Monday, August 08, 2011

NYT, Media 'In' Former
OR Sen. Hatfield, Who Was Gay

The American press is still squeamish when having to report, or omit, on the full spectrum of characteristics and orientations that inhabit politicians, especially when it comes to homosexuality and outing campaigns.

Just look at how the New York Times' obituary about former GOP and gay Senator Mark Hatfield omits mention of the years of trouble radical gay AIDS activists caused him. The Gray Lady is in good company. A Google news search for 'hatfield, outing,' or 'hatfield, gay' or 'hatfield, homosexual' found nothing.

The Wikipedia entry for the subject of gay outing makes the claim the Hatfield outing campaign was an initial instance of gays using this tactic to effect political change:

The first outing by an activist in America occurred in February 1989. Michael Petrelis, along with a few others, decided to out Mark Hatfield, a Republican Senator from Oregon, because he supported legislation initiated by Jesse Helms. At a fundraiser in a small town outside of Portland, the group stood up and outed him in front of the crowd.  ...

Back in those dark days of the late 1980s, with AIDS raging out of control and not enough treatment research, gays treated worse than dirt, and politicians either demonizing us or staying mute as we were bashed and dying, the Hatfield outing spooked the mainstream gay groups. They were more interested in protecting the closet, rather than smashing it by any mean necessary in a time of desperation.

A fundamental rift was opening and those groups did all they could to undermine the activists engaged in outing. Of course, that has changed with Gay Inc catching up to the radicals.

Click here for a Google page of links to much evidence about assorted efforts by Oregon gays and their allies to out Hatfield.

The totality of gays and gay activism's impact upon the American political and media landscapes is missing. We have a lot of change to still bring about before our lives are fully reported on and acknowledged.


Elizabeth Meixell said...

"Hatfield was a staunch opponent of abortion and abortion rights." said...

Don't know if you were ever aware of this as it happened long before, but Hatfield's likely many chills probably did not begin when y'all outed him in 1989 but when he opened the June 26, 1964, issue of LIFE to discover their adoring profile of him immediately preceded their rabidly homohating article on "The Homosexual World" complete with pictures of dark San Francisco bars, Irving Bieber's pathological theories, and quotes like this: “They are part of what they call the ‘gay world’, which is actually a sad and often sordid world. ... Many optimistic students of our society believe that we may some day eliminate poverty, slums and even the common cold—but the problem of homosexuality seems to be more akin to death and taxes.”

You can see it all online at:,+1964%22&hl=en#v=onepage&q=hatfield&f=false

Hatfield pieces starts on Page 62.

Michael said...

thanks for the reminder, elizabeth, about his anti-choice views.

Michael said...

hi michael,

that is some important history you shared. thanks for it and the link.

bowwowboy said...

It was an open secret among many of us Oregonians that Mark Hatfield was gay. His long-time relationship with Jerry Frank, heir to what was then the Meier and Frank department store concern, was the subject of much amused gossip within the local community of journalists.

The Salem [the state's capital] newspaper of record would occasionally treat readers to headlines like "Mark and Jerry Entertain" (about a political fete the two put together). It was rumored that on political junkets the pair would share sleeping quarters while Hatfield's wife was exiled to a separate boudoir.

Predictably, Hatfield's autobiography makes no mention of his secret life. While Hatfield's courage on some issues---such as his opposition to the Vietnam war at a time when this was not a popular position for a United States senator to adopt---was admirable, it is unfortunate he didn't display similar courage in talking about his own sexuality. Petrelis and others were right to out him.

Michael said...

before we did the official outing of hatfield in beaverton in february 1988, there were many discussions at act up/portland meetings about his homo-history.

i remember stories told among gays in the bars and even a few straight folks. it was common knowledge hatfield was homo, and he lift not one finger on his limp wrists to help his queer brothers and sisters as ballot measure 8, which allowed the firing of gay teachers, passed.

he could have done much to stem the tide of anti-gay ballot measures in his beloved ORE and he chose not to. he deserved to be outed.

thanks, bowwowboy, for your message.