Google Something Clever 2.0: Why I Care When a Gay Celebrity Comes Out

Feb 14, 2014

Why I Care When a Gay Celebrity Comes Out

Let me clear up a couple of points right off the bat.

  1. I am straight. I do not claim to speak for gay people, or straight people, for that matter. Or bi, or trans, or any group. Just me.
  2. If you are a homophobic troll who has come here to post awful things in the comments, please know that I will get an alert on my phone the moment you do, and I will delete it. Don't waste your time.
Now, then.

A little over a decade ago, a friend came out to me. We'd known each other for years, and I think I was maybe the third or fifth person he told. Somewhere in the upper echelon, anyway. I felt profoundly honored that he was comfortable telling me. I think I said something goofy, like "Congratulations" or "Thank you."

I feel that same feeling, to a lesser degree, of course, when a celebrity comes out. So happy for them to be living more freely in their own skin, and so proud that they feel comfortable telling "us." It's like they're saying, "Hey, Society [and Jenn], I know you're cool, and you love me no matter what. Just thought I'd let you know this important bit of info about me. See you at the next cookout!" (Note, NPH has never come to one of my cookouts, and I'm a little hurt by that.)

Some straight allies don't get that. I've had this conversation quite a few times:
"Sylar from Heroes came out!"
"So, good for him!" 
"Who cares if he's gay or straight? It shouldn't matter." 
And that's awesome that you don't care if he's gay or straight. And it shouldn't matter to anyone. But just because you don't care that he's gay, doesn't mean you shouldn't care that he came out. Why?

First of all, coming out is a huge deal. You probably don't need me to tell you that, but maybe you need a reminder. If you want to know why, go ahead and click the link. I'm no expert in that area. But just as you'd be happy for your favorite actor getting married, having a baby, or launching a new sneaker line (sorry; I had to come up with a third example for flow purposes), you should be happy for them when this Big Important Life Thingy happens, too.

Second, and more importantly in my opinion, we need out celebrities in order to normalize homosexuality. Because it is normal. But so many people don't know that, whether it's because they're honestly ignorant, or willfully. They need to know this. When I was a kid, the only out gay celebrity I knew of was Elton John. And Sir Elton is awesome, but most of the gay men I've met do not wear outrageous sunglasses. Most.

Kids need to know that gay people are normal, everyday people. If my son is gay, he needs to know that it doesn't mean he has to take piano lessons and wear a sequined blazer. He can be a professional athlete, like Michael Sam. He can be an actor, like Jim Parsons. He can be a CEO, like Clive Davis. A news anchor, like Anderson Cooper. These are all normal people. Strike that; these are exceptional people. These people are kicking ass in their fields, and the public embraces them. He can be anything a straight person can be.

And if he is straight, he needs to know- as do a lot of adults- that some of the celebrities that he looks up to are gay, some are straight, some are bi, and it doesn't affect him at all, unless he's planning on trying to date one of them.

Now, this is not to say that I think all gay and bi celebrities should be outed. I hope you're not reading it that way. It's a very brave and very difficult thing to come out, and it's nobody else's choice. We don't have the right to know what anyone else is up to in their bedroom. But those celebrities who do come out are doing a great service for the LGBTQ community, and for society in general, by helping us all inch towards a more enlightened tomorrow. I commend them.

So to my straight ally friends, I'll sum it up like this: It's great that you don't care about other people's orientation. But until the day that nobody cares, coming out should always matter.