Gay Celebrities’ Coming Out Stories
By Annie Cooper
It used to be that one didn’t “come out”, one was “OUTED.” The verb implies, usually correctly, that the outing was non-consensual. Most outings occurred either after one’s death (like Rock Hudson) or by force of indisputable evidence, (like George Michael.) To voluntarily own up to being gay required a special kind of bravery at a time when gay sex was still commonly criminalized, and AIDS-fuelled homophobia was rampant. Coming out as a homosexual came at great personal, not just professional, risk.
Now, with approval for gay marriage increasing, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed, and gay characters more prevalent on TV and in movies, we’re becoming a more accepting society, right? Right? Then why do so many feel the need to stay closeted? Or, like Tom Gregory in KoldCast TV’s Gregory Way, at the very least, tone down their “gayness” to increase their chances of “passing” as straight? When Tom, a Los Angeles art gallery owner, hires a new assistant, he puts up with the young man’s womanizing, partying ways in the hopes that some residual macho fervor might rub off on him, and possibly increase his chances of pursuing his latent dream of Hollywood stardom.
You are watching Episode 13 of Gregory Way, “Meet Me On The Mountain – Pt 1”
Andy and Tom are enjoying a nice Saturday afternoon eating on the hood of the car in the Hollywood Hills. Then Tom drops the news that he is attending a reading for a play shortly and wants Andy to come and spectate.
Tom’s concerns aren’t unwarranted. Being openly gay has historically presented a special challenge to actors and musicians, who, when we boil everything down, are essentially expected to sell the world (and women, in particular) an idealization of manhood that every woman would hope for, even if that relationship exists only in fantasy. But today’s generation of notably “out” celebs are proving that you can have the best of both worlds: a private existence that is true to one’s self and integrity, and a public career that is not limited by labels.
In looking at just a few of the notable people who have come “out” in recent years, it’s clear that the reasons and circumstances of each man’s revelation are as varied as the men themselves. Some, like former “N-Sync” member Lance Bass, appear to have been pressured into addressing their sexuality by the never-ending swirl of rumors that surrounded them. Neil Patrick Harris and Sean Hays also fall into this category – when confronted with accusations and gossip, they simply responded by confirming the rumors, and moving on with their lives. As Hayes aptly stated, “I was never ‘in’.”
“New Kid on the Block” Jonathan Knight, upon his apparent media “outing”, simply said, essentially, “Um, I’ve been openly gay for years, you just weren’t paying attention because I wasn’t famous anymore.” In Knight’s case, he was outed by fellow ‘80s pop icon Tiffany, who said in an interview that Knight became gay after they dated. Which probably isn’t significant, but is kind of funny. Girlfriend needs to tune up her gay-dar.
There are some who come out years after the peak of their celebrity, making speculation about the timing of these revelations inevitable. We prefer to take the high road, and assume no ulterior motives, (such as, oh, let’s say… a desperate attempt to remain relevant), other than the desire to live one’s life honestly and authentically. Ricky Martin was accused of this, but we think the letter he posted to his website in 2010 seems as heartfelt and thoughtful as it gets.
While their career paths were obviously different, Martin’s experience as a closeted gay Latino may well have borne some similarities to that of CNN news anchor Don Lemon. Lemon, who spoke openly of his sexual orientation in his 2011 book, “Transparent”, discussed the specific challenges and risks of coming out as gay after being raised in a culture where macho-ness and masculinity are hyper-valued. (Just ask Rob Halford, the former lead singer of Judas Priest, about the torrent of hate speech that came spewing from his former fans after he came out in 1998.) Like Martin, however, the expected “backlash” over Lemon’s admission ended up being a blip on the radar, and they each continue their careers much as before.
Some coming out stories are just confusing, like Clay Aiken. Aiken came out on a glossy 2008 People magazine spread. While this surprised exactly no one, the fact that he was simultaneously introducing the world to his newborn daughter, turned what would have been the word’s collective “Well, duh.” into a collective “Well…huh?”
Zachary Quinto came out in the name of advocacy. Though the star of NBC’s Heroes and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek had been working to promote gay and lesbian rights since he first showed up on the media radar, Quinto had stated that he’d rather not include his personal life in the discussion. It was after the heartbreaking suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a gay teen who had just a few months earlier made an “It Gets Better” video, that Quinto says he felt the need to make the personal public, because “… living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it — is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality. Our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered citizen of this country.”
Chris Colfer is probably the best example of how the “new genergaytion” might handle coming out. Though he fell into the task of discussing his sexuality due to the nature of his role on “Glee”, he did so with such grace and aplomb that the world barely batted an eyelash. There exist all kinds of fancy-pants research to support the fact that, although they may not yet possess the vocabulary to label it, most people have an inkling of their sexual orientations at very young ages. Colfer may have been only 17 when he told the world he was gay, but his forthright bravery is surely setting an example for countless young people.
The ideal, of course, is that one day soon there will be no more “coming out stories”, because no one will be forced into the closet in the first place. No one will feel the need to loudly proclaim his sexual preference, any more than he might feel the need to loudly proclaim that he is left-handed or was born in New Hampshire. Until then, though, we’ll continue to look to those in the public eye as our role models for how it’s done.
About Gregory Way
Tom Gregory grew up always imagining himself as a famous movie star, but life got in the way and Tom ended up falling in love with the man of his dreams, a rich business tycoon and technological entrepreneur. Now, Tom finds himself heading into the second half of his life and decides it’s time to make some changes.
Annie Cooper is a writer, armchair public transportation advocate, and aspiring taco critic. She has written columns and specialized training materials related to children with special needs, parenting issues, and early childhood development. Her writings are geared toward therapists, social workers, and teachers of young children with complex medical and developmental issues. She recently left her job in social services in an effort to become part of the problem, rather than the solution. Annie lives in Los Angeles, but she’s not from there – nobody’s from there.