Zachary Quinto just came out of the closet. Why does this matter? Well, it ties in, both to my last post, and to the following video. If you haven't yet, go ahead and read my last post, then watch this video before you continue.
Now, before I continue, I would like to state plainly that I absolutely adore Tyson. I do, however, disagree with her on some points in the video above. I was originally going to record my own video response to this, but at the moment, I'm simply going to write it out here.
First and foremost, Bert and Ernie. I completely, 100% agree, that the fact that there was a petition in the first place, let alone that the story was overshadowing the final approval of Don't Ask, Don't Tell's repeal, is pure silliness. Want to move gay rights forward? Petition for a gay human couple to move onto the block at Sesame Street, and don't make a big deal out of it on the show. Time-honored puppet characters? Not the way to go.
I also agree that, in general, coming out should be the decision of the individual. I also agree with Maddow that if an individual is gay, and actively working to harm the gay community, forcible outing is absolutely an option, and one I strongly favor. How many rabidly anti-gay politicians are keeping a rent boy on the side? They argue publicly about how our group will bring about the downfall of society, and privately engage in sexual acts of which they are clearly ashamed, thus making them more rabid publicly. They are dangerous to the rest of us, and public, forcible outing discredits them with their constituency. I'm fine with that. In any other situation, I think that outing someone else is not acceptable, as it can cause problems for them both personally and professionally, and perhaps at times, even psychologically.
That said, I do believe that public figures have a responsibility to take the risks involved in coming out, and do so. Why? Because there are still risks involved, and that is wrong. I agree with Tyson that it shouldn't matter who you flirt with, or who you date. It shouldn't be any bigger news than what I had for breakfast this morning, or whether I called my mother sometime last week to chat. But how it should be, and how things actually are, are currently polar opposite one another. And as long as that is the case, people who are in the public eye and command respect for one reason or another, in my opinion, should absolutely come out and be open about who they are.
And there is a reason that straight people don't (often) come out and say, "I'm straight." That reason is, unless she has a mullet and a Harley, we don't assume the woman walking down the street is a lesbian. Unless he's wearing lavender pants and body glitter, rocking out to Lady Gaga and saying, "Girl, do you," every twelve seconds, we assume the man is straight. Straight people don't have to come out. They assume, rightly, that we already know. And if some guy is at a bar, telling his friends about this great girl he met last week in class, no one bats an eye. Now, I tend to prefer jeans myself, I hate body glitter, and I don't own any of Lady Gaga's music (though I may or may not own every Céline Dion album available in the United States). If the words, "Girl, do you," ever come out of my mouth, several people have strict instructions to make sure I don't make it out of there alive. But, I have a husband. And that's still a phrase that I use carefully, often at a slightly softer volume than the rest of the conversation, and with a wary eye to my surroundings, because it might make someone around me uncomfortable.
And that's the crux of the problem. Three of my managers at the bar are men with girlfriends, and the other is a woman with a husband. They can talk about their significant others without worrying about someone reacting poorly. People talk about life with their significant other all the time, and it has nothing to do with what they do in the bedroom. But be a gay guy talking about life with your boyfriend or your husband? Suddenly you're shoving your sexuality down people's throats, and they don't want to hear about what you do behind closed doors. Want to know what happens in my bedroom? About forty-four days out of forty-five, it's known as sleeping to the world at large. My life with my husband is not defined by "what we do in the bedroom." If gay relationships were half as exciting in the bedroom as most straight people seem to think they are, I'd never be able to walk again. Trust me, married life at my house consists of mostly the same things that married life is for anyone: paying bills, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning up after cooking, and scrubbing the toilet before company comes. We just happen to both be men. I'd like to be able to discuss that with people without worrying about whether they're going to knock my teeth out when they find out I'm married to Michael and not Michelle.
So how do we change it? How do we teach acceptance, so that day comes sooner and not later? Well, that's where high-profile figures coming out becomes not just important, not even essential, but crucial. Because the more visible gay people become, the more accepting of us society becomes, by extension. When renowned, respected actors like Zachary Quinto come out and say, "I'm gay," it changes the game, because now it's not some theoretical glitter boy that you'd see if you ever went down to Boystown in Chicago, not that you'd be caught dead in that part of town. Now, it's that guy that you love (or love to hate) on Heroes, and he doesn't wear glitter at all! And suddenly, for that young boy living in Nowhere, Backwater, USA, who doesn't have any interest at all in Madonna, but is pretty sure he wants to kiss other boys, there's a little more affirmation that he's okay, because this movie star is like him.
And as far as living your life as a public person vs. as a private one? Just because you're open about your sexuality, or your relationship, doesn't mean you have to be out, loud, and proud in the media about your every single movement. Ryan Reynolds was married to Scarlett Johansson for almost three years, and then they divorced earlier this year. That's about all you can find out about their relationship, because they're very private people. It doesn't make him any less straight because he doesn't spend every interview talking about the nitty gritty of his relationships for hours. And if Anderson Cooper is gay, nobody's asking him to spend hours on the air telling all his little dirty secrets about his relationship with his boyfriend/partner/husband/etc. But for some young boy out there in Nowhere who wants to be a newscaster someday and doesn't think he can because of who he would take to prom if "fag" wouldn't be spray painted on his locker, knowing that Anderson is dating a Jeff instead of a Jenny could be the light at the end of the tunnel.
When people like Jamey Rodemayer no longer feel like killing themselves is the only alternative to living with being gay, then coming out won't matter. Until that day, it is the most important thing we as a community can do to fight for our rights. We must be seen, we must be heard, and the kids out there in Nowhere have to know, and believe, that there's nothing wrong with them. Zachary Quinto just took us a little step closer to that world.