Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cleaning Out the Closet

After watching The Boys in the Band, in which self-loathing homosexual Michael desperately tries to out his apparently closeted college friend, I started to think about our culture's obsession with forcing people, especially celebrities, out of the closet whether or not they want to be openly gay. What I find most interesting is the common attitude among high-profile gays, especially those in the media, toward closeted celebs. Perez Hilton has no qualms about outing, Out Magazine notoriously featured Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper on the cover of its 2007 issue titled "The Glass Closet," and Village Voice columnist Michael Musto still brags about being "one of the few people outing celebrities in the 1990s."

In this interview, he argues, "My theory is just that public figures sign an implicit deal with the media that their private lives are to be covered, and to leave out gayness because it is distasteful or there might be homophobes out there is homophobic in itself. It's hypocritical and it makes 'gay' the last taboo."
Point taken. I understand and, to a certain extent, agree that the general public's perception of homosexuality might change if enough beloved stars admit that they're gay, but in my opinion this attitude displays a troubling lack of empathy. The fact of the matter is, when a celebrity comes out, his or her career might not suffer in any way, but it is undeniably changed. They automatically become representatives of the gay community, they're expected to become activists. But sometimes actors just want to act, and musicians just want to make music. For every reality TV fame whore, there's a real artist who doesn't want every aspect of his or her personal life exposed to scrutiny, "implicit deal with the media" be damned.

Musto and his similar-minded colleagues can rationalize outing all they want, but as I see it, they are really just exposing themselves as highly insecure people trying to validate their own homosexuality, just like the sad protagonist of The Boys in the Band. I believe that no one has the right to out another person against his or her will.

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