Can you imagine your sexual preferences splashed across the cover of US Weekly? Can you imagine if you felt that you had to issue a public statement about your sexuality? What if the headline of your “coming out statement” got 43,383 likes on Facebook in just one week?
People in the public eye are constantly under scrutiny, especially when it comes to their sexuality. Remember when everyone already knew that Ellen Degeneres was gay, but finally said so on TV? She lost her job, got blacklisted for a while, and suffered unnecessary and unwanted media intrusion into her personal life. In the end, she came out on top. When celebs go public with their GLBTQ status, I often think, “Who the hell cares? Why are they doing this?”
When I saw a headline on Facebook that actor Jim Parsons (two-time Emmy winner and Golden Globe winner of The Big Bang Theory) is gay, I clicked through to read the story (I’m a HUGE fan of the show). What struck me most about the story was not that he’s gay, nor that he’s been in a long-term relationship longer than I’ve known my husband, but that he’s 39 years old! I thought to myself, “39!?!. He can’t be – he looks too young for 39!” Then I thought (because in my head, I’m friends with him): “Jim, why do you (or the media) feel the need to expose this side of your personal life to the world?” I mean, would his life be any different if he read a public statement about my sexuality? Of course not! Again, who the hell cares?
After considering the answers to these questions for a long time, here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: in the grand scheme of things, no one actually cares about a celebrity’s sexual preferences. But here’s why I think they come out publicly anyway: people who are marginalized inevitably become ambassadors for their cause. Let’s go back to Ellen. By coming out, Ellen has successfully managed to get people (fans AND haters) to see her for the kind, loving, funny, smart, successful person that she is, not the lesbian that she is. People can finally see the forest for the trees, or the person for the lesbian, if you will. When a person learns of Jim Parson’s 10 year relationship, I hope they think, “Huh, for the past 10 years a gay man has had a successful relationship that didn’t affect my heterosexual relationship, my life, my job, my hopes and dreams, or my thoughts, even One. Tiny. Bit.” When celebrities come out, these “ambassadors” allow us the opportunity for personal growth, an opportunity to love one another, an opportunity to evolve.
I can’t wait for the day when people can openly talk about their sexuality the same way people openly talk about which grocery store they prefer. Until we arrive at that place as a society, here are three things YOU can do to make all kinds of sexuality “normal” and accepted:
1) If you don’t know, ask. If you aren’t sure which pronoun to use, ask. If you aren’t sure how to introduce someone, ask. Here’s an example: my brother-in-law’s partner (a woman) does not like to be introduced as his “wife” – she prefers “partner.” Meanwhile, my female co-worker prefers that I introduce her partner (a woman) as her “wife.” Instead of making an ass out of yourself, just ask.
2) Call others out. When you hear someone saying, “that’s so gay” or making homophobic comments, call them out on it. I do this to my own family. You don’t have to be mean about it, just correct them and tell them why it bothers you when they use that kind of language.
3) Believe. Believe deep in your heart that all people really do deserve equal rights. Believe that what you say, how you act, and what you teach your children really does matter, because it does.
4) Advocate. If you accomplish #3, this will happen naturally.