Over at the Washington Blade, longtime gay community reporter Lou Chibarro Jr. offers up the gay exit interview with Barney Frank. Here's why we love Mr. Curmudgeon:
Frank said he became the first member of Congress to voluntarily disclose he was gay in 1987, six years after taking office in 1981, after he determined staying in the closet was too constraining on his personal life.
“I got there and I thought, OK, well I can be privately out but publicly closeted,” he said. “But it didn’t work. I found it very hard to have a satisfying, healthy emotional and physical life.”
Frank said that during the years he withheld disclosing his sexual orientation, both as a congressman and a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature, he promised himself that he would never hold back on his strong political support for LGBT rights in an effort to conceal his status as a gay person.
“I remember my thought process was, well I can’t be honest about being gay. I wouldn’t win. But it would be despicable for me as a gay man to be any less than fully supportive,” he said.
As we know from certain politicians who've had wives and "wide stances," not every closeted politician chose to have integrity. Who knows if facing that particular set of demons and social pressures made him feistier? The rest of the interview includes some essential gay history. Does anyone else remember that back in 1972, when Frank was first elected to the Massachusetts Legislature:
"There were then two gay groups, a men’s group and a women’s group. And they wrote to everybody who was running for the state legislature in 1972. It was just a couple of years after Stonewall. And for the first time you had organized gay political activity."
That was before AIDS brought the girls and boys closer, and we started to organize together. Frank also agrees that, in the various court skirmishes over DOMA, that the Prop. 8 case is the weak link:
"I think the better case is Mary Bonauto’s case [the attorney with the LGBT litigation group in Boston, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which is challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, in court on behalf of a same-sex couple.]"
Frank has had his, um, differences with the transgender column of the LGBT movement, so it's no surprise when he says that there's some "politicial stupidity" in some of the T's anger about various compromises.
If you're interested in LGBT political history during the past 40 years when everything changed, the interview is a must-read.