Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Secrecy [II, 43]

Because of discrimination and outright persecution, homosexuals have traditionally found it expedient to conceal their nature. This type of prudence is sometimes termed the closet. The fact that most gays, contrary to popular stereotypes, do not “look gay” facilitates this option. The reverse of secrecy is the transparency of being out. There is a continuing controversy as to whether closet rights, the status of continuing to “pass,” must be respected, or whether some individuals deserve to lose their cover by being outed.

A certain vein of heterosexual paranoia holds that gays form a secret conspiracy, a kind of freemasonry. This analogy goes back to nineteenth-century France. Superficially at least, there are some similarities. Masons recognize one another by special signs; homosexuals use gaydar.

The first major gay-rights organization in the US, the Mattachine Society, was founded in emulation of a legendary French Renaissance group, whose members wore masks. A number of the early gay-rights figures in America adopted pseudonyms as a form of self-protection. These include Lisa Ben, W. Dorr Legg, and Donald Webster Cory.

Secrecy is commonly viewed as self-chosen. Yet in some cases there may be little or no choice. This may occur after one’s death. Some historic figures are subject to degaying on the part of straights, who are reluctant to admit the homosexuality of such revered figures as Whitman and Lincoln. (The latter’s status is assured; not so Lincoln’s)


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