About three years ago, I was lounging in a Montreal hotel room when I got a call from activist Mike Rogers. I was unaware of who he was, but this intense stranger began interrogating me for information about – well, I don't even remember what the topic was anymore. But, I do recall that he was about the toughest advocate I had encountered in quite some time. As I hung up the phone I thought, "thank God this guy is on our side."
In an era of softer advocacy, Rogers is decidedly in your face. Yet, he has integrated new media with old school activism to create a stunningly effective hybrid that has brought Capitol Hill to its knees. Well, the hypocritical, anti-gay Congressmen were already on their knees – but until Rogers came along with his "outing" website BlogActive, they were getting away with it. Rogers does not tiptoe (or is it tap foot) around the contentions issue of outing and has a string of successes, including the downfall of closeted former Virginia GOP Congressman Ed Schrock.
Since our initial conversation we have become friends. At his Washington apartment, he is a whirlwind of activity, fighting for a just cause with little reward. While our "mainstream" organizations have reaped a windfall of resources, Rogers, arguably our most effective voice, has had to scrape tooth and nail.
Unfortunately, the veneer of "respectability" often trumps results when it comes to supporting GLBT causes. With little more than willpower, Rogers has become a major powerbroker in our nation's capitol. This week, he was featured in a Washington Post article under the headline, "The Most Feared Man On The Hill?"
The downfall of Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig has put Rogers in the spotlight, where he is finally getting his due. Months before "potty-gate," Rogers outed Craig for allegedly having sex at Washington's Union Station. Now that he has been vindicated (not the first time), he has gone from a pariah, in some circles, to downright prophetic.
In addition to the Washington Post feature, Rogers has made the rounds on CNN, NBC's Today Show and National Public Radio. He has earned his celebrity and his efforts deserve our full-fledged praise and support.
Still, some opponents – often in the GLBT community – have tried to smear Rogers as radical or loony. Sometimes, these slights are in the media, but more often than not, they are defamatory whispers at cocktail parties by those who feel threatened by his work. Far from radical, however, Rogers is refreshingly contemplative and levelheaded when it comes to the ethics of outing. He has a clear idea of where he stands and has been consistent in his rules of engagement.
"When those private lives are in direct conflict with the public policy that these officials espouse, I think it's fair game that their private lives be brought into this," Rogers told The Washington Post. "And I have a blog to do that with. Here's the question: What community is expected to protect its own enemies? Don't beat up the gay community, and then expect us to protect your secrets and your double life. It's just not right."
When one sits down with Rogers, it is immediately clear that he is unorthodox in his approach, but he is not a wild gunslinger shooting from the hip. He is smart, deliberative and obsessed with getting his facts right. Indeed, he has yet to be wrong in his outing campaigns and has corroborated evidence before he has gone forward. This mix of careful journalism and energetic activism is an exemplary illustration of how one enterprising activist can make a difference and change the world
Indeed, it is not Rogers who is radical, but those who perpetuate or enable the GLBT population's second-class citizenship who are the extremists. He is simply holding elected officials to the standard of truthfulness and trustworthiness they campaigned on to get elected.
According to The Washington Post, there are 33 names on Rogers' list of Congressional charlatans – 30 of them Republicans. If only one-third of these scoundrels get outed in the next two years, the earthquake on Capitol Hill will be so large that it may cause a war between GOP moderates and social conservatives. There is no way the Party can absorb, justify or explain an additional 10-30 closeted gay politicians and still claim to be the party of conservative "family values."
Our community should find a way to come up with at least $333,000 ($10,000 per potential hypocrite) to support Rogers' ongoing investigations. He is one of the few advocates who has consistently backed up his rhetoric and delivered tangible victories. If we do not give this hero what he deserves, then we deserve to be lorded over by Republican hypocrites who have built their careers by bashing queers.