Sunday, April 08, 2007

Out Again

Out magazine created more buzz than they have seen in years with their latest cover issue. For those who haven’t seen it, the magazine named its 50 most powerful gay men and women in the United States. On the cover, they included cardboard images of Anderson Cooper and Jodi Foster as emblems of the “glass closet.” In other words, everybody knows that Coops and that girl who was in Candleshoe are homo, but they would never consent to be on the cover of an actual queer publication. This comes in the same week that my new favorite (though rapidly declining) artist Mika also refused to answer questions about his sexuality. Once again the blogosphere plunges into a debate about the expectations of being out or not being out.

To me, though, the recent actions of one celebrity demonstrate the necessity of being out more than all the others. Not only has he skirted the issue, like Cooper and Foster, but now he is going to extremes to prove that he isn’t gay. I think we all know who we are talking about: Ron Stoppable from the Disney Show Kim Possible.

In the earliest days of CoG, I pleaded with Ron to finally confirm what we all knew to be true: He likes the menz. Given that he still attended high school, though, I figured that he just needed some time to come out on his own. It would dawn on him eventually why he found that naked mole rat so interesting.

Within the past month, however, I have grown increasingly leery of his behavior. It’s time for an intervention.

Clearly out of fears that being identified as gay will hurt his career, Ron has suddenly altered his behavior and character in sad attempts to conform with the larger society. In what can only be described as bizarre, Ron started dating Kim Possible. I don’t want to say that Kim is clueless, but I have not seen a beard that thick since I attended a lumberjack meet-and-greet.

Yet, even his dating Kim didn’t stop tongues from wagging. When one of her friends pointed out that something wasn’t quite right about their relationship, he gave up his position on the cheerleading squad. Motivated only by peer pressure, Ron joined the football team.

Now, Ron, it’s not that queer folk can’t play the football. Yet, when one has never, ever expressed any interest in doing so and suddenly takes it up out of the blue, it seems a bit pathological. Ron is becoming paranoid about being outed at any moment.

Now I know that some will protest this. “Wait, GayProf,” a few will say, “It’s a private matter . . . and he is a cartoon.”

Sexuality in our society is never a private matter. If all the heterosexual people in the country said, “We aren’t going to ever discuss our private lives or acknowledge the people who are emotionally significant to us,” then I would say, “Okay, then, we are all being quiet.” That sounds kinda boring, but so be it.

That, however, is not at all the world in which we live. The notion that a “private” space exists that is separate from the public only reenforces the status quo. Constituting queer sexuality as a totally “private” matter ignores the very real consequences of that identity in the public realm. Everything from access to healthcare, inheritance, housing, and even taxes depend on one’s sexual identity in this society.

Even more disturbing to me is that queer people will turn against each other for acknowledging the reality of another’s sexuality. Straight people might find it distasteful that a magazine prints a glossy spread on Jennifer-Brad-Angelina. Nobody, though, considers it a violation of their basic right to privacy to reveal that all three are in (seriously dysfunctional) heterosexual relationships.

We will never be able to muster a fight for sexual freedom if we, as queer individuals, place a premium on secret-keeping. We will never create a sense of community based on self and mutual respect if we maintain silence.

The equation of truth-telling with being “radical” or “violating privacy” is one of the ways that a culture of silence thrives. Homophobic decorum will always promote lying as the best means to deal with minority sexual identities.

Though it has been said many times, I will repeat it: Being out is still the easiest and best way that any individual can promote real change. Yes, there are circumstances where being out is deadly and dangerous. I think that we are all sophisticated enough to know the difference when the situation is a life-threatening one.

This is not to say that I think outing celebrities should be a priority for queer rights. Trying to force people out of the closet also makes being out somehow punitive. That’s probably not a good idea. I also don’t expect any more or less of celebrities than of all queer people.

In the end, though, being out and visible makes a political statement and affirms a commitment that we all (gay, straight, queer, bi, etc.) have something to gain in the fight for sexual freedom. Staying in the closet, in contrast, is always self-serving and only benefits one person.

Because of my blog, I have been lucky to have had a number of men write to me about their own experiences. Several of them have discussed their reasons for being out in small, isolated, and conservative places. Some of have worked in industries or companies where homophobia was not only tolerated, but actively promoted.

Yet, these gay individuals drew on their own courage to be out. In doing so, they made circumstances better for themselves and other gay employees.

If they can do it, where the economic, social, and physical dangers are often real, I think that highly-overpaid and very sheltered celebrities can think of something to say about the question. Perhaps Ron Stoppable will lead the charge for the next generation.


Chad said...

As always you raise some thought-provoking points, but I have to admit, I'm a little irritated by the phrase "glass closet." I really don't see anything objectionable in a public figure choosing ambiguity or not drawing attention to their sexuality, mostly because I can understand the fear of being typecast as the gay writer/musician/actor/etc.

Of course, I'd be the first to admit that I might feel this way just because Morrissey can do no wrong in my eyes.

tornwordo said...

I see staying in the closet as a weakness. Like my smoking addiction.

Christopher said...

This is the very reason I wrote Anderson a blog note to break up with him last week. I couldn't handle the shame any longer. He's all yours now, Gayprof.

Michael Rebain said...

Sorry, GayProf, but your fixation on the obviously straight Ron (although I wouldn't mind if he eventually realized that he was gay) has blinded you to the much more obvious closet case on Kim Possible, Senor Senior, Jr.!

Dorian said...

