Rachel Maddow Talks About How the Stanford Newspaper Outed Her to Her Very Catholic Family

Rachel Maddow talks to Newsweek/Daily Beast about being outed to her very Catholic family by the school newspaper at Stanford, which promised they wouldn't run an article in which she outed herself before she told her family, which the paper did. Maddow says she still feels burned, and angry at herself for putting herself in that position:

MaddowThey would have had a hard time with me coming out anyway, but this was a particularly nasty way for them to find out. They’re wonderful now, and couldn’t be more supportive, but they took it poorly at first, which I don’t fault them for. They were shocked and upset and hurt. First of all, they were having to deal with the fact that I’m gay. Second of all, they were having to deal with the fact that I’m gay in the newspaper. And third of all, they were having to deal with the fact that they’ve raised some sort of horrific, callous rug rat who would tell the student paper before telling her family.

It took a while for them to get over it. My family’s very, very Catholic, so that was part of the initial upset. But I actually think that having a really strong faith is part of the reason they got over it—despite Catholic teaching being very antigay. Having a faith tradition was helpful for them and gave them the strength to get over this difficult thing.


  1. JoyZeeBoy says

    I came out to my family to avert the possibility of them reading about it in the papers (it was 1972 and I was about to become the first Chairperson of the Gay Community at a state university in a mid-Atlantic state).

    I remember my mom’s reaction … “it’s ALL my fault!” proving once again that she loved to take credit for everything! I’m pretty sure that was the last time we talked about it.

  2. TampaZeke says

    She seems to be blaming the newspaper for her failure to take responsibility for her own destiny. She even seems to be blaming them for the fact that she told them before she told her family. Rachel, sweetheart, you don’t strike me as the kind of woman who lets herself be victimized. Take responsibility and stop acting as if you were a victim.

    The lesson here is that whenever we choose to be in the closet, to any degree and to any one person or group of people, we are leaving ourselves open to having our power taken away from us. We live in constant fear that someone will take away our right to out ourselves when actually we GAVE that right away by not seizing it for ourselves.

    I’m not advocating for, or against, outing. I’m just pointing out that unless you live in a bubble on the moon, straight or gay, your life will be scrutinized by your peers and the only way to assure that someone else doesn’t out you is to take the power for yourself. I understand people not being ready yet. This isn’t a statement of whats right or fair, it’s a statement of what’s reality.

  3. enough already says

    I was the editor of our university rag. Never, not once, under any circumstances did I permit even the slightest hint – by omission or commission of any topic, no matter how trivial which had come to our attention under the explicit request that it not be published.
    Never. Not once.
    What the newspaper did was inexcusable. It was unprofessional journalism. It was to lower themselves to the level of FAUX news.

    This has nothing to do with what Rachel did or did not do, what she should or should not have said, whom she should have told first or not. This is strictly a matter of ethics in a profession which demands strict adherence to a code of ethical behavior.

  4. SFRowGuy says

    I don’t believe in outing people. It’s mean, and potentially dangerous to some people in some situations. I’ve heard people that do this justify their actions with “If everyone was out, we would get more respect” or whatever. We don’t all walk the same path in life, and some can’t deal with what being out entails. Where we live, the communities we associate with, our families — some can be very supportive, others not so, and some can be dangerous. It’s up to the individual to make these decisions, because they also have to be comfortable dealing with it publicly, every day. And as much I as I don’t like it, this would extended to hypocritical politicians and clergy.

    In the case of Rachel, this might have been more the action of an individual with the newspaper (e.g. the editor), then the newspaper as a whole. If it was the editor, then that person should have been fired, or in the case of a student, removed from the position and the newspaper. (A journalism student banned from their college’s newpaper — not a good reference for one’s resume.)

  5. Paul R says

    @SFRowGuy: She gave the paper an interview talking about being gay. So while the paper technically outed her, she was complicit. The article makes it sound like the paper published the interview a day or two early, so how the news spread to her parents so quickly is beyond me unless they were closely involved with Stanford.

  6. No kidding says

    I suspect they weren’t that surprised, once they thought it over.

    A lot of gay people are a lot more visible than they think, even if they marry the opposite sex. And any decent person you tell should immediately realize that it is not their problem.

    General advice: Come out, come out, wherever you are. It’s worth it for your own sake. For your own self esteem.

  7. GregV says

    I’m surprised that she wasn’t self-aware enough to figure out that she was gay before adulthood.
    I agree, Paul R, that it is hard to understand how she would know who, among 1,000 students, was “out.” Perhaps she is guaging from a survey of her fellow students which said at the time that zero were openly gay.
    In my university, I didn’t know a single student at my campus who was out when I came out (though several acuaintances did so after they observed that the sky didn’t fall in on me when I did it).
    But, though I couldn’t have named the individuals by name, surveys at my campus always said that there were a whole lot more than zero openly gay students. It would be very surprising if Stanford so recently had no out students.

    @Tampazeke: If you read it again, I think you’ll see that she takes full responsibility for her choices. She realizes that she should have come out to her parents first and not trusted in the integrity of some strangers to keep the secret for her.

  8. BobN says

    “I find it difficult to believe that at Stanford in 1990, there were only 2 out freshman. She knew the entire class?”

    Stanford had a gay student/staff/faculty organization way back in the 70s. I personally knew the first out freshman back in 1980. If Maddow only knew two out freshmen, it’s because she didn’t look in the right places. (Not a good sign in a journalist…)

  9. GregV says

    @BobN: I still find the statement that you knew “the first out freshman” hard to take at face value. The first out gay freshman THAT YOU WERE AWARE OF could certainly be accurate, but I don’t think anybody knows the personal lives of thousands of classmates so well to say that none are out.
    FWIW, more recent surveys at Yale indicate that 1 in 5 Yale freshman males and 1 in 4 senior-year males is out as gay or bi (about four-fifths of those being gay). The numbers for women are similar except that fewer women are gay and more are bi.

  10. GregV says

    @JHR459: I was surprised, too, but also very happy that university students today are obviously becoming so much more comfortable being out.
    I am basing the numbers on the contents of a study analyzed in the Yale student newpaper.
    I think the headline (“1 in 4? Maybe 1 in 6″) is a bit misleading, because if you actually read the details beyond the big bar graph, they support the “1 in 4″ figure for the graduating class in the year in question (and would likely be even higher for those same students at a reunion in the future after more have had time to come out). Here is the study discussed in the Yale student newpaper:


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