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Friday, 24 October 2008

Right in the closet

The American journalist and gay Republican Andrew Sullivan ponders on an interesting take on the closet.

In his “Daily Dish” in the Atlantic he’s talking about the late Austrian neo-fascist leader Jörg Haider, who was killed in a car crash recently.

It was revealed that, although married with kids, he had a male lover, Stephan Petzner (pictured).

“Why do they always have to die or get caught before we find out?” asks Sullivan.

Actually, that’s not strictly true, and there are many people in the public eye whose sexuality is kept secret by those in the know, including media, as a matter of respect. Sometimes it gets out, sometimes not (as in the case of the former British prime minister Ted Heath, whose sexuality was one of the longest-lived open secrets).

But Sullivan makes an interesting point:

The closet is a deeply destructive thing. It leads many closeted gay men to adopt far right politics as a psychological mechanism to deny their own reality, a syndrome that is also very widespread at the top of the Catholic church, the Republican party, and the Christianist movement.

From Ted Haggard and Larry Craig to Jörg Haider and Roy Cohn, it’s a destructive and self-destructive dynamic.

Gay conservatives have every right to be part of the spectrum of the world and the gay movement. But our political argument must come from an open, honest philosophical conviction, not deep psychological denial of our own nature. I count myself as an out and proud gay conservative and know countless others. My disagreements with the left are clear and candid and open, as my sexual orientation has been since my early twenties. But the precursor of this new movement is the darkness of the closeted past and the lies and psychoses the closet still perpetuates.

He goes on to say that it’s a sickness, and it has “helped destroy the Catholic church and conservative political parties across the world”. It is, he reckons, “the enemy of open faith and honest politics and strong families”. The only cures, he recommends, are honesty and integrity. “That’s not easy always. But it is still the only sane and healthy way forward.”

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