Steve Wiles, a Republican candidate running for North Carolina’s state Senate, was recently outed in the press. A co-owner and former employee of a currently closed gay bar told the Winston-Salem Journal that Wiles used to perform as a drag queen named Mona Sinclair. They also said Wiles was gay at the time.
Wiles has since given different answers regarding this issue. He’s denied it. He said he’s apologized to people in his life for his past actions without defining what those actions were. He also said he is not gay.
Critics now call Wiles a hypocrite because he supports North Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
As a gay man, I’m furious that a news organization would publish a report outing a man who does not publically identify himself as gay. I understand that he supports bigotry in his policies, but we must respect however any person wishes to identify.
Coming out is such a personal and challenging process that never truly ends. Every LBGT person knows that you must come out to new people every day or choose to remain silent. A person can be out privately but closeted publicly. A person can be out in every aspect except for work or church or any environment. There is no right answer. There is only the comfortable answer – the one you feel works best for you.
When I was a closeted 12 year-old, I used to say I didn’t like gay people to hopefully deflect any suspicions people might have about my own sexuality. I was terrified of being ostracized then. Am I hypocrite now because I was a scared kid over a decade ago? I was lucky enough to find my confidence in a supportive, liberal environment.
I can’t completely compare my younger self to Wiles now. If he is gay though, I can empathize with his fear. I can remember my sweaty palms and shaky legs at even the thought of admitting I was gay. I can remember the rage I felt at the thought of someone outing me.
Admitting I was gay was like finding my own national anthem. I felt liberated and strong. What was once my greatest insecurity is now my source of pride. Even if Wiles is gay, the press has stolen this moment from him. His coming out won’t be a thing of personal discovery and inner strength. It’ll be an answer to scandal. It’ll be the lesser of two evils. It’ll be the last thing it should be. Embarrassing.
I’m assuming these largely straight publishers, editors and writers have no clue what it’s like to be gay. They think they found some funny pictures of a politician. They think they pointed out some hypocrisy and have done their duties to gather information. What they’ve done is possibly force a man to find himself at a time he’s not ready. They’ve perverted a personal journey into a public spectacle.