Progressive. Queer. Feminist. Opinionated.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Outing the star

Bolton was just appointed. This might get interesting.

It seems that in the last year or so, there's been a rash of "outings." Everytime I pull up a website, some politician has been outed or an some underling for a politician has been outed. And sometimes - but I find this happens far less often - someone outs him or herself, in a positive, self-affirming move.

Everywhere you turn, someone's coming out:

Qatar's 25 year old Crown Prince Tameem Bin Hamad Al-Thani has been outed in a British-based publication.

Aljazeera, quoting a Qatar-based Islamic website, reports that the prince and two other Qataris were involved in a bar fight at G.A.Y. one of the biggest gay nightclubs in Britain.

I got to thinking about this phenomenon. People seem to either support outings whole-heartedly, or be against the process, saying it's an invasion of privacy. Often, when there's an attempt to out someone, that person comes on TV to say it's sad there's such an obsession with sex lives, and what does it matter if he or she is gay?

Look at the whole Marcia Cross debacle. The rumor started on some unknown page, suddenly it was real news and she had to be gay, and then the actress was forced to announce to Barbara Walters on The View,

Marcia Cross: No! I don’t understand the fascination about people’s sexuality… What a world we live in where that’s so important…

On one hand, she made a good point here. Who she has sex with shouldn't matter to her career. It shouldn't affect whether she's chosen for a part. It should have nothing to do with public opinion.

On the other hand, how can she not see why it could be so very important. There really aren't that many gay stars or politicians. Honestly, who are the lesbian role models? I think the names you always hear are Melissa Ethridge or Ellen DeGeneres. Occasionally, you hear k.d. lang or the Indigo Girls (why is it always musicians?), and there's the chance you know about Adrienne Rich or, say, Audre Lorde, but that's far less likely.

I guess as a straight woman Marcia Cross wouldn't understand this. But if she could see it this way: she's a successful and attractive woman on an award-winning show that's being broadcast into televisions across the United States, especially televisions in those red states that voted against gay marriage (Desperate Housewives is most popular across the midwest). If she were to come out as a lesbian, suddenly there'd be another example of a successful lesbian, one who is a popular and welcome guest in so many televions across the US.

When some people hear about a star or politician being gay, their minds might slip to the sex life. Some people might become disgusted and decide not to watch that show anymore, or not vote for that politician. But there are many more responses. When hearing about a San Diego mayor coming out, a teen who hasn't come out yet might feel better about herself. A business man who needs the courage to come out might find that courage. A college student who's feeling down about the heterosexist world might feel like there is more hope. A young man in politics might think he can make it as a gay politician and start trying to change things.

Cross is right: being gay shouldn't matter to her career, and there's no reason the world should be so obsessed with it. But she's wrong if she thinks that being gay and famous is no big deal. There must be hundreds of more gay stars in Hollywood and gay politicians in Washington and elsewhere, but we never hear about them. For the most part, they are silent, and in that silence they don't exist. They need to break that silence so they can exist to us who watch from the sidelines.

And for this reason, I don't feel like I can come out in opposition to these outings.


Anonymous vt_slayer said...

I have to disagree with you, Harper. Coming out is an intensely personal decision which nobody has a right to force on someone else. I can understand the desire for change and the belief that famous role models could help to bring that about, but that does not justify drafting them by publicly outing them against their will. That is a gross violation of their privacy and, whatever public good you percieve might come of it, the end cannot justify the means.

4:32 PM

Blogger Harper said...

Jim West has been notoriously anti-gay, creating an entire political career around opposing gay rights. Then we was outed as a gay man who regularly visits gay chat rooms.

I understand what you're saying. I really do. But I'm not going to feel anything but glad that the hypocrite's been outed.

10:32 PM

Anonymous vt_slayer said...

I don't think it is ever appropriate to use a person's sexuality as a political weapon (and I include in this the Kerry-Edwards campaign's pointed remarks about V.P. Cheney's daughter's lesbianism). But that is beside the point. Your article advocated outing celebrities because they owed it to those of us on the sidelines to serve as our role models. I think that is a very dangerous idea and a very inconsistent position for a liberal and advocate of the Right to Privacy to take.

11:23 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home