The amount of opposition to gays and lesbians in the United States is often overestimated, Rep. Barney Frank '61 (D-Mass), said last night in a speech in Harvard Hall.
Frank also told the audience of approximately 60 people that gay concerns are becoming a more central issue in the Democratic party.
"We have now become basically part of the mainstream Democratic position," he said.
Frank, who is one of only two openly gay members of Congress. said he was invited to discuss "what it's like being out in Washington."
"It's wonderful," he said, as he began his speech.
He proceded to describe the circumstance, both political and personal, under while he first publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in June of 1987.
Frank said his greatest fear during that time was that supporters would abandon him on the premise that "because he's gay he's going to be ineffective."
Frank said, however, the announcement had very little impact on his political support.
"Almost everybody overestimated the negative effects of my coming out," he said.
He said he believes that the American public is not inherently opposed to gay interests. "If we can simply get to them on reasonable terms we can win them," Frank said.
He also discussed the personal considerations which led him to openly acknowledge his homosexuality.
"Until I got to Washington, I was trying very hard to hide the fact that I was gay," Frank said.
But remaining in the closet "required me to lie and deceive and dissemble," he said.
Frank said he slowly began to move toward a more open policy on his homosexuality, acknowledging it to friends and other gays and lesbians, and eventually to the general public.
He said the decision to come out of the closet "has been enormously helpful" both personally and politically.
"Many members of Congress have met my lover," and he is treated like any other representative's spouse, Frank said, giving several examples.
Frank also said he believes the Clinton Administration is sympathetic to gay issues.
"We have gotten from this President everything he can give us that doesn't [have to] go through Congress," he said.
Frank said gays and lesbians may begin to receive more appointments to government positions, especially if President Clinton is elected to a second term. "If the right candidate comes along, the fact that he or she is gay or lesbian will not be a problem," he said.
The speech, which was co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe College Democrats and the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Student's Association, was part of Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Awareness Days (BGLAD).