Coming Out? October 9, 2010Posted by Skippy in Gay and Lesbian Issues, Rants.
Tags: come out, stating the perfectly obvious
Ok, children, I’ve got a rant a-brewing. Since Anderson Cooper’s insanely awesome takedown of crazy college-stalker Andrew Shirvell and his interview with Chris Armstrong (the person on whom Shirvell was weirdly fixated), the blogosphere has once again flared up with questions about Cooper’s sexual orientation and statements and declarations that he should Come Out. Apparently, if Anderson Cooper doesn’t Come Out, the whole Gay World will implode or something equally catastrophic. After Cooper protested about a “gay slur” in the trailer for some stupid Vince Vaughn movie that nobody’s gonna go see in the first damn place, this is what a commenter over on Gawker.com said:
Maybe it’s just me, but if Anderson Cooper would simply come out first, his remarks might have more meaning.
Ok. First, let me state that I have occasionally made this same, stupid argument. “If [fill in the blank actor/actress/celebrity/politician] would just ‘come out,’ then whatever comments/actions they’ve taken on behalf of The Gay Community ™ would have More Meaning.” Again, this is a stupid argument—I’m going to tell you why.
1. What the hell does “Coming Out” mean, anyway?
Let’s take Anderson Cooper’s life as an example. There’s ample evidence of him with his boyfriend—they’ve bought some house or something together, they’re photographed together, everybody knows they’re dating. It’s not like Cooper’s running around dating some woman or has been photographed with a woman he calls his “wife” or “girlfriend” or does anything that suggests that he’s being “dishonest” about who he is. He hasn’t bashed gays, so it’s not like he’s being hypocritical. At this point, what would “coming out” mean for Cooper? We in this country have a fixation on “coming out”—especially as it concerns celebrities. We act as though the individual in question owes it to us to disclose their sexual orientation.
2. Coming Out Is Nosiness With Another Name
We in America love to be all up in other people’s bedrooms. We’re essentially a nation of voyeurs, consuming every little scrap of information and data about people’s lives and virtually poking our idiotic noses into their bedrooms. Our greedy obsession with trivia and gossip has turned us all into simpering Mrs. Kravitses. Our “interest” in gays “coming out” isn’t about allowing for the freedom of LGBTs to be who they are. Instead, it’s about our salaciousness, our collective idiocy when it comes to anyone who’s “famous.”
3. Coming Out Reinforces the “Normalcy” of Heterosexuality
I’ve never in my life had a heterosexual “come out” to me—and if someone did, I’d likely say, “So what?” However, the onus remains upon us LGBTs to “come out.” We’re expected to, in some deep, confessional moment that should be reinforced with violins and tinkly pianos, reveal to the world that We Are Gay. Let me give you an anecdote.
Way back in seminary, I was in a small discussion group where we would write weekly reflections. We would read these reflections to the group and we would discuss. In my reflection, I wrote about my encounter with a homeless man who occasionally showed up in drag at the homeless shelter. I wrote about him having family in the city and wondered if his family had disowned him because of his sexual orientation or drag. I think one of my statements said something to the effect of my interest in this because, as a black gay man, I had blah, blah, blah. Anyway, afterwards, the professor in charge looked at me and said, “Are you saying…you’re gay?”
Professor: “Wowwww…I would have never suspected!”
Me: “Well, not all of us walk around with neon signs…”
(someone else starts to ask me a question about something else in the reflection)
Professor (cutting them off): “No, no! Let’s stick with this! He’s got issues!”
Me (thinking): Aww, hell.
As I’ve seen time and time and time again, the “revelation” that I’m gay turns into either a) an absurd pity party wherein the heterosexuals involved act as though I’ve disclosed that I have a fatal disease and have days to live, b) a moment of absurd tension in which a heterosexual male thinks I’m hitting on him (I haven’t done that since 1994), or worse, c) a moment in which the heterosexual(s) involved declare they’re going to “pray for me.” I usually respond with, “Pray that I get properly laid!”
At any rate, this whole coming out business then stops being about me, but all about the heterosexuals—who, by the way, never have to say a word about who they are. Of course they don’t—society still regards so-called “heterosexuality” as “normal.” Our entire culture is geared towards it. Spend one day watching television and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And because heterosexuality is characterized as normal, and because heterosexuals are primarily in control of how sexualities are constructed, performed, perceived and rewarded and punished, they tend to craft stereotypical images of homosexuality. I cannot count the times I’ve heard heterosexuals contend that they “know” what we gays “act like.” Even still, a person who is “flamboyant” still needs to “come out”—why? Who’s benefitting from that supposedly flamboyant person whom everyone already thinks is gay “coming out”? I submit that all that does is reinforce the heterosexual as the confessor to whom we deviant homosexuals must confess our deviance and from whom we must seek absolution.
Now, let me be clear: I am not saying that we LGBTs shouldn’t be who we are—quite the opposite, actually. I think we should live our lives as openly and as unabashedly as heterosexuals do. However, we need to correct the assumption that it is our responsibility to engage in formal declarations of our sexual orientation as though our lives must be predicated upon the good graces of heterosexuality.