In the Summer of 2004, I began to share my frustration about closted, anti-gay politicians and high-level staffers with my friends and acquaintances. During those chats and in strategy talks about the launch of the site -- many with my blogfather John Aravosis -- friends and colleagues always used the word 'outing.'
At the time, I did not know that Michelangelo Signorile had written about the origins of the word and that its etymology shows the word was coined by a closeted gay man. Signorile, of course, is the godfather of modern day reporting of these stories. In the early 1990s edgy publications like OutWeek, took on these under reported stories -- with Signorile leading the way. As ACT-UP! was shaking up AIDS activism, Signorile was using the press to move his message -- and at a time without the luxury or speed of the web. His work helped motivate the founding of Queer Nation, an organization dedicated to, among other things, the reporting of closeted public figures.
You can't do what I do and not consider Michelangelo Signorile a pioneer and hero to more than one generation of gay activists. In 2003, Signorile wrote on the wored 'outing' in Gay City News:
The word was coined by a major closet case, William Henry III, a critic at Time magazine who is now deceased. He claimed that some gay journalists--yes, including yours truly--were doing this terrible new thing, revealing gay public figures' homosexuality, and he claimed that some gay activists had dubbed it 'outing.' The word stuck, though some of us hated its violent and special connotation--we preferred simply calling it reporting.
Of course, Michelangelo is 100% correct. And back in March of 2005 I said I'd no longer use the word. I've been slipping up. A lot.
Last week, a DC columnist wrote:
Rogers sees his outings -- a word he says he doesn't like, although he uses it more than a dozen times over a single lunch...
Society has fallen into a bit of a trap with the word...And I am going to try in earnest to not use it except within quotation marks and never to explain my work, but rather that of people who indiscriminately disclose sexual orientation of others for no justifiable reason. (Mario Lavendera, are you listening?)
I've made a pledge over at my site. Every time I used the word, except as noted above, I'll give a gift to Truth Wins Out (the national organization beating back the so-called ex-gay movement).
Keep me on my toes.
Outing is out. Reporting is in.