The Big Secret

Richard Mohr believes that outing closeted homosexuals is morally justified. He argues that sexual orientation is not a private matter and therefore, does not violate a homosexual’s right to privacy. He believes that outing will increase the homosexual community by creating positive role models. He argues that remaining in the closet is morally debasing and creates indignity to one’s self. Claudia Card on the other hand, argues almost the complete opposite. She takes a utilitarian stance on outing “the big secret. ” The big secret is referring to one being a homosexual.

She believes that outing is justified as long as it does no harm, which she believes is unlikely. Mohr’s definition of outing is making publicly acknowledged the sexual orientation of a homosexual without regard to whether the person I willing to have this information publicly acknowledged. Mohr argues that outing is both a permissible and an expected consequence of living morally. He says, “outing is to the gay person who lives morally what a ship’s wake is to the ship that causes it as the ship cuts its course to its destination.

In other words, in order for a homosexual to live morally, one must be outed. Mohr then takes the likely objections to outing and puts forth his argument. Mohr states that the most common argument against outing is that it violates a homosexual’s right to privacy. Mohr argues that people are confusing privacy with secrecy. He says that privacy is control over the access the others have to one, where as secrecy is the intentional concealment of something. He uses Sissela Bok to support his argument. Bok says, “privacy need not hide and secrecy hides far more than what is private.

He also uses Bok’s example of marriage to explain this. Bok says that whom one marries is a private matter, but it is virtually never a secret matter. Mohr does not believe that outing one’s sexual orientation violates any legitimate gay privacy interest. If someone sees you doing something in public that suggests that you are a homosexual, and that someone tells someone else, it does not mean that that someone has violated the right to privacy. There is no real control over privacy. He says that it is sexual acts, not sexual orientations that are protected by privacy.

Sexual orientation is a part of whom one is and outing is merely identifying it just as one would say about heterosexuals. Mohr then presents his argument to the idea that outing violates the right to the closet. Mohr says, “The dynamics of the closet do not comport with what a right is. ” He says that a right means a permission to act as I want. However, it does not pertain to the closet case because the closet is coerced by economic and moral standards. There is economic coercion because if outed, one might lose their employment statues.

There is moral coercion because one has been socialized that being a homosexual is wrong. Mohr’s underlying thought is that no one chooses to be in the closet; rather they are forced to being in the closet. Mohr’s next argument is against the right to secrecy. He says that there is no right to secrecy unless there is an explicit agreement. Secrecy about the closet is rarely the result of an agreement. It is more like an unwritten social convention held by the gay community and therefore outing is justified.

Mohr argues that the irony of “the big secret” is that its intention is to protect the homosexuals yet it is a “complete capitulation to the general social belief that the only good gay is a nonexistent one,” which leads to Mohr’s theory on the theft of dignity. Mohr’s last justification for outing is that being in the closet steals one’s dignity. He says, “The closet case tries to assure his happiness by maintaining his closet [but] what the closet case does in maintaining his closet is to barter away his self-respect, his worthiness for respect, his dignity, his happiness, regard, and non-respectful love.

Life in the closet is self-degrading because it frequently requires lying and beyond. He believes that outing is the first step to coming out and should be promoted to stop the self-degradation. By outing a person, the individual will be forced to deal with their situation and have the possible liberty of being free. He concludes with the idea that outing should be practice as a means of good intentions only. Vindictive intentions to out someone would bring more oppression.

Card explains that there are two basic questions for the ethics of outing. Does it wrong those who are outed and 2. Whether those who are already out would wrong themselves in protecting others who pass. In accordance to the first question, Mohr does not support outing other’s medical records to reveal HIV statues because it would violate doctor-patient privacy. In response, Card addresses Mohr’s statement on the right to privacy. She says, “An irony of arguing that outing need not violate defensible privacy rights is the implied suggestion that the outed are still protected in their privacy.

