Cross posted from my Times of Israel blog
There’s an openly gay member of Knesset. His name is Nitzan Horowitz and he’s a legislator for Meretz. It now turns out that there is a “closeted” member of knesset in the Labour Party. I say “closeted” and not closeted, because before their election to the Knesset two years ago this person was out and proud.
The media here in Israel have never outed this person and it probably would never have been an issue until an angry polemic was written by the journalist Gal Uchovsky demanding that the MK be outed or kicked off the Labor Party list.
This has kicked off something of a fire storm with people wading in all over the place as to whether a politician’s sexual preference should be in the public realm. The anger filled open letter essentially boils down to the following paragraph;
A closeted member of Knesset is a disgrace. It’s a shame. As I see it, the Knesset should have no room for people in the closet. Such people can remain closeted, if that’s what they wish to do, but then let them not be members of Knesset. In this day and age, you can’t have it both ways. Want to remain closeted? No problem: Stay home. Want to be a member of Knesset? Then let there be no closet.”
I think I can understand the anger, I imagine it’s similar to a British politician hiding their Jewish heritage from the general public. In the case of the UK this is unlikely to happen, in fact those with such a heritage tend to flaunt it and view it as an advantage. But I imagine that in Eastern Europe or in a different Middle Eastern country the situation may not be so simple.
I wonder why this principal holds only for members of Knesset. What about gay actors and musicians? The media often implies the sexuality of these public figures on their front page but does the author feel with the same passion that they “must” come out? What about civil servants in the foreign ministry or in the intelligence world? Must they come out too? Or is it that what Uchovsky’s really saying is that if you’re gay and don’t wish to spread the word around then actually staying at home is the only future you have?
Ultimately there are two things going on here. The first is that for Uchovsky gay rights means that when it comes to coming out, gays don’t have any rights. They HAVE to come out. Which seems to be a contradiction of the term “gay rights” implying the right to choose.
The second thing that’s going on here is an indictment of Israeli society from the politician. He/she was out before becoming a member of the Knesset. Does he/she think that we Israelis can’t handle their sexuality? Can’t they trust us to look past who they sleep with to more substantive matters concerned with affairs of state?
Perhaps their right. Perhaps our society isn’t able to deal with this. It hasn’t stopped Horowitz from becoming a legislator though.
I very much doubt that there is only one closeted member of Knesset. Statistically speaking it is likely that there are one or two more. If there are more, a letter like the one Uchovsky wrote will have pushed them far deeper into the closet.
Perhaps we should leave things the way my wife put it when she said;
Oh yeah the gay politician’s name is X, everyone knows. But don’t post it on Facebook, it’s a secret.”