has declared Donald Trump—the first president to enter office supportive of gay marriage—to be the “worst president on LGBTQ issues ever.” The group also regularly stakes out positions on many issues that many ordinary LGBT Americans find extreme.
That includes me. I support gay marriage, equality under the law, and advocate for LGBT inclusion and tolerance in the conservative movement as a right-of-center journalist. However, I don’t support the medical transitioning of young gender-confused children, or accept academic doctrines that postulate an infinite number of genders. Within Washington LGBT activist circles, this marks me as a mini-“Lady G.” My views even got me chased out of a gay men’s soccer league. I can only imagine what these trolls would do if someone offered them incriminating dirt on me. Just as they were quick to create a loophole that allowed them to out a senator they didn’t like, I’m sure they would have no problem creating a similar exception for me—or, indeed, for any LGBT person whose views they dislike.
More and more, you can always tell who the most puritanical social-justice advocates are. Gay or straight, they’re the ones doing logical backflips to justify viciousness and cruelty in the name of diversity and tolerance.
Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is an American political journalist and an opinion columnist at the Washington Examiner, a conservative political magazine based in Washington, D.C.