Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Barney Frank May 1987: U.S. Representative Barney Frank Remembers When He Became the First Congressman to Come out on His Own. (Rebels & Pioneers)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Barney Frank May 1987: U.S. Representative Barney Frank Remembers When He Became the First Congressman to Come out on His Own. (Rebels & Pioneers)

Article excerpt

Reaction to my coming-out helped me grasp two important points. First, most Americans aren't homophobic; they just think they're supposed to be. Second, concealing our sexual orientation helps keep straight people ignorant of the personal and social costs of homophobia.

As word began to circulate early in 1987 that I was thinking about finally telling people the truth about my sexuality, many of the most liberal members of Congress tried to dissuade me. They were convinced that it would diminish my effectiveness. I did not disagree, but I explained that I could no longer live the semicrazed, semisecret life of the closet.

Fortunately, that pessimism was wrong. Neither my colleagues nor my constituents cared much more about my sexuality than I did about theirs. The point was confirmed to me in a poll. When asked if they thought I would suffer political damage because I had been honest about my sexuality, 44% of the people in my district said yes. But to the next question--Would you personally be less likely to vote for him now that you know this?--only 22% agreed. This confirmed what many of us learned in coming out to people who assured us that they didn't care but warned us that others would. …

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