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About Ken Mehlman


I try to stay away from the ongoing political fracas in this blog and focus on things more directly involved with the journey outward. But the whole Ken Mehlman coming-out drama that played out in recent weeks – and will continue to un-spool for some time if Ken gets his way – has caused me to break my rule.

This isn’t about just Ken. It’s about anyone who comes out late – and about the right way to do that. There are lessons for all of us in this tacky situation.

You know the story by now, I’m sure: Closeted Ken helps homophobic bigot, Karl Rove, elect homophobic bigot, George Bush in 2004 in one of the most overtly homophobic presidential campaigns ever. And six years later, Ken comes out ­– in The Atlantic no less. Stay tuned for the seven-figure book deal and the speaking tour.

Ken has passed-off his bad behavior as a failure to reach out and make the Republican Party more inclusive. That’s bullshit. What he did was to work – energetically and creatively – to gin-up homophobic bigotry in order to get out the right-wing vote for George Bush. That’s going a bit farther than a failure to “reach out.”

Ken will have to live with the consequences of his actions, as will we all, and I hope he comes to a better understanding of what he’s done.

But enough about what a jerk this man is. What are the lessons for you and me?

One is this: If you’re in the closet – and you have every right to be there and to remain for as long as you need or want to – you must avoid doing damage. It’s obvious what kind of damage a closeted politician can do, but the principle applies to everyone else, too. When closeted men repeatedly cheat on their wives, they are lying – to the wife, possibly to the partner, and probably to themselves. That does damage. When closeted men don’t stand up for what’s fair, when they go along with, or join in, negative stereotyping, they do damage. When they vote for homophobic politicians, they do damage. I’m not saying you have to be a saint. Nor am I saying you have to go out crusade for gay rights if you aren’t comfortable doing that. But you can avoid making things worse.

Another one is this: If you have done damage, apologize – sincerely – and work to correct it. Ken claims he’s going to work for marriage equality. We’ll see.  He dealt significant setbacks to the fight for equality with his state-level amendments banning gay marriage. He’ll certainly have his work cut out for him if he decides to honor his pledge. But redemption begins with apology. And so far, Ken hasn’t seen fit to do that. In fact he hasn’t really owned up to doing anything wrong.

Well, two cheers for Ken. In spite of himself, he has made a contribution: He set a new standard for what not to do. Each of us can measure our behavior – both in the closet and coming out of it ­– against Ken’s. And anyone with the most rudimentary moral compass can do better.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Margaret Ellis permalink
    09/05/2010 4:43 PM

    Tell It !!!!

  2. Joe Branham permalink
    09/15/2010 1:22 PM

    Special place in hell…

    • 09/15/2010 1:26 PM

      He’s there now.

      Can’t imagine what it’s like to be him. Glad I’m me.

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