"The negative influences on the gay culture are being promulgated by people who are widely known to be gay and who continue to act as if it's a topic of non-discussion. I'm thinking specifically about people like Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper. They're gay, but never talk about it. They are perpetuating the notion that being gay is a secret shame. We still respect closets far too much in this society. I'm very proud of the fact that Ian McKellen once asked me if I thought he should come out, and I said yes--and he's credited me with that. I tend to be a little cheeky about this topic because I think it's important--there are teenagers still committing suicide over their sexuality."
- Armisted Maupin
I don't really know what to think of this.
There's all sorts of theory racing through my head, and every bit of it conflicts the other.
On one hand, I disagree. I am adamant in my belief that not everyone should have to be a poster-gay, and no one should be forced to disclose things about themself (grammatically incorrect yet gender inclusive? I choose yes) that they are not ready for.
Yet, I don't know that this is Maupin's argument.
Whether or not they choose to acknowledge it, by virtue of the society in which we live every single person is assumed to be straight unless they explicitly say that they are not. Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper are only the most glaring examples of this. All the kids in the gay community are sitting in their armchairs, watching CNN, knowing that Coops is a friend of Dorothy, yet if I were to bring this up to someone else (a non-gay, of course) it would not only be absurd, but offensive.
And this is where I have the problem.
See, if its a negative to assume that someone is gay, then we can just use our seventh grade algebra skills to realize that it is also negative to actually be gay. So when I say, "Oh man, look at that lez over there" and Sally Straightfriend says "You really shouldn't assume she's a lez," I get real, real offended.
Why shouldn't I assume? People assume I'm straight all the time, and that's just fucking weird. Like its such a bad thing to assume a person is a homo? Even if I'm wrong, I can just be like, "Oopsy, I mean, how's your boyfriend Linda, my bad." No harm, no foul.
So, even though they may not mean to, I have to agree with Maupin when he argues that "they are perpetuating the idea that being gay is a secret shame." I sincerely doubt that this is their reasoning for not coming out. I have to assume that Jodie Foster is cool with her sexuality, and just doesn't really feel like talking about it all the time as the only facet of her identity.
But, that doesn't change the way it is perceived. Is this her fault? Certainly not. Is it her job to fix it? I'm not really sure. If you know that what you're doing is hurting a community that you're a part of, then to continue doing it seems odd, but I also realize that to come out would be pretty much putting the camera on only that for at least the next 4 years, after which is will always be mentioned before anything actually worthwhile. What used to be "Oscar-winning actress" will now forever be "Lesbian Oscar-winning Actress". And that's just fucking annoying.
So what's a gay to do? Get pissed off when the media outs people? Get pissed off at people for not being out? Stop reading stuff that once out-ed someone before it seemed they were ready, or stop watching movies that ohmygodyou'reobviouslygay people are in until they fess up? It's doubtful that any of this would do any good.
See, the problem is never the staff writer at the NY Post or Jodie Foster. Its the society that places so much value on being straight, where so much excitement is caused by knowing whether or not someone is a homo. How do we fix that? I'm fairly certain that Maupin's argument is that you fix it by normalizing it, and with that I have to agree. If it was never a big deal when someone came out, then it would never be a big deal if someone stayed in, either.
So, you know, keep that in mind.