Visibility Matters: Lindsay Lohan and the New Definition of “Out”

Visibility Matters is a new monthly column by AfterEllen.com Founder Sarah Warn about larger trends affecting lesbian/bi women in entertainment and the media.

I stopped keeping up with media’s obsessive coverage of 22-year-old Lindsay Lohan a few years ago, just before she entered rehab for the first time.

It wasn’t just because I lost interest in Lohan. In the last few years, the press has become obsessed with reporting on, and arguably creating, depressing news stories about young women engaged in self-destructive or self-obsessed behavior.

Television shows, entertainment and gossip websites, newspapers and magazines were overflowing with reports on Britney Spears’s marriage troubles, ongoing custody problems, and career missteps; the latest feud between Paris Hilton and her Simple Life co-star Nicole Richie; or Lohan’s public battle with her father, her drinking problems, and her inability to show up to work on time.

Around that time on AfterEllen.com, I instituted what I only semi-jokingly referred to as the “no Britney, Paris, or Lindsay” rule, which was intended to keep our writers from covering these topics (and others like them) on the site. Not only because they’re boring, annoying, and repetitive, but because I don’t take pleasure from reading or writing about young women self-destructing.

So when the first rumors and photos began circulating about a relationship between Lohan and 31-year-old DJ Samantha Ronson a few years ago, I ignored them — because of the aforementioned rule, and because I was skeptical.

As the months wore on and the stories persisted, I realized there might be some truth to the rumors, after all, but thought Lohan was just doing the bi-for-show thing that I have seen so many female celebrities do over the years (see: t.A.T.u, Drew Barrymore, Madonna, Bai Ling, etc.).

I began to reconsider recently when it finally became clear to me that the two were most likely involved in a serious relationship, and that Lohan had begun to turn her life around. She is now working successfully again (guesting on Ugly Betty, starring in the indie film Labor Pains), and instead of stories about DUIs, rehab, and workplace reprimands, the tabloids and gossip blogs only have Lohan’s ongoing feud with her father and speculation about her relationship with Ronson to write about. (OK, and still the occasional punching of a paparazzo — Rome wasn’t built in a day).

Ugly Betty co-star star Eric Mabius told OK! magazine this week that the actress was “fun to work with” and that “it was nice to see her girlfriend Sam visiting the set and offering her that support.”

Lohan with Ronson at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Sept. 6, 2008

All of which is good news, but puts me and other entertainment journalists with ethics (yes, we do exist) in a bit of a quandary.

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