To the editors:
This letter serves in part as a response to the letter "Out Rage" in the May 24 Reader. That letter, by Michael Flores, was in response to the May 10 Hot Type column on writer John Schmid's use of a pseudonym in writing for Nightlines. Flores compares this use of a pseudonym to the practice of outing, and argues that because Outlines (published by the same people who produce Nightlines) is "one of the most notorious "outing' publications in the gay press" that our writers should not be allowed to use pseudonyms.
These are two separate issues.
First, and most important, Outlines does not favor outing. The letter writer must be confusing us with Outweek, a New York-based weekly proud of its efforts at outing celebrities and politicians. I have enclosed Outlines' editorial from May of 1990 (copies are available from the Outlines office), which clearly states that Outlines' policy is not to out people. However, Outlines also does not censor the news of activists and, yes, we have reported, as news, when activist organizations and other gay/lesbian publications have "outed" individuals--and we have given those individuals a chance to respond. (Actual outing by activists has happened only a handful of times in three years.)
To emphasize, Outlines' policy is against outing, but we also attempt to fairly cover our community--and that includes events where politicians are called on the carpet for alleged hypocrisy in voting against gay rights.
Flores' comparison of "outing" to the use of pseudonyms is quite a leap. Writers in the gay/lesbian press use pseudonyms for a variety of reasons, most having nothing to do with being in the closet about their sexuality. In this case, the only error in judgment I feel we made was not in the use of a pseudonym, but rather using a pseudonym of the opposite gender. (Nightlines was going to change the pseudonym, but before we did, Schmid was fired from his other writing job; once he was fired, he began using his real name for Nightlines.)
Outlines and Nightlines are not "self-appointed … informers" of gays and lesbians. Rather, we make every attempt to include a diversity of writers and attempt to accommodate those writers in whatever way we can. That may be through the use of pseudonyms or using no name at all. If using a pseudonym is the only way to represent a certain viewpoint, that is a small obstacle to overcome. Flores ends his letter by saying that "the overwhelming majority of gays and lesbians do not march, do not go to bars . . . " I would add that the majority of them are also closeted in some aspects of their lives. By not allowing people to use pseudonyms, a whole variety of people and opinions could never be heard.
As for the remainder of Flores' letter, about divisions within the community (having nothing to do with "outing," the use of pseudonyms, or with Outlines/Nightlines), we have always represented the men and women of our community. In fact, our readership is one of the most balanced of all gay/lesbian publications in the U.S.
Publisher and Managing Editor
Outlines and Nightlines