The politics of coming out are at once intensely private and innately public. It’s a complex subject, one singularly experienced in the gay community with far-reaching personal and political implications. There comes a point in all of our lives when we must speak this simple truth, if even only to ourselves at first, about who we are. Yet more complicated still is the prickly practice of outing. So then it matters how these most sensitive subjects gets portrayed, both on screen and in the media.
This week’s Glee tackled it head-on, bringing Santana’s sexuality out in the most public way possible and stirring debate about outing in the mainstream and LGBT communities. Finn outing Santana in the middle of a crowded high school hallway, and then that news being spread to everyone via a political ad (yes, it’s a ridiculous flouting of election law – let’s just go with it for now) was by far the most powerful centerpiece to the episode.
Here’s a look at how some of the more mainstream media sites reviewed the incident.
The Hollywood Reporter (and friend of AfterEllen.com Lesley Goldberg):
As you can see, there is an interesting array of opinions, even some of the same ones expressed here in the comments of our Glee episode recap.
I’ll lay my cards on the table immediately and tell you I am against outing. No one can make that decision for you; no one should take away your choice. It is your life and yours alone to live. In fact, we here at AfterEllen.com have a policy of not outing people precisely for that reason.
I will also say that I think people should come out, both for themselves and other LGBT people as a whole. The more people are out, the more the larger world will see we’re everywhere. The more people come out the harder it will be for strangers to hate us indiscriminately. Visibility helps things get better. And when you’re out, things are better. Maybe not right away, but ultimately, so much better. Being in the closet can be a terrible burden. So accepting yourself, that’s the first step. It’s better to embrace and love who you are for all the world to see, always.
Yet while some might argue that outing creates that perfect world of visibility and openness we strive for, I argue that it more likely drives those unprepared people deeper into the closet. It’s easy to be smug about outings if you’re out. Perhaps the memory of the panic of discovery, the fear of repercussions, the despair of rejection has faded. But it’s still a terrifying prospect for the not out. And down-right dangerous for far too many. So it’s unfair to force your time frame on someone else’s life.
So, intentionally or not, Finn outing Santana in a crowded high school hallway was wrong. Yes, Santana bullied him. Yes, that was bad. Yes, she should probably be reprimanded for such actions. But, no, she doesn’t then deserve to be outed. Having someone take one of the most personal decisions you’ll make in your life away from you is not OK.
Simply being a bitch isn’t a rationale for forcing someone out. Even if Santana has in the past been somewhat indelicate about the subject of other’s sexuality, it doesn’t justify these actions. And even if Finn didn’t intend for the entire world to learn about Santana’s secret, it was never his secret to share.
The question now is where Glee will take this storyline. For all that it sometimes does wrong, the show has overall done a good job of handling the thorny subject of sexuality. Kurt and Santana’s stories have been nuanced and meaningful. Can we nitpick? Sure. Do we demand a Brittana kiss? Hell yeah. But now what kind of fallout will result in Santana’s outing. What kind of message will it send to the show’s viewers, many of whom are struggling with their own sexuality?
I hope, for all parties involved both watching and on screen, that it’s a good, real one. And I hope, as always, that it gets better.