Tag Archives: coming out

On Jodie Foster and ‘privacy’ vs. shame

This image released by NBC shows Jodie Foster, recipient of the Cecil B. Demille Award, during the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 13, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)

NBC/Associated Press photo

Actress Jodie Foster kind of officially, publicly came out of the closet the other night when she accepted an award at the Golden Globe Awards. Thankfully, the 50-year-old Foster’s apparent shame over her sexual orientation is rarer in our youthful non-heterosexuals today — no thanks to Foster, of course.

I don’t want this to be a repeat of what I wrote about lesbian astronaut Sally Ride’s posthumous outing in July, so I’ll quote what others have said about actress Jodie Foster’s recent quasi-coming out.

Matthew Breen, the probably-too-pretty editor of The Advocate, wrote this about Foster:

… Everyone should come out in her own time, but Foster was angry last night. One reason could be embarrassment at not having come out publicly (at least in her own estimation) until 2013. Last night’s speech clearly took a lot of guts for Foster to undertake. But too much anger was directed at a straw man of her own creation.

“But now apparently I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a prime-time reality show. You guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo child. No, I’m sorry, that’s just not me, never was, and it never will be,” she said.

There’s where she’s got it wrong. By referencing Honey Boo Boo, a stand-in for all that is shamelessly confessional about celebrity in 2013, Foster’s implication was that the choices she faces as a public figure are few: (1) stay closeted, never acknowledge your sexual orientation in public, or (2) tell the world every sordid detail of your intimate life.

That’s a bogus comparison, and it’s one that reinforces the idea that being LGBT is shameful, worthy of being hidden, and that saying you’re LGBT is an invitation to the whole world to come into your bedroom. That’s patently wrong. There are numerous out celebrities who guard their personal lives: David Hyde Pierce, Anna Paquin, Zachary Quinto, Amber Heard, Anderson Cooper, just to name a few. … [Emphasis is all mine.]

Breen states in his piece on Foster that The Advocate’s policy on outing is this: “While we encourage everyone who doesn’t risk his or her own safety by coming out to do so, The Advocate has a policy of not outing people who are not actively doing harm to LGBTs through word or deed.”

That’s pretty much my personal view on outing, too. Those who can be out should be out, in my book. You can’t assert that someone who might face real physical danger and/or who might be tossed out of his or her home (or maybe even his or her job) should come out if you’re not the one who would have to face the consequences — but often closeted individuals exaggerate how awful it might be should they come out.

Still, that said, even if I strongly think that an individual should be out, in the end, in many if not most cases it’s up to the individual as to whether or not he or she should be out (assuming that everyone doesn’t already know or strongly surmise the individual’s orientation anyway — there are so many closet cases whose self-awareness is so low that they seem to think that no one knows that they’re not heterosexual when pretty much everyone does).

In my book, the individual deserves the “protection” of the closet until and unless he or she does not deserve it, such as if it’s a closeted guy who is not keeping to himself but is sexually harassing others at the workplace (as happened to me) or, of course, if it’s a closet case who actively is working against the “LGBT community,” such as a “Christo”fascist “leader” or a politician. No traitor deserves the “protection” of the closet.

Most people agree on that point, but there remains a sticking point — that of “privacy.”

I like what LGBT writer Nathaniel Frank has to say on this:

… It’s true that hiding [one’s sexual orientation] hurts. Research shows mental health consequences to holding major secrets over time. And yes, it’s absolutely a wasted opportunity for powerful, visible people who probably could come out unscathed to deny young LGBT people the nurturance of knowing that an admired public figure is gay.

Privacy and shame are closely connected. Adam and Eve covered their “privates” the moment they gained moral consciousness, an awareness of good and evil, setting the tone for a truism ever since: You don’t cover up stuff if there ain’t something wrong with it.

