If so, imagine if Joe Clark was black1 and heard Martin Luther King Jr say:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
And then imagine Joe had said
When you insist being black couldn’t possibly matter less, what you actually insist is that the subject never be brought up in the first place.
Eh, it’s a little more complicated than this. Saying or not saying that someone is gay or saying or not saying that someone is black is something that does not have a uniform moral value or uniform consequences or uniform motivations. Sometimes not mentioning basic facts about a person’s identity is a way to excuse not looking at or thinking about issues of discrimination.
Surely we’re all familiar with people who claim not to see/care about/consider race, but who by their actions or inactions uphold racism in their communities or workplaces? Those people aren’t living up to the dream of a world where people are judged by the content of their character. They are (consciously or unconsciously) maintaining a convenient fiction — a fiction which generally benefits them — that race is a non-issue and that therefore it doesn’t need to be talked about, thought about, etc.
Which of course is not to say that the only way to be non-racist is to go around identifying everyone who’s black as black. The point is that things have to be taken in context. What is the (apparent or hidden) intention behind a statement? What agenda is being served? What are the ultimate consequences for everyone? And the answers to those questions may be complicated and contradictory. (Translation: a statement (or silence) doesn’t have to be made out of discriminatory intent to have discriminatory consequences. And intentions and consequences can also be mixed or ambivalent.)
The matter is often even more complicated and loaded when it comes to sexuality, because it is (in general) far easier for people to conceal that if they want to than it is for them to conceal their race. And some folks do. How does allowing public figures to remain closeted, semi-closeted, or pseudo-closeted impact other gay people and society at large? What about for those who are not closeted but who are treated as such? On the other hand, what are the moral implications of increasing the notability of a person’s sexuality, in a society where being gay still carries with it both physical and economic dangers?
I sure as fuck don’t know. As far as I know, these questions remain controversial in the gay community. But in any case, I’m positive this isn’t the sort of situation where there’s an obvious right or wrong editorial policy that can be applied/judged uniformly. And I’m sure that it’s not an issue you can resolve by a pat analogy to MLK’s “I have a dream” speech.
Update: I took a quick spin through other recent posts on Joe Clark’s blog. Seems like he’s a bit of a dick. Which isn’t an objection, just a description of his style or reasoning and argumentation. Clark also points to this post at Reuters, which provides a less dickish version of Clark’s argument.