Danah Boyd’s “The Power of Fear in Networked Publics”

On living your life in radical transparency and Oliver Sipple:

The practice of ‘outing’ for a cause is not new. As a part of the queer rights movement, many queer folks believed that publicly outing closeted LGBT individuals would help the movement. I would argue that this practice is quite fraught. Consider the highly publicized case of Oliver Sipple. Sipple was well known in the gay community, but he was not public about his sexuality. In 1975, a woman attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ford; Sipple’s marine training prepared him to recognize the situation for what it was. He lunged at her as she was shooting and she missed. The media immediately portrayed him as a hero. He asked that the media not make reference to his sexuality, but Harvey Milk – a prominent gay activist – chose to out him to the press. He wanted the public to know that gay people could do heroic things too.

The impact on Sipple was devastating. The White House put distance from him; his family rejected him. He sued the newspaper for invasion of privacy. Meanwhile, he fell apart. He drank profusely, gained massive amounts of weight, and became paranoid and suicidal. He was reported to have talked about regretting his act of heroism. He died at the age of 47.