Any step a gay person takes to hide their identity that they wouldn’t take to hide the fact that they’re, say, Irish, vegetarian or left-handed is probably not a neutral quest for privacy but reflects their own doubt about just how OK it is to be gay. Foster’s reluctance to just pull an Ellen (“Yep, I’m gay”), and her tortured speech, with its resentful tone and its ultimate avoidance of the “L” word, made being gay and coming out seem tortured things in themselves. … [Emphasis mine.]

And that’s the deep and profound problem that I have with the widespread argument that one’s sexual orientation (if it is not heterosexual, and only if it is not heterosexual, of course) is “private”: The vast majority of heterosexuals don’t go around asserting that their attraction to members of the opposite sex is “private,” do they? And why is that? Because they’re not fucking ashamed of their sexual orientation, that’s why.

So to assert that one’s non-heterosexuality — not one’s specific sex acts, but one’s basic sexual orientation — is “private” is to keep alive the toxic, ignorant, bigoted, harmful belief that to be attracted to members of one’s own sex is shameful, abnormal, “sinful,” etc.

And to contribute to that toxic, heterosexist and homophobic environment — and yes, all of us are responsible for the environment, since all of us make up the environment — is only to add to the number of non-heterosexual people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol, who contemplate or commit suicide, who don’t protect themselves from STDs because (in their low self-esteem) they don’t find themselves to be worth protecting, and who are the victims of hate crimes, since they exist in such a heterosexist, homophobic environment that encourages such hate crimes.

You are contributing to the problem or you are contributing to the solution.

Lying that your basic sexual orientation is a matter of “privacy” — and lying that what others really want to know are the “dirty” details of your sex life when, in fact, no one is inquiring as to such details — is to try to excuse yourself for your own laziness, selfishness and cowardice for which there is no fucking excuse.

That is the problem that I have with Jodie Foster and with others like her who toss out the red herring of “privacy” instead of manning the fuck up already and working to make things better for everyone.

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Cooper tarnishes his coming out with ‘no one else’s business’ business

Anderson Cooper arrives at the 39th Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills

Reuters photo

“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud,” CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who long had been rumored to be gay, proclaimed in his official coming-out e-mail that was released today. Cooper’s explanation for why it took him so long to come out, however, indicates some degree of internalized homophobia that perhaps even he isn’t aware of. (Cooper is photographed above at last month’s Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills.)

While I’m pleased that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper finally came out of the closet — and pleased with most of what he has stated in regards to his coming out, such as that “visibility [for non-heterosexuals] is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy” — damn, he just had to say just one “little” thing that, for me, tarnished it.

“In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted,” he stated in his coming-out e-mail to his long-time friend the right-wing gay blogger Andrew Sullivan, who published the e-mail with Cooper’s approval.

While I agree with that latter part — that there is value in standing up and being counted as non-heterosexual, because otherwise some (presumably heterosexual) people might otherwise think that there really aren’t that many of us non-heterosexuals — what the fuck is “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business”?

Heterosexuals generally don’t assert that their sexual orientation is no one else’s business. Heterosexual celebrities (actors and other artists, politicians, TV news/“news” anchors, et. al.) generally have no problem being seen in public with and/or talking publicly about their opposite-sexed mates, if they have an opposite-sexed mate, whether they are married or not. They generally don’t take the stance that their heterosexuality is no one else’s business — because they aren’t ashamed of their heterosexuality.

Heterosexual journalists aren’t seen as violating some journalistic ethic if they let the world in on the “secret” that they are heterosexual, so why does Anderson Cooper essentially state, in his apparent justification for his having dragged his feet for so long in coming out of the closet, that he had thought that to do otherwise would have been unprofessional?

Why would a gay man assert that his homosexuality is no one else’s business, and why would a gay male journalist act as though divulging his sexual orientation would be unprofessional, unless, at least on some level and to some degree, he is ashamed of his sexual orientation?

