We all know why coming out and living out is important — we’ve discussed it many times on this site. But sometimes, public figures can be scrutinized for the timing they have, or the way in which they choose to announce, “By the way, I’m gay.”
Chely Wright, for instance, came out on a set date as proposed by a Hollywood publicist, and it accompanied a memoir and album release, as well as a magazine cover story. Naysayers decided it was a publicity stunt, and some were even disappointed over the big reveal, asking, “Chely who?”
Many of us, though, stood by the country singer and her choices, and weren’t fazed by the way she decided to discuss her sexuality publicly. In fact, some of us became new fans of hers or supporters, at the very least. And that’s the case for most women who come out of the closet on TV, in a magazine interview or a press release. We’re a fairly supportive community.
That being said, however, there are some celebrities who, perhaps, we feel we should scrutinize. Maybe their comments weren’t aligned with how we feel about the importance of being truthful and honest about oneself. Maybe it’s their lack of comment on their sexuality that really has us debating our fanship. But, overall, we’re happy when there is a beautiful, well-known, talented face attached to identifiers like “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “out” or “in a relationship with a woman.”
And since there are so many ways that public figures have chosen to come out — from fear of being outed by a gossip rag to standing up for marriage equality at a rally to just living out every day with the discussion if it being so easy breezy they could care less about it being brought up — it just begs the question: Is there a right way to come out in the public eye? Who has done it well, and sets a great example for future celesbians?
Courtney Gillette: The best way for a celeb to come out is to come out with confidence. Take, for example, Cynthia Nixon. She’s high profile from her stint as Miranda on Sex In The City, the media is all abuzz about her relationship with Christine Marinoni (She’s dating a woman! They’re moving to Brooklyn! Just kidding!), and then she goes public in New York Magazine with the following statement about her relationship:
I never felt like there was an unconscious part of me around that woke up or that came out of the closet; there wasn’t a struggle, there wasn’t an attempt to suppress. I met this woman, I fell in love with her, and I’m a public figure.
Honesty! Straight-forward answers! A dose of humility! In another interview later on, she adds:
In terms of sexual orientation I don’t really feel I’ve changed. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.
Ah, confident declarations of same sex love. It’s music to my Miranda-loving ears. Follow it up with an engagement announcement at a marriage equality rally in New York, and you’ve got what I consider the perfect coming out story.
The Linster: Coming out is so personal, regardless of celebrity status, that I’m not sure I can judge what “doing it well” is. Behind the fame is a person with fears and shame and real life friends and family that may or may not accept a same-gender orientation. Do I have a right say that Meredith Baxter did it “wrong” because she kept her privacy until a tabloid took her picture on a lesbian cruise? I don’t think so. And if celebrities we assume are gay or bi, like Jodie Foster or Michelle Rodriguez, want to stay closeted, can I say that they don’t have a right to live their lives as they wish?
I have no idea who they really are or how they live. Even people who have not really hidden their lesbianism, like Jane Lynch and Lily Tomlin, have kept their own counsel about their private lives — out to those who know them and to whomever asks, but not feeling the need to have a television special about it. Are they better or worse than Ellen or Melissa or Chely or others who made coming out an event? Nope. Sure, I want everyone to be out and proud. But it took me 35 years — and I didn’t have the world watching when I did.
The day may be closer than ever that celebrities will just be les/bi and coming out will be a quaint memory from a previous generation. But for now, the best way for a celeb — or anyone else — to come out is the way they want to. And I’ll be cheering them on when they do.