I didn’t really want to blog again this week but well……..
When I was younger, in more innocent times, I used to enjoy an outing. We used to get on a coach and go to the seaside, a theme park or something and have a great time. Then I became aware of a different kind of outing. This is exposing aspects of the lives of other people that they have chosen to keep private. Outing is a form of public humiliation, a cowardly act of bullying and one that social media have made very easy.
All of us have things that we keep to ourselves, or disclose only to a small number of trusted people. No one should be expected to be transparent. Having your own private space to which you alone are the gate keeper, is essential to mental well being. It can be a practical necessity too. particularly in matters to do with sex and sexuality.
I first became aware of outing as a serious issue some years ago when Peter Tatchell took it upon himself to out prominent gay men who had not chosen, for whatever reason,to do it themselves. He considered it hypocrisy that undermined the struggle for gay rights. He did not, however, consider the feelings of those he outed, their right to privacy, the personal consequences for them. .
I suppose Tatchell might at least claim to have acted from higher motives. The motives of other people engaged in outing are less noble; greed for example. I was never a big fan of Max Mosley, the Head of the FIA. Nonetheless I had enormous sympathy for him when the News of the World outed him as a BDSM player. So fucking what? I shouted. If that’s an aspect of his sexuality, that is his business and his alone. That a professional dominatrix betrayed him for money and broke the bond of trust that underlies all interactions between a dominatrix and her subs, indeed between any sex worker and their clients, I found appalling. The woman involved, I am informed, is still practising although why anyone would want to pay her money I cannot understand.
Some years ago I head the story of a highly successful escort in a large English city who was outed to her family by a jealous rival. Having promised her family she would do something else for a living she returned to the sex work she enjoyed so much under a new working name, one she uses to this day. Her family don’t know this and she still lives in fear of being outed again.
I have written before about a friend who works as a dominatrix. Few people in her family know what she does. Her mother does and is supportive and, on one occasion, sewed a prison uniform for one my friend’s clients who fantasises about being sent down. Her teenage daughter has no idea what she does having been told that her mother works as a debt collector. My friend intends to tell her, at some point, when she is old enough to understand. She has no reason to believe that anyone would out her but she does have a degree of anxiety about how outing would affect her daughter.
Outing can hurt many people other than the victim. One of the most irresponsible acts of The Sun, top of a long and inglorious list, was the outing of Mary Bell who, at the age of 11, killed two small children. As she did this in 1968 before Rupert Murdoch acquired the Sun there was no witch hunt, no moral panic and Bell was eventually released from custody, given a new identity and resettled in the community. She married and had a daughter who knew nothing about her mother’s past. This was unacceptable to the self appointed arbiters of justice at The Sun and their reporters confronted a clearly distressed woman at her front door, wrecking several lives in the process. There was no public interest whatever in this, despite the self serving claims of the newspaper. It was an act of sensation seeking malice.
As I said at the beginning of this post, having secrets, having alternative names you adopt in certain circumstances, is not wrong. For some it may be a necessary evil, and a source of anxiety but for others it is life enhancing. I have discussed the use of names in a previous post. My passport is not in the name of Eve Ray. So what? When I blog about sex and write filthy stories I AM Eve. All I have done is given a part of me that has always been there a name. It is a means of keeping a very personal part of me private as I take it into the public domain. I do, after all, write to be read.
But outing is back in fashion, there have been recent cases of trans women, of , inevitably, sex workers being outed, losing their jobs or being exposed to the risk of violence. .
Actually I feel sorry for the outers. In their jealousy, their hatred, their small mindedness, they will probably never know the richness that parallel lives, parallel identities can bring to a human life.
One final thing: to whoever it was who did the despicable thing I heard about this week. The woman you ‘outed’ might just be a whore and a pervert to you. To others she is a wife and mother. To many more people she is a clever, funny and loving human being. Did you think about her family? Her children? Her friends? She is worth more than you will ever know but you probably don’t care about that do you?.