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Monday, 9 April 2007

'Outing' is back

Out magazine's May edition features two models holding masks of actress Jodie Foster and American TV news anchor Anderson Cooper in front of their faces, with the headline "The Glass Closet: Why Stars Won’t Come Out And Play."

Also named inside are David Hyde Pearce, of Frasier fame and Will and Grace star Sean Hayes.

Writing in Out, columnist Michael Musto says:
"Gay is inching toward becoming more OK in the entertainment world."

"In an increasingly gay-tolerant environment, these stars can enjoy actual relationships, they don’t have to constantly dredge up opposite-sex dates, and after a day of pretending for the cameras they can go back to almost being themselves."

"Even at their most controlling, straight stars never seem to leave out the fact that they're straight in interviews. Whenever a subject tells me, 'I won't discuss who I'm dating' or 'I resent labels,' I generally know not so much that they're passionate about privacy but that they're gay gay, gay."
Said Ian Mc Kellen,
"With all that liberal attitude (in Hollywood), you have a local industry which is saying to local people who live in the area, 'When you come to work, you are not gay.'"

"And I think to myself, 'Can people whose minds work like that make good films? And if at the heart of Hollywood there is that lie, how many other lies are there?"
It's not surprising that Outing's back as very little has changed in the past twenty years, especially in Hollywood where there are virtually no out gay actors but many gays and lesbians behind the scenes.

Foster defined the Hollywood closet in her 1992 Oscar acceptance speech:
“I’d like to thank all the people in this industry who have respected my choices and who have not been afraid of the power and the dignity that entitles me to”
Hollywood operates a 'no closet, the glass closet, the cast iron closet, and the closet you get buried in' policy — Rupert Everett has written about how being openly gay has cost him work.

Outing originally came out of AIDS and in particular the anger of American gays at hypocritical gay men in powerful positions — the first modern day occurrence was by the Act-Up activist Michael Petrelis of a right-wing closeted gay Senator who supported an anti-gay Bill.

It caused furious debate at the time.

Michaelangelo Signorile continued from Petrelis in the short-lived but very influential NY Magazine OutWeek, most notably outing Malcolm Forbes. He has continued to out others including Senator Barbara Mikulski and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman.

In the UK, it was most pointedly used by campaigners against the hypocrisy of the Anglican Church. And Matthew Parris's inadvertent outing of Peter Mandelson is infamous.

The author Gabriel Rotello, once editor of OutWeek, called outing "equalizing", explaining:
"What we have called 'outing' is a primarily journalistic movement to treat homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality in the media."

"In 1990, many of us in the gay media announced that henceforth we would simply treat homosexuality and heterosexuality as equals. We were not going to wait for the perfect, utopian future to arrive before equalizing the two: We were going to do it now."

"That's what outing really is: equalizing homosexuality and heterosexuality in the media."

Amistead Maupin:

"I've always felt that the only way around the enormous stigma and the bigotry that's been placed on homosexuality is to be matter-of-fact about it, to assume that there's nothing to be ashamed of."

Because semi-closeted people invite others into the lie, says gay columnist Richard Mohr:

"The point of outing, as I have defended it, is not to wreak vengeance, not to punish, and not to deflect attention from one's own debased state. Its point is to avoid degrading oneself."

Signorile argued in Queer In America: Sex, Media, and the Closets of Power:

"Average people have been outed for decades. People have always outed the mailman and the milkman and the spinster who lives down the block."

"If anything, the goal behind outing is to show just how many gay people there are among the most visible people in our society so that when someone outs the milkman or the spinster, everyone will say, 'So what?'"

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