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"Come on, people, just say the words. Or just mouth them," columnist Michael Musto begs of closeted gay and lesbian celebrities. Celebrity outings have always been a hot page-turner. As of late, however, famous gay rumors have turned into a gay witch hunt eerily similar to today's Pentagon outings of gay and lesbian military personnel under 'don't ask, don't tell'. Pentagon officers scour the internet for an ounce of truth to validate rumors of homosexuality within the ranks. Gossip columnists vie to be the catalyst for a media blitz that will inevitably out famous gays. In most cases—just like the military—we gays hunt our own.

Neil Patrick Harris, Lance Bass, T. R. Knight, and Anthony Callea were recent victims of this blogger outing machine.

On the other hand, some organization like, Out in TV & Film, encourage celebrities in the entertainment industry to come out by providing support. In a new ad campaign, Out in TV & Film asks TV and film A-listers why they feel the need to stay in the closet amid their existing fame. They encourage closeted celebrities to "come out and lead" as one ad puts it. In another spot, comedian Judy Gold asks,
"Why lie? Why feed into prejudice and hate and intolerance. There are going to be those that hate you; but there's always going to be those that hate you."
Of course, there are a number of celebrities that are driven further in the closet by their own fears and the rampant homophobia surrounding us, but what about the celebrities that have made conscious chooses to keep their private lives private?

In the May 2007 issue of Out magazine, columnist Michael Musto explores what he calls the glass closet in his article "The Glass Closet: Why The Stars Won't Come Out and Play". Musto claims that public figures that live in the glass closet "avoid the career repercussions of any personal disclosure while living their lives with a certain degree of integrity." Musto further explains, "Such a device enables the public to see right in while not allowing them to actually open the latch unless the celebrity eventually decides to do so [themselves]."

Musto then accuses the press of protecting glass-closeted celebrities by giving them license to be ambiguous about their sexuality.
"The press still gives a free pass to people like Good Morning America weather anchor Sam Champion and CNN presence Anderson Cooper, helping to keep their glass doors shut so they can lead gay social lives while carefully skirting the issue." Musto continues, "The media has a field day with all kinds of oddballs, but the earnest TV-news presences—whom everyone has a crush on—get 'protected,' even though Cooper has been seen in gay bars in New York and Champion sightings have long been reported from Fire Island to the Roxy."
Does proof of celebrity sexuality lie in the pit of rumors? And are they enough to cite media conspiracies? I, for one, have heard more than a few individuals speculate over Anderson Cooper's sexuality. Interestingly enough, they all claim to see him in different gay bars in different cities. It seems these days everyone has a cousin who has a best friend who has a boyfriend that has seen Eddie Murphy or Anderson Cooper at the gay club. These rumors could very well be true. Even so, don't they have a right to revel their sexuality in whatever light they feel best?

In no way are celebrities obligated to come out publicly simply because they are gay or lesbian and definitely, even if us fans desire to have our insatiable curiosity satisfied. Some critics claim attack celebrity character if a closeted A-lister refuses to clarify his or her sexuality. They accuse these glass celebs of living a lie while at the same ignoring the emotional and mental needs of the celebrity.

In reality, there are many gay and lesbian A-listers. Their lives continuously circulate throughout the public domain. Shouldn't they—just as any other LGBT person—be given the power to come out when it suits them best?

In a Gay Life interview, former NBA player John Amaechi talks about the timing of his disclosure,
"I wanted to [come out] in a way that I could control to make sure that the message was confluent and coherent and that I was mentally, physically and emotionally resilient."
Emotional stability and appropriate timing are the key pieces of the celebrity outing puzzle that are often taken for granted. Out in TV & Film tells celebrities that they are people and not products, yet celebrity gossip columnists treat celebrity sexuality as if the public owns it. Outers then feel offense when their rumored celebrity refuse confirm the rumors.

Michael Musto does highlight negative side affects of coming out in Hollywood,
"Rupert Everett describes losing jobs in About a Boy and Basic Instinct 2 specifically because he’s openly gay. What’s more, Everett deserved an Oscar nomination for My Best Friend’s Wedding, but the Academy generally frowns on out gays playing gays—it’s not really acting, after all."
Nonetheless, it is Hollywood that should have its glass closet cleaned for creating a climate where celebrities feel they must hide. That cleansing of homophobia in Hollywood shouldn't happen on the backs of gay celebrities that choose to stay private. Openly gay celebrities do create awareness and awareness births tolerance. For this reason actors like Rupert Everett and Ian McKellen should be applauded. Both refuse to associate sexuality with talent. Other famous people are just not there yet and may never get there. Must we forget the fears and insecurities that kept us in the closet for however many years? Coming out takes courage and for some courage takes time.

We all live in glass closets in some form or another. Even when we are out, we selectively chose which details of our personal lives are disclosed to whom and when. We are all empowered with the right of individual choice dictated by our own emotional and mental health. Sadly, some are slower than other to reach a pinnacle of free expression (if they ever do at all). In those cases, it is not our responsibility to shatter their glass closet nor it is their responsibility to crack the ones we live in.

Related: Should Gay Celebrities Be Outed?

Images © PlanetOut, Inc.; Julia Freeman-Woolpert respectively.
Comments
April 11, 2007 at 5:54 am
(1) aaron jason silver says:

I believe that no one should be outed whether they are a celebrity or just any Joe Blow. I do however believe people should be outed under one circumstance and that is if they are openly expressing disdain for homosexuaility and are being hippocrits about it. An example is there are many polititians that are gay but choose to vote down gay rights,marriage,adoption etc. This does not just apply to polititians but anyone that is a closeted gay and openly denounces gays for any reason whatsoever. Thank you, Aaron Jason Silver. http://www.aaronjasonsilver.com

April 11, 2007 at 5:31 pm
(2) Mark Flores says:

People like Michael Musto live off the fringe element of society and they seem content to do so. Other celebrities rely on the mainstream for their paychecks. I understand the desire to even the playing field for those who have worked openly in the gay trenches, but coming out does change things. When Ellen came out her career was affected by it and it took her some time to regain momentum again. Some lesbian comedians like Kate Smith feel that Ellen has made it easier for others to be out, but harder for lesbian jokesters to move up the ranks to the mainstream because Ellen has sort of cornered the gay comedianne market. For someone like Ian McKellen coming out seems easier, careerwise because of his type. He plays wizards and dowty, octagenarians, whereas Rupert is more of a leading man and his type has more at stake in the public perception, so it’s tricky. Not everyone can be as lucky as Ellen or Ian. I would have a hard time making that decision if there was enough evidence that I would be hurt by it financially. Kevin Spacey would be one of those actors who would probably not have that hard of a time, given that much of his career these days is spent in the theatre, but then again it is an individuals choice.
I agree that Hollywood should change, but they are driven by the almighty dollar and that is a very provocative motivation. It will probably never happen.
I think people do the best they can. We strive to make a difference but we have to be honest about what we are willing to sacrifice along the way.

April 12, 2007 at 7:24 pm
(3) Donte says:

I think you should not be outted if your in the closet in Hollywood. I mean I would really want to know if JTT, Elijah wood or Shila Buff where gay. But at the same time wouldn’t want them pushed out into the open. It’s kind of fun to never really know rather or not a star is gay or not. Leaves you with a bit of hope. A little something to dream about. Ya know that off chance you might meet one of them and fall in love. I dunno just my thoughts.

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