I’m (Not) Gay…So What?

Female celebrities who face lesbian rumors do have alternatives to issuing statements that they are heterosexual; they may choose to state that their sexuality is a private issue that they do not discuss, or they may choose, eventually, to come out. Rock icon Joan Jett, who has long been rumored to be a lesbian and has always been very welcoming of her lesbian fans, told the Palm Springs Desert Sun this past spring: “I never made any kind of statement about my personal life on any level. I never made any proclamations. So I don’t know where people are getting that from.”

And L Word sex symbol Katherine Moennig, who has also been rumored to be a lesbian, has long insisted that she does not discuss her sexuality. She told USA Today in February 2005, "When it comes to my life and what I do off-screen, I don’t want to ruin that. What people do behind closed doors is their business."

Cast mate Mia Kirshner told Curve in July 2006, "I just don’t think it matters if people are gay or straight. Why would you assume that I was straight? What difference does it make? I’m very comfortable saying that I think men are beautiful and I think women are beautiful. I think it’s very personal and I just don’t think it matters anymore."

>But although an insistence on one’s personal privacy is the right of every individual, celebrity or otherwise, the idea that one’s sexual identity does not matter is challenged every day by the political battles waged on issues ranging from the rights of LGBT employees in the workplace to the national debate on gay marriage.

Celebrities such as Cynthia Nixon, Sheryl Swoopes, and Portia de Rossi, who carefully skirted questions about their sexuality before they decided to come out of the closet, have admitted that privacy aside, coming-out is not about revealing what goes on in one’s bedroom. All three women have suggested that coming-out is, at its most basic level, about being honest about who they are as individuals.

When Nixon came out to the New York Daily News in September 2004, she said, "My private life is private. But at the same time, I have nothing to hide. So what I will say is that I am very happy."

Last October, Sheryl Swoopes told ESPN magazine, "I’m just at a point in my life where I’m tired of having to pretend to be somebody I’m not. I’m tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love."

When Portia de Rossi spoke with The Advocate in September 2005 she crystallized, for many, the complex and conflicting feelings about coming out. "The most important thing for me was to never, ever, ever deny it," she said of her years of silence about her relationship with Francesca Gregorini. "But I didn’t really have the courage to talk about it. I was thinking, Well, the people who need to know I’m gay know, and I’m somehow living by example by continuing on with my career and having a full, rich life, and I am incidentally gay, but it’s not a big political platform. I justified it in so many ways. Believe me, I had a very, very long and difficult struggle with my sexuality."

For female celebrities in 2006, the question of how to address rumors of lesbianism ”which often arise for women who are successful and single, whether they are gay or not” no longer needs to be addressed with flat-out denial. Cross and Winfrey’s embracing of the LGBT community, even while they situate themselves as heterosexual, is a positive sign for gays and lesbians. It shows that the stigma that once came with those pesky lesbian rumors has lessened to a considerable degree.

For those such as de Rossi, Nixon, and Swoopes, who have chosen to come out in recent years, the more tolerant atmosphere has meant that their careers have not taken an automatic nosedive. That fear has been one of the main deterrents to coming out for celebrities in the past, and though it may still prevent many male celebrities from coming out, it seems that the situation, in this one particular case, is more beneficial for women.

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