Liberal Homophobia, Come Out of the Closet

Behind the claim of privacy, even if claimed out of good intentions, hides a closet. That is part of liberal homophobia.

Emil Salman

About a year ago, the financial daily Globes published an article about a female Knesset member who had a profile on an online dating site stating that she was searching for a male partner. On that profile, according to the article, she described herself as “independent and strong. Loves space and knows how to give it, but at a point where I am prepared and want to share my space with a true partner.” The report revealed her sexual orientation as heterosexual. As it turns out, sexual orientation is not necessarily a private matter and the media had no problem outing an MK as heterosexual. The website Mako also reported it.

That same website last week posted a photograph of an article about a male MK from the same party as the above-mentioned MK, which appeared in a students’ newspaper a few years ago in which that MK (before he was elected to his current position) stated that he is “spontaneous and sensitive and looking for a boyfriend but at the same time level-headed and reasonable.”

However, in a manner reminiscent of military censorship, the name of that MK was blacked out of the report. The Mako report quoted remarks he made, but in contrast to the statements by the female MK, blacked out his name. In the case of the female MK, the media outed her, revealing her sexual orientation based on a dating site. In the case of the male MK, the media “inned” him by erasing his name in an article mentioning his sexual orientation.

Presumably, if I mentioned the name of the female MK in this article, my editors would permit me to do so, but they would ask me to erase the name of MK X. As has been written in these pages, the media, which published the name of Prisoner X, kept the name of MK X under wraps – additional proof that homosexuality is more highly classified information than state secrets.

The differing attitude of the media toward the sexual orientation of the female MK, whom they out, and the male MK, whom they “in,” once again illustrates the hollowness of the phrase “a person’s sexual orientation is a private matter.” Only one sexual orientation – homosexuality – is a private matter. The sexual orientation of heterosexuals is considered completely public.

The difference between the attitude toward the female MK and the male MK shows how behind the claim of privacy, even if claimed out of good intentions, hides a closet. That is part of liberal homophobia, which is built on the division between public heterosexuality and private homosexuality and bans the mention of homosexuality unless the individual mentioned gives a full confession in the weekend newspapers.

The discussion in recent weeks following journalist and writer Gal Uchovsky’s call on the Labor Party chairman to give MK X a choice – come out of the closet or get out of the Knesset – misses the real story, the story of “inning” not outing, and of the hypocritical attitude of the media toward sexual orientation.

Indeed, it is a person’s right not to reveal his or her sexuality. But the interesting question is not whether the MK is exercising his right, but rather whether he is doing the right thing. Many believe that an elected official should act differently. One might also wonder where the strange idea comes from that a person who has come out of the closet in the past and spoke about it publicly has the right to expect that the issue will remain confidential once he is elected to the Knesset.

There is an almost inconceivable gap between the claim of the importance of the privacy of MK X and the fact that after having spoken publicly about the matter, he chose public life. Then, MK X should not have to face the choice Uchovsky proposed; however, we would have to stop the tiresome public discourse about the fact that sexual orientation is a private matter. What needs to be brought out of the closet is not MK X, but liberal homophobia.