By Guest Writer, WWG
This past week, three different celebrities – Jillian Michaels, Anne Burrell and Jim Parsons – came out. Or, more so, they acknowledged what was already highly speculated upon – that they are gay. It used to be HUGE news if even one celebrity hinted at bisexuality, and now three, albeit not super famous, but still well known names came out. I purposely read the comments below the articles, which as anyone who has read the commentary below a celebrity article knows can make you weep for the intelligence and sanity of humanity. It is something to do at your own risk, for certain. So, as I read Jillian’s news on People, Anne Burrell in Page Six, and that of Jim Parsons, the thing that both shocked and pleased me most were how many people said something along the lines of “who cares about their sexuality?” Sure, there were a few making disparaging and rather cliché negative comments, but the overall majority was not only cool with it, but supportive, congratulatory, and annoyed that the disclosure of one’s sexuality was even worth an article. Even better, the responses to the negative commentators was along the lines of “you’re a moron, go away.’ Yay!
Have we really come that far? As a teenager, I remember that whenever some female celebrity in the public eye would come out, my thoughts were along the lines of “awesome, now I can have a chance!” Nevermind that most of them were 20 to 30 years older, I wasn’t attracted to them, and I highly doubt they’d be interested in my little teenaged suburban self (and thank god). The overall idea and dream behind it was – I too can have that. I too can dream of that possibility. Don’t get me wrong, Leonardo DiCaprio was quite pretty and a good supplement for a bit! But as all my friends drooled over whatever heartthrob was on the cover of the teenage mags – even though I wasn’t ready to be out to myself let alone anyone else – the connection, the recognition of “that’s my people” was there whenever a lesbian celebrity came out. I too could dream of my Princess Charming Movie Star/Rock Star/Sports Star to sweep me off my feet (and out of my boring classes).
Celebrity has power in that it is an easy connector and a common talking point amongst strangers and friends. Each of these people has been in the homes of people in every part of the country – blue states, red states, and something in between. Yes, they each appeal to a very different sector of the population, but that’s the point – queer exists everywhere. And if you don’t know someone on the queer spectrum in your daily life, you do at least know (and likely “care about”) one who is on your TV and there during your leisure time for you. Don’t get me wrong, celebrity in and of itself or what a celebrity does or doesn’t do doesn’t define how I act or respond to life. I hope what a celebrity does doesn’t decide your life choices either.
But the freedoms granted those who are most under a microscope, who need to appeal to the broadest audience to make their living, is most definitely reflective of the society we live in. Many years ago Liberace sued a newspaper for stating he was a homosexual – and won. LIBERACE!! In the past, they didn’t have the freedom to be themselves in terms of their sexuality – openly. Sure, things went on behind closed doors as they always do with humanity (and still do). But nowadays, publicists are galvanizing media to plan a mass coming out (Chely Wright)! Being gay is no longer the full on career ruiner that it used to be.
And now, whenever I hear of a celebrity coming out, my inner teenage self has the same reaction – I too can have that. I too can dream of that possibility.