True, whatever the silver fox Coop likes to do sexually (or whether he even has an active sex life at all) is none of our business. It’s none of our business if he’s a top or a bottom, if he spits or if he swallows or if he won’t allow a dick inside of his mouth at all, if he’s ever done anal or if he’s anal-phobic, if he’s chocolate or if he’s vanilla, whether he masturbates (of course he does) and if so, how and how often, etc., etc.

But if there is nothing wrong with being gay, as Cooper says he believes — he proclaimed in his coming-out e-mail:

It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something —something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.

— why, then, the rather revealing counter-statement that “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business”?

Cooper has, I suspect, residual shame over his homosexuality, which, in such a homophobic and sex-shaming society, I can’t entirely blame him for — neither he nor none of us exists in a vacuum — but I would hope that all of us gay men and lesbians and other assorted non-heterosexuals and non-gender-conforming individuals do the self-examination that is necessary for us to identify the homophobia that we all too often carry, to some degree, within ourselves.

Most of us non-heterosexuals, I believe, have some degree of internalized homophobia, and it is worth it for us to identify it and to work to dig it up by its roots. But until we first identify it, we can’t eradicate it.

Yes, our sexual orientation is everyone else’s business. It is an important and a basic part of ourselves, of who and what we are.

To assert otherwise is to lie — to lie to others, and worse, to ourselves.

Man up, Coop — your sexual orientation, as mine and everyone else’s, always was, is, and always will be our business.

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Ricky Martin answers Barbara Walters’ homosexuality question a decade later

Singer Ricky Martin peeks out from a curtain in the photo room ...

Reuters photo

Is it safe to come out now? “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man,” the gorgeous Ricky Martin (shown above in 2007) announced today. “I am very blessed to be who I am.”

I knew that pop star Ricky Martin, who now is 38, was gay when Barbara Walters, interviewing him years ago when he was hot property, asked him if the circulating rumors that he is gay are true, and he refused to answer.

To Ricky’s credit (Ricky, may I call you Ricky?), he didn’t lie and state that he is heterosexual. (And, thank Goddess, he didn’t come out under skanky circumstances, like George Michael did, if memory serves…) But virtually no straight man answers the question of his sexual orientation with a refusal to answer the question.

Reportedly, Barbara Walters recently stated that she regrets having pressed Ricky on his sexual orientation those years ago: “In 2000, I pushed Ricky Martin very hard to admit if he was gay or not, and the way he refused to do it made everyone decide that he was. A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now, I feel it was an inappropriate question,” she reportedly stated.

No, it wasn’t an inappropriate question. It was a legitimate question. One’s sexual orientation is central to his or her life, having a huge impact on his or her close relations (or lack thereof). Ricky had twin sons born to him by a surrogate mother, another fact (when I heard it) that made it clear to me that he’s gay, as straight men very rarely do that when they want to become fathers. You just can’t say that Ricky’s sexual orientation hasn’t had a huge bearing on the kind of family that he has built for himself; it is an integral part of him.

I don’t blame Walters for Ricky’s career having fizzled out, at least here in the United States. Lots of young men and women burst onto the American music scene, have a successful album or two, and then fizzle. It happens.

In Ricky’s case it may or may not have been due, in small or in large part, to his widely (and correctly) perceived homosexuality. Hell, his career might even have done better if he had just boldly come out of the closet instead of dodged the question; his evasiveness may have hurt him more than did his non-heterosexuality. Who knows?

In any event, it’s always better late than never to come out of the closet, and I am happy that Ricky has come out of the closet.

I always hope that a celebrity would come out sooner rather than later, not when he or she perceives that it is “safe” for his or career to do so — this sort of thinking only perpetuates homophobia, from what I can tell (and come on, it’s not like any of us gay men or straight women who might have fantasized about getting with Ricky actually were going to do so) — but every out and proud celebrity to whom closeted non-heterosexuals can look to for inspiration helps, even if he or she comes out later in his or her career.

Thank you, Ricky, for doing the right thing. (You go, girl!)

