To out or not to out

During in an interview promoting his new movie, Casino Jack, Kevin Spacey evaded questions about his sexuality until the reported finally asked him why he was living a lie. Spacey responded: I don’t live a lie. You have to understand that people who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie. That is a presumption that people jump to.” He went on to say, “Look, at the end of the day, people have to respect people’s differences. I am different than some people would like me to be. I just don’t buy into that the personal can be political. I just think that’s horse shit. No one’s personal life is in the public interest. It’s gossip, bottom line. End of story.”

Since his break out role in The Usual Suspects, Spacey went on to win two Academy Awards. I always assumed he was gay because I saw him on Fire Island once, and yes, I know that doesn’t mean anything. Even among my gay friends it was always rumored that Spacey was closeted. Of course, I assumed he did not want to discuss his sexual orientation in fear that he would be type cast as gay.

Last week Carrie Fisher responded to a question about John Travolta stating, “Wow! I mean, my feeling about John has always been that we know and we don’t care. Look, I’m sorry that he’s uncomfortable with it, and that’s all I can say. It only draws more attention to it when you make that kind of legal fuss. Just leave it be.”

It seems like more and more, reporters have been pushing celebrities to fess up about their sexuality. Rumors have swirled around certain celebrities like John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Kevin Spacey for years.

These recent events remind me of the late 1980’s when Sirius Radio host Michelangelo Signorile was co-founding editor of OutWeek. He began writing about the media’s double standard in reporting on homosexual and heterosexual public figures, and how he believed it made gays invisible during the AIDS crisis. Signorile outed producer David Geffen and other performers, such as the comedian Andrew Dice Clay, and gossip columnist Liz Smith.

You would think that someone’s sexual preference would be considered off limits. Yet, having lived through the AIDS epidemic I understand the importance of Act Up and OutWeek. Since the 80’s the gay movement has made tremendous strides. More than ever, we have left our mark on television, movies and even in politics. Yet, we still don’t have the right to marry and we’re still not allowed to serve our country openly. The AIDS crisis is now considered past its peak and HIV is more of chronic disease. Recently, the gay community has been plagued by a recent string of gay teen suicides. Promoting a healthier attitude toward gay men and women is more necessary now then ever before. Campaigns like, It Get’s Better, are trying to instill hope in our gay youth. Perhaps that is what has sparked this new interest in asking “closeted” men and women if they are gay?

The best example I can think of is Anderson Cooper. I see him at David Barton Gym in Chelsea. I know people who know him personally. They say he’s gay and even has a boyfriend. He quite possibly lives as an out man but has not indicated so publicly. If he is gay, does he have an obligation to come out? No, of course not. Just because he’s in the public eye doesn’t make it his responsibility to become a gay role model. Like Kevin Spacey said, “No one’s public life is in the public’s interest. It’s gossip.” And yet I can’t help but wonder what if Anderson Cooper came out? He could be quite possibly be the most influential gay male public figure our community has.  

Lesbians on the other hand have shown less fear in coming out. In fact lesbians make up some of the most influential women in the public arena: Rachel Maddow covers the news and current events. Ellen DeGeneres is a brilliant talk show host and comedian, and Suzie Orman is considered a great financial advisor. Unfortunately, gay men do not influence Americans as much outside the realm of fashion, television and theater.

I agree with Bravo TV executive Andy Cohen, who in an interview with Joy Behar said, “It is not cool that Carrie Fisher outed John Travolta.” It’s not anyone’s responsibility to out another individual. Coming out is a very personal issue and making the decision to do so should not be influenced by the media.

I say we celebrate those individuals who live as out men and women and leave the ones who don’t to wrestle with their decision.

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4 Comments

  1. mich lyon
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Rumor has it that Mich Lyon is gay too!

  2. Posted December 17, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow, you’re prolific this week.

    I have mixed feelings about this. If persons in positions of power, such as Jody Foster, for instance, would say something like “I’m homosexual and that is how God made me and I am proud of it” instead of , “thank you for allowing me to keep my private life private” or whatever she said to that effect, it would do more to help the cause I believe.

    That said, I know it should be a personal choice, but I do feel that persons who are fortunate enough to weld that power and have that mouth piece have a social obligation to fess up and tell the truth so the world can know reality.

    And that said, I don’t know if I would have the courage if I were famous. Coming out was hard enough as an unknown.

    What this means to me is that we still have a LONG way to go and we ALL have a responsibility to work at it.

  3. Siddharth
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I somewhat disagree to this post, I like Ellen Degeneres believe that gay men/women who are in a position of power in anyway have a responsibility, gay youth today needs positive role models and it would only help gay youth if gay men/women in power came out of closet. I personally was very disappointed by Ricky Martin’s appearance on Ellen Degeneres his answers to Ellen’s questions didnt impress me at all. Ellen has done a lot I would say more than any other gay individual.

    I am from India and I hadnt seen or heard of John Travolta or his movies, and few years ago me and my friends were watching a movie starring John Travolta and I asked them “he seems gay, is he gay?” and I am not one of those gay guys who thinks everyone is gay.

  4. spinellimd
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    But what right do we have to contradict someone’s life. Is Oprah gay? Do you have proof that Travolta is gay? Or are you going by gossip?


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