Director’s note: It’s been almost 17 years since Ellen DeGeneres made headline news with her coming out story. Below, thinkpeace workshop Intern, GARMIN, asks us to look at why the media continues to focus on celebrity sexuality. We appreciate the bravery that it takes to come out in today’s world and still, we wonder when we will live in a world where we simply value love, in all forms. Imagine!
I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. Now, it’s not often that I am these things, so you know when I am it’s for a good reason. In the past week two celebrities came out as gay. Now, I’m NOT mad about them being gay, in fact quite the opposite– I’m stoked for them; props for being you. I’m mad and angry and frustrated because why the hell are we still talking about it? Why is coming out still such a big deal? Should every person come out regardless of their sexual or gender identity? Should my friends come out and say, “Hi I’m a straight cis-gender woman?!” I don’t know. I do know that I am so over talking about this.
A couple nights ago my best friend Anne (sometime you’ll meet her if she ever agrees to let me interview her) and I were debriefing the week as we often do. I was explaining my frustration to her about all these celebrities coming out and it being such a big deal and on the cover of every mediocre newspaper and magazine in the US. She looked at me, smiled, and shared this quote by comedian Liz Feldman, “It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage. Or, as I like to call it: ‘marriage.’ You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. I get coming out. I came out as queer to Anne in August 2011, and then it was a whopping 7 more months before most of the people in my life knew. Coming out is hard, those 7 months were the hardest months of my life– hiding isn’t fun, fear of rejection isn’t fun, the jokes are mostly not funny, and it is oh so liberating. Liberating to be yourself and step into your full authenticity.
Last May, when DOMA and Edie Windsor were in the Supreme Court fighting for rights, I wandered up to Capitol Hill to see what the general vibe was, simply out of curiosity. I saw something fascinating: two clear sides, a “YES! We support equality” side and a “NO! You are a bad person” side. Quite simply, while this wasn’t all that surprising it was interesting because it did support my theory about the data that had just been released, “The coveted 18-34 age group is “85% positive toward gay rights and gay marriage and gay inclusion.” And so what does this mean?! It means a majority of my peers, ages 18-34 could care less what you are, its people of older generations who don’t agree with it. And it’s also not surprising that the heads of the top 10 most circulated newspapers in the US (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/01/newspaper-circulation-top-10_n_3188612.html) are over 34. So to get to the gist of it real quick, it is them, the heads of the newspapers who are influencing whether or not a story on the latest celebrity coming out gets the front page or a little tiny sentence on “page 6.” This is HUGE. We are being spoon fed society and culture based on the interests of a handful of older, mostly white men and so it makes perfect sense that they will give us what THEY believe matters most. For a bit of contrast, let me offer this: Huffington Post, run by notable media mogul and PowerGirl Arianna Huffington, reported on Ellen Page coming out not as a “Hey Look, another celebrity comes out!” instead, posting all of the positive tweets and comments Page had received with a short blurb on her coming out. I’m not saying that all men-run newspapers and magazines are bad and women-run newspapers and magazine are good– I love the New York Times Style Section as much as the next person! I’m saying that we need to get clear, PowerGirls, on where our media is coming from!
To come back to my original frustration, I don’t have any clear answers or theories on why we are still obsessively talking about celebrities coming out. I understand that if your favorite celebrity comes out and you are struggling to come out, then it might provide some hope for your own situation. And I don’t think that is enough substance to justify talking about it mercilessly. And so, PowerGirl, this week I challenge you to check out where your media is coming from, who they are, what do they want you to get, and then go make your own decision. Figure out what you believe. From the words of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, I give you this, “It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference! Live on and be yourself.”
As always send me your thoughts, comments, and questions: email@example.com