The former leader of the Scottish Labor Party says she was outed last year by a magazine reporter.
Last year in an interview with the Fabian Review, MP Kezia Dugdale stated, “I have a female partner. I don’t talk about it much because I don’t feel I need to.”
Dugdale, who stepped down as leader of the Scottish Labor Party on Tuesday, is actually dating another politician, Scottish National Party MSP Jenny Gilruth. The two made their relationship public in a joint statement in July.
Love this! | Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale in relationship with SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth https://t.co/id6fcL7avR
— Ross Whiting (@RossAWhiting) July 18, 2017
But now she claims she was unexpectedly outed in the piece. Dugdale, 36, admits the quotation is accurate, but says she asked reporter Mary Riddell not to include any of her comments regarding her sexuality and Riddell ignored the request.
“It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked about my sexuality,” she told the BBC. “I would always answer honestly, and then I would say, ’I’d prefer you didn’t use that… I don’t think it matters.’ Up until that day, everybody had respected that. And then that one journalist had decided no, it was a story.”
Dugdale adds that the night before the issue hit newsstands, she made a series of phone calls so no one would be caught off guard. She maintains it was “difficult” and “unfair” not to have control over her own coming-out process.
Riddell, however, stands by the story.
“I had no knowledge before the interview either of her sexuality or whether she was in a relationship,” she said in a statement. “At no point during the interview or afterwards did she ask me not to publish her comments, which were recorded with her agreement. Nor has she ever complained to me that her on-the-record comments relating to her relationship had been published.”
The Fabian Society, which publishes the Review, said it was “very sorry” that Dugdale was upset, but defended Riddell. “The wide-ranging and comprehensive on-the-record interview was conducted by an experienced, broadsheet journalist who followed usual journalistic practice,” the group stated.
Shortly after the initial Fabian Review article was published, Dugdale was asked by Pink News journalist Bobby Rae why she hadn’t described herself as a “lesbian” or “bisexual” in the story.
“I just said it in the most natural way to me,” she replied. “I wasn’t trying to make a political point one way or another. I did it in quite a casual sense. I believe fundamentally in equality and because of that I don’t think who my partner is matters. That’s why I chose to use language like ‘I have a female partner.’”
She added, “I’m quite clearly gay—it’s just how I live my life and I expect people to accept that.”
In either case, Dugdale is out now, and there’s been no noticeable blowback about her being in a relationship with a woman. Still, it raises questions about how much a public figure can expect in the way of privacy. It’s one thing to avoid a question, but quite another to answer directly in an on-the-record interview and then ask a reporter to pretend you didn’t say it.
Where is the line between being in the closet and pulling other people in with you?
What’s your take? Weigh in below in the comments section.