If one’s sexual orientation is outed to the public, more will be revealed. She claims that by outing one’s sexual orientation, one’s sexual actions are implied because of society’s misconceptions and therefore, violation of one’s right to privacy. In result to these misconceptions, harm can be done to the individual or an individual in the relationship and therefore, wrongs those who are outed and violates one’s right to privacy. She says that when the source of information is not one’s access to medical records or privileged position, a dignity defense of outing could apply.

Nor does Mohr support hypocrisy outings of gay politicians because that a right to privacy regarding one’s sexual orientation would not be defeated by hypocrisy. In response, Card says, “if no right to privacy protects sexual orientation, outing to expose hypocrisy could be justified, particularly if it reveals a major lack of integrity in elected officials. ” She says that protecting passers cane as dignified as the alternatives. Card also rejects Mohr’s argument on dignity.

Mohr’s defense of outing rests on the judgment that homosexual closets are a “major indignity and it demeans oneself and relationships to abide by a ‘gag rule’ protecting passers in the same way that it would do to pass oneself. ” She explains that in the context of outing, dignity refers to a sense of one’s worth that is independent of utility and to accordingly worthy demeanor. It also means acceptance from society. She says that dignity applies to relationships as well as to individuals and can be threatened on many fronts such as cultural/racial oppressions, class oppression, or misogyny.

She states, “When silence is demeaning to those reduced to it to avoid worse indignities, they are not responsible for the indignity. ” The choice to keep one’s life a secret may be as dignified as any open to them. She proposes that outing is more likely to create more harm to a person’s dignity. Outing can cause hate crimes and oppressions of homosexuals to arise. Hate crimes and oppressions can cause physical, mental, and emotional harm to homosexuals. Being in the closet to some, maybe of higher dignity than being outed.

Some may not be emotionally stable to handle the consequences of being outed and may result in bodily harm by suicide or hate crimes. Card argues that bodily integrity is forms of indignities. Therefore, outing can be a greater indignity than being in the closet. As a result, the right to secrecy, even if just a convention, should not be ignored. Card does not in its entire reject outing. Card says that outing individuals may be necessary to prevent or stop cruelty, to address or redress major injustices. Outing may also be necessary to expose and sabotage corruption.

Card suggests a more indirect, passive way of defending homosexuals by outing dead homosexuals. She states that is will not only make people aware but it will not cause harm to the person. She says, “nevertheless, revealing a dead person’s secrets can change the way that life, now ended, is perceived by others, and insofar as the meaning of life is a social construction, it might be argued that outing can have implications even for lives that have ended. The meaning goes on, so to speak, even after the life has stopped.

She claims that this can be a great way to use history to educate and change the attitude about homosexuals to the public. I find Card’s argument more convincing than Mohr’s argument. I too take a stance on the John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian beliefs. Mill’s idea is to let a person speak out as long as it does not harm anyone. One can out a person, as long as it does not harm them. Unfortunately, it is more likely that outing someone will create rather than prevent harm, especially in small towns or rural areas.

Though Mohr’s intentions for outing are good, I do not find them convincing or the best way to go. Mohr says that outing someone will help them deal with their problems but I believe it will create more distress in their lives if they were not mentally ready to come out. These things take time. A person’s right to privacy has a lot to do with this time. They need the privacy as a way of buying time until they are ready to complete the process of coming out. You cannot just let people know about a person’s part of life when they want it to be hidden.

If someone is obviously anorexic you cannot just let it be known to the public. In a sense, it’s like spreading a rumor because they have not admitted to it, even if it may seem obvious to you. The person can feel oppressed, depressed, and possibly suicidal. One can never tell what words can do to a person. People have different perceptions and will hear/see what they want to hear/see rather than hear/see what really is. It does not seem like he has taken in considerations the harms that follow from outing. He forgets that there are small towns were hate crimes are not punished.

He forgets that some individuals are very emotionally instable to handle the consequences of being outed. I do not believe that he has taken in considerations all the possible consequences of being outed where as Card does. I find it even more convincing that she is a lesbian and has been a closet case. I also think Card’s solution is the idealistic way to resolve the issue and aid in many people’s process of coming out. It does not do harm to anyone, but at the same time provides a role model and gets the word out.

Leave a Comment