This has been a busy week in the world of the rich and gaymous. Alex P. Keaton's TV mom Meredith Baxter came out as lesbian, seasoned gay actor Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding) warned young actors to stay in the closet, and seasoned not-gay actor Ron Livingston (Office Space) is suing a hacker for continuously changing his Wikipedia page to say he is gay.
As the line between private and public lives continues to disintegrate (lookin’ at you, Tiger), many questions remain about the responsibility of LGBT celebrities. Is it their duty to lead the charge for equality? How out should they be? Will being openly gay hurt their career? These questions can only be answered by looking at the current climate for gay celebs. Here is a small sampling of different directions they could go:
Out, Proud & Good for the Movement: While this group is ever expanding, it is still led by power couple Ellen and Portia. Ellen has had a tumultuous journey, but right now her stock has never been higher. She reaches a diverse demographic that transcends all political ideology, and is able to gracefully convey the need for equality to her vital viewership by simply being open and honest about her life. Portia has also become an important spokeswoman, as evidenced inher eloquent interview on The View this week about how Prop 8 hurts families. This is probably the group that Meredith Baxter will fit into. In her coming out interview, she already demonstrated the ability to transform visibility into votes.
Gay on Screen, Tight-Lipped in Reality: This group was founded by the TV queen of flamboyance, Sean Hayes (Will & Grace). In the show, "Just Jack" claimed to have come out in Kindergarten, but his real life personality always refused to discuss his sexuality. Also refusing to reveal is Michael Urie, who plays super-gay fashion assistant Marc St. James on Ugly Betty. Chris Colfer, who plays openly gay high school student Kurt on Glee (the best show on television), is fairly matter-of-fact about being gay in real life when he speaks with gay friendly press, but in more mainstream interviews, he says "I try to keep up a mystery. As much as I give away of my personal life, the less people will believe me as other characters." This is so unfortunate, because when he does talk about being gay, he comes off as genuine, comfortable and hilarious (which is important for a comic actor), but when he tries to play coy about his sexuality, it seems forced and transparent.
Common Knowledge, But They’re Not Talkin’: Some gay celebrities opt for the "out in the inner circle, closeted in public" approach. Anderson Cooper and Jodi Foster have been on the top of this list ever since their famed OUT Magazine cover of 2007. Anderson says, “The whole thing about being a reporter is that you're supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt with any group you're in, and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that.” While that sounds high and mighty, it saddens me, because it means that he actively has to censor important people in his life. If a straight journalist brings their spouse to a charity event, they aren’t worried about it impacting their journalistic integrity, so Anderson and other gay journalists should be afforded the same freedom.
The bottom line is that, as with all LGBT people, gay celebs have the right to come out at their own pace. Nonetheless, I will still be hoping and praying for a future that includes a mass migration into the "out, proud and good for the movement" category.
(Photo Courtesy of LiGado Em Série's flickr photostream)