For those of us who’ve been out for years, the delicate dance of the semi-closeted celebrity can be infuriating. The dance features a number of standard moves: the careful cultivation of pro-gay statements; the non sequiturs in response to questions about romantic life (”I’m just focused on my work!”); the lamentations that private life should never be discussed in public.
In many ways, the semi-closeted celebrity is far more maddening than the fully closeted politician or preacher, because the latter generally are guaranteed to provide some squirm-inducing moments of schadenfreude involving rentboys, European cruises and/or public bathroom stalls. Their tragicomic falls from grace are cautionary tales of what the closet can destroy.
But the semi-closeted celebrity is all about waiting for the inevitable. They know they’re gay, we know they’re gay, and they know that we know they’re gay, and we know that they know that we know, and so forth. And despite the pressures and challenges that some people may face at the prospect of coming out, it still reeks of an attempt to have things both ways. And again, for those who’ve already made the choice to come out, the translucent closet can be rather galling.
So, yes, I was glad Zachary Quinto finally pulled the ripcord and officially came out. I hesitate to put too much stock into the coming-out stories of celebrities, although I’m happy to admit that Quinto’s high-profile role as Mr. Spock in the new Star Trek franchise means I’m paying more attention than I normally would. He is, after all, playing a character who was part of my own experience growing up as a closeted, nerdy kid who took refuge in sci-fi movies and books. Having an openly gay man in that role resonates for me.
But that’s the point. Despite my otherwise jaded approach to celebrity coming-out stories, they actually are important. Having LGBT people being a part of the cultural landscape that plays around us every moment of every day says a lot about who we are as a nation, and undeniably helps ease the path for LGBT and questioning youth.
But there is still that strain of thought among some that all these discussions of orientation should be kept quiet. A commenter on the Metro Weekly website lamented, ”I think it’s kinda sad that we, as a people, have to know so much about everyone that we need to know if someone is gay or straight. … I think if you’re gay, that’s your business, and no one else’s. And if you’re straight, again, that’s your business.”
I chafe at this because I don’t consider my homosexuality to be a compartmentalizable piece of my personality, any more than my married straight relatives can be thought of in a way that doesn’t include their heterosexuality. No one is ”just” their sexuality, but none of us are whole without it. It’s not just our ”business,” it’s our life.
We spend a lot of time as a movement debating and arguing over what we need to do to achieve equality: support this candidate, donate to this organization, collect signatures for this ballot initiative. But time and again we’re reminded that the most important thing is for our neighbors and co-workers and leaders to realize that LGBT people are a part of their own lives. The most important step for any of us is to come out — whether it’s the first step out of the closet, coming out to a new boss or introducing your partner as a spouse rather than friend.
Our best allies are the ones we see in the mirror.