Maybe your next album will be a surprising success — because you have embraced who and what you are.

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Better late than never to come out

I still remember a cartoon that I saw years ago as a minor. I believe that it was in one of my older brother’s issues of Hustler, which I enjoyed for the occasional male who was featured along with a female in one of the, um, pictorials.

In the cartoon, two ancient wheelchair-bound men sit next to each other on a porch.

“I’ve always loved you, too!” one of them declares to the other.

It was a funny, but a sad, cartoon: by the time the two men finally declared their love for each other, they didn’t have much time left.

(OK, so I probably overexplained the ’toon, as I am wont to do, but please indulge me…)

An Associated Press story on how people are coming out later in life reminded me of that ’toon.

The news story is more anecdotal than anything else, and it makes the error of lumping transgendered individuals in with gay men and lesbians — something to which both camps often object, as there is a significant difference between being sexually attracted to members of your own sex and feeling like you are a female in a biologically male body or a male in a biologically female body — but the news story is worth reading.

Excerpts:

Increased awareness and acceptance of varied sexualities and gender identities has led Americans to come out far younger, as early as middle school.

A less noticed but parallel shift is happening at the other end of the age spectrum, with people in their 60s, 70s and 80s coming to terms with the truth that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

While no one tracks the numbers of the elderly who come out, those who work with older adults say the trend is undeniable, and a resulting network of support groups and services has cropped up.

The decision can fracture lifelong relationships. Or it can bring the long-sought relief of an unloaded secret….

Outing yourself late in life can be complicated after having lived through times when being openly gay could get you arrested, put in an institution and given shock treatments. It’s snarled in a lifetime of trudging along through society’s view of normalcy and the resulting fear of being ostracized by children and grandchildren. And it’s marked by a nagging doubt that all the heartache, all the potential for it to go wrong, may not be worth it with one’s years numbered.

“When somebody comes out at the age of 20, they have their whole life ahead of them,” said Karen Taylor, the director of training and advocacy for SAGE, a national group that works with LGBT seniors. “There’s a real sense of regret and loss for somebody who comes out later in life, even when talking to them and they say the decision was the right one.”

Still, many seniors have felt empowered by the growing presence of gays and lesbians in pop culture and some high-profile, late-in-life outings…. Those who’ve mustered the gumption to out themselves say they feel as if they’ve been given a second chance….

Dr. Loren Olson, a psychiatrist in Des Moines, Iowa, who has studied late-in-life outings, said for most such seniors, there are losses, though they are typically less than they fear, and often vary greatly by socioeconomics.

Olson himself was 40 before he came out. While it may seem incomprehensible to some, he said it makes sense that many can’t face the truth for so long, even if some around them have surmised it.

“We don’t like disharmony in our thinking so sometimes we block out things that really are in opposition to really what we believe is true,” he said. “It’s like a child believing in Santa Claus: You just hang on to that as long as you can.” …

Let go of Santa, I say to those who are in the closet, especially those who probably can come out without the sky actually falling.

I have not been a big fan of closet cases, but I’m trying to be more patient with and understanding of them. There is that delicate balance, I think: Play along with the closet case’s game, and what incentive does he or she have to come out? But push him or her too far, and couldn’t that cause damage, too?

Still, my general belief is that for most people in the closet, coming out would not be nearly as catastrophic as they apparently think it would.

Often, people already know, and their response is something along the lines of “No duh!”

Those who have a problem with you being non-heterosexual — why do you want them in your life anyway?

It’s never too soon or too late to start being who you are. The time to be who you are is right now.

If you are contemplating coming out, you might find that the Human Rights Campaign has some valuable resources on coming out. Click here.

Finally, if you must remain in the closet, don’t be a Massa. Don’t claim to be straight while sexually harassing members of your own sex. As much as I love to be in the know, I don’t want to have to learn new sexual slang, such as “snorkeling,” as the result of your having sexually acted out. “Tea-bagging” was enough, thank you.

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