I had dinner with my mom and my young cousins, two girls about 12 and 8, a couple of weeks ago, and the girls were merciless to me when I revealed that I knew nothing about Kim Possible. The fact that I didn't know who Hannah Montana was either seemed to get me labelled as terminally clueless in their eyes.

adjunct whore said...

thank you for the kim possible context: i've never seen the show but the images of ron, especially that last one, make your argument very convincing.

in terms of being out, i agree, there is no question that sexuality is not only a private issue--its grave public consequences include hate violence and speech, discrimination in house-buying, employment, health insurance, bereavement/'s impossible to state the limitless of both private & public results of widespread closetedness (a word?)

gay people should be out, but "outing" someone is, i think, an act of aggression i am instinctively opposed to. i don't give a crap about rich celebrities but as a practice, i could not advocate "outing"--the dangers are too real and we can't possibly know what they involve on some level. the small-town men, the men/women in the military, those homosexuals who come from restrictive, punishing, conservative homes--they are without question courageous. but not all people are. i'm not sure this personal limit deserves punishment.

GayProf said...

Chad: Well, one of the ways to end the typecasting problem would be for more actors to be out.

Torn: I think the closet can also be addicitive...

Christopher: Yeah -- I think he is on his own. We can stalk better.

Micahel Rabin: Well, Señior, Señior, jr., hasn't had a chance to come out. He is always under the shadow of his father.

I will point out, though, that he and Ron often share hair-styling tips.

Dorian: I know of Hannah Montana from ads that run during Kim Possible. Where did your nieces weigh in on the Ron queer factor? Or did that not come up?

Adjunct Whore: Well, I am not sure that I am advocating a massive campaign of outing. I agree with you that it could be destructive (and also makes being out seem like a punishment).

Still, I think we can continue to push for the need to be out. We also don't have to accept celebrities' excuses for not being out.

adjunct whore said...

gp: agreed. it should not be accepted and more, should be publicly and vocally critiqued.

Dorian said...

Gayprof--Oddly enough, we didn't engage in any discussion of Ron's sexuality. Based on how they react to Pete and I, I suspect the older girl would be uncomfortable, but she'd be equally uncomfortable with the thought of heterosexual romance. Her younger sister, on the other hand, gets upset if Pete and I don't show physical affection for one another, so she'd probably not mind a queer Ron.

To be perfectly honest, I don't think either of them like Ron very much anyway, so it's probably a moot point to them.

Red7Eric said...

Sorry to say, I'm not familiar with Ron Stoppable.

But I've recently changed my tune about celebrity closet cases -- a few short months ago, I thought they were all cowards and judged them harshly for not making a big splashy public coming out.

Now, I consider that Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper are likely as out as I am -- i.e., to their parents, friends, dates, and colleagues. Also, I wonder why I feel so entitled to judge them for their own personal choices.

I believe that the consequences of not coming out are much greater than any negative repercussions that openness might cause. And those consequences are borne every day by Mr. Cooper and Ms. Foster ... but not by me -- because I don't have to be closeted if I don't want to -- and I don't want to, and therefore I'm not. And other people's closets are none of my business. And that, as they say, is that.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I could not disagree with you more strongly: Ron Stoppable is clearly an awkward straight boy. He's always been head over heels for Kim, and he's never shown any affection for other male characters.

Besides, is there anyone less fabulous? Yes, I know it's a stereotype, but no more so than that he has to be gay because he doesn't fit in.

Huntington said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again - GayProf speaks for me.

Red7Eric, your assertion that other people's closets are none of your business is exactly what our hero and brilliant leader GP is denying so astutely (did I lay on thickly enough? I could add more...). As long as the option of the closet is there, we have work to do. The solution to the isolating oppression of the closet isn't some kind of pseudo-freedom of the semi-hidden; it's a collective openness that makes any closetedness untenable and absurd.

Having said all that Kumbaya stuff, I will agree that it's wrong to out someone else unless he's a Foley or a Haggard who's actively working against us.

dykewife said...

i'm of two minds about being "out." the first is that a person's sexuality is private and not anyone else's business. the other mind says that the more out people there are the more the homophobes and heterosexists will have to rethink their concept of "normality." however, we all know their paranoia won't allow that. the only thing they'd think is that their concept of the world and what is moral is under attack from all those people who want to convert them and their youngsters to the dark side. *sigh*

elmer fudd is gay.

The Goldfish said...

Nieces and nephews can be very useful in all this.

As a bisexual woman, I felt conflicted about whether coming out could actually be a bad thing for the cause; I'm married, it is so easy to pass now, bi femme women are one of the most acceptable faces of queer and I experience so little disadvantage that it seemed almost insulting to everyone else to be "out and proud". Plus, okay, I was shit-scared, carried a great deal of residual guilt and thought I might lose everyone.

But the birth of my nephew did it for me. Look at the diva. Of course, as little chance of being queer as any other infant, but this infant mattered terribly and the idea that he might have to go through the sort of thing that I went through... well, I wasn't going to stand for it.

Still in the process of, though. Got as far as my blog and my mother...

David Ehrenstein said...

Staying in the closet is worse that smoking. At least smoking is disapproved of in this culture (at last!) Staying closeted gets you all sorts of cred accompanied by high and mighty blather about "privacy" and "dignity" and all the other buzzwords used to excuse BEING A FUCKING COWARD!!!!!

That Moz is a Big Ol' Mo has been painfully obvious from nanosecond one. What on earth do you think "This Charming Man" is about, fercryinoutloud!!!?

"Outing" is not an "act of agression." It's a declaration of sanity and a commitment to truth.

Novice said...

I've wondered that about Ron myself. My sister (11) used to love Kim Possible...she said she looks like me...awww.

And Senor Senior Junior...he needs to wear a gown. He would be a fabulous drag queen, and he would be so much happier.