Demise of the Closet

Tucson native Kirby Dick sheds light on secretly gay politicians in 'Outrage'

Outrage, the latest documentary from Tucson native Kirby Dick, is a provocative work that details the homophobic voting records of various closeted gay politicians. Since its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, the work has created a wave of controversy.

Dick said he appreciates the fact that his film has served as a catalyst for public discourse.

"I welcome discussion around this issue," said Dick, who will be at the Loft to answer questions following the 7 p.m., Saturday, June 6, showing. "I think this is an unreported story and under-discussed issue. If people disagree with aspects of the film or disagree with outing, I would rather the discussion be happening in sort of a more public arena."

Dick's last documentary, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, was about the censorship practiced by the Motion Picture Association of America. It garnered an Academy Award nomination for Dick, now 56. While promoting This Film Is Not Yet Rated in Washington, D.C., he realized, "There are probably a number of great subjects for documentaries that people primarily within Washington know about, and others (outside of Washington) don't. So I started asking around, and I quickly came onto this subject matter."

Dick put the genesis of his current film into a historical context: "I think it was more around the political climate in August 2006. It looked like the anti-gay agenda, anti-gay hysteria, was going to continue. The Republican Party was going to be able to effectively continue to use this."

He acknowledged his personal sentiments: "As a filmmaker, I wanted to somehow put a stop to that. I don't view this as a particularly partisan film. I just think it is so wrong for a party or an administration to advance its own political ends at the expense of a portion of its citizens. I just felt this was a way that I could enter the debate."

Dick observed, "Initially, I was surprised like everyone else was at how gay D.C. was. I was surprised that there were so many closeted politicians. I was surprised there are perhaps as many, perhaps more, gay Republicans than there are Democrats. It seems like an oxymoron, but from within the world of D.C., it makes a lot of sense. This is kind of interesting material to be working on as a filmmaker."

Dick acknowledged that he experienced some trepidation about making this film. "Well, you know, it's a bit risky on my part, but I have sort of taken the attitude that I am going to take my risks until I encounter something that I genuinely have to be afraid of. Then, at that point, I am going re-evaluate whether or not I am going to proceed. ... I didn't want to be in a position of restricting myself from not knowing that. Oftentimes, it's fear that keeps people from speaking out, doing the research. I wanted to take the risk."

Dick continued, "I think some of these politicians accept themselves and have made the decision that, 'I am going to have gay relationships, but I am publicly going to be anti-gay.' ... I should say I feel a great deal of empathy for these politicians, because in spite of their oftentimes horrible voting records, they are victims themselves of homophobia."

Unlike many filmmakers, Dick did not harbor a lifelong aspiration to enter the field. "Growing up in Tucson, I didn't even know I was going to go into the arts," he said. "I was actually quite good in math. It wasn't until I was in high school and started taking college math classes and looked around at all my fellow students that I said, 'I don't want to spend the rest of my life with them.'

"I still love math, but I went to a liberal arts school and then sort of fell into photography and then went to the California Institute of the Arts. I was making this crossover art film and sort of started making documentaries. That was my tortured trajectory."

Kirby ended the interview on a positive note: "One of the things I am hopeful (about) is that the discussion around my film will influence the decisions these politicians make, and I hope they will (realize) that the right decision for them personally and politically is to (be) out candidates. And I hope as a result of that, one of the things this film will do is to cause the demise, or the partial demise, of the closet, so that it will no longer be a major factor in American politics."