Barney Frank Recalls Decision to Come Out in 1987

In memoir, he writes he was tired of trying to hide it
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2015 3:53 PM CDT
Barney Frank Recalls Decision to Come Out in 1987
Barney Frank in 2012, when he was still on Congress.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Barney Frank is out with a memoir this month in which he writes about his decision to come out as the first openly gay member of Congress in 1987. The impetus? "I was ashamed of myself for hiding my membership in a universally despised group,” he writes in Frank, which is excerpted in Politico Magazine. “I’d been afraid of exposure, and angry at myself for my self-denial. I’d felt shame as I watched younger gay men and lesbians confront the bigots openly with a courage that I lacked." A few highlights:

  • Tip O'Neill: When Frank confided in the longtime House speaker of his plan, O'Neill "looked stricken, though he immediately made clear it was not my sexuality that troubled him but the negative impact its disclosure would have on my career." Then O'Neill got into gear, telling press secretary Chris Matthews, “We might have an issue to deal with. I think Barney Frank is going to come out of the room.” Matthews figured out what he meant.

  • The press: Reporters knew of Frank's homosexuality, but the tacit rule in those days was that they wouldn't write about it unless there was a "gay-related scandal." O'Neill finally let the Boston Globe know that he was willing to go public, but in a low-key way: He wouldn't announce it, but he would answer the question if asked. Reporter Kay Longcope, who was openly gay herself, arrived at his office, set up her tape recorder, and asked, "Are you gay?" writes Frank. "I gave the most carefully considered answer I could: 'Yeah. So what?'"
  • The dance: Frank recalls attending the White House Christmas Ball later that same year with his male partner. They wanted to dance but were apprehensive. "So I asked my two San Francisco colleagues, Reps. Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi, to start us off. Nancy and Herb and Barbara and I gyrated for a couple of minutes, and then they discreetly—and very graciously—walked away, leaving Herb and me to dance facing each other."
Read the full excerpts here. (Read more Barney Frank stories.)

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