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Outing celebrities against their wishes doesn't help the LGBT community at all


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Another day, another reason to get annoyed at fellow journalists across the pond. King of all things fantasy and sci-fi, Lee Pace was forced to come out as a member of the queer community last week.

The actor, who is probably most famous for portraying the unforgettable Thranduil in The Hobbit franchise, spoke to W Magazine in a piece published Wednesday, February 28 about his role in the Broadway revival of “Angels in America”, a production set during the AIDS crisis.

When asked about his sexuality, Pace refused to label himself but rather explained, “I’ve dated men. I’ve dated women. I don’t know why anyone would care. I’m an actor and I play roles.”

He also appeared to be taken aback, adding, “To be honest, I don’t know what to say ― I find your question intrusive.”

He uploaded a tweet thread last Monday about the interview, explaining the importance he places on privacy, but also the understanding the importance of “living openly, being counted, and happily owning who I am”.

Once you dig in a little bit, however, it’s easy to find that it’s far from the first outing rodeo of Brian Moylen, the reporter behind this interview.

In 2012, Brian Moylan gleefully wrote about his outing of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, taking the classic reporter creed of reporting facts accurately towards the kind of invasive, disrespectful strategy that leads to shock and horror-style headlines, and to the generating of more clicks:  

“Those are precisely the same reasons that fueled what I am happy to admit was my personal crusade to nudge Cooper slowly out of the closet, whether he wanted to come or not.”

Gee, I wonder why journalists are always in the bottom row of disliked professions.

So, I feel like we have already been through this, but let me introduce to this groundbreaking concept: people’s romantic lives, and by extension, their sexualities (looking at non-straight ones, as those are the ones that can put you in danger), are their own flippin’ business.

By another extension, celebrities’ choice to come out – or not – is contingent on their own decision, not on whether or not “it’s good for the community”.

Yes, we need more proud, successful queer people to combat negative stereotypes. Yes, celebrities boast platforms which can enable messages of tolerance to reach a varied, massive, and oftentimes international audiences, and would generally be better protected from the worst of the inevitable backlash. That, however, should happen only with their own consent, and on their own schedule.

What is also true is that we are living in a world where LGBT spaces are more visible than ever. There’s already work being done towards normalizing queer lifestyle (however you would like to define that) to western audiences: small things like a sub-par semi-journalistic websites using a stock image of two men holding hands, for example, might be a normal thing for British readership now, but not to the Bulgarian one (where I’m from).

Of course, the battle is far from over (my own, terrified-but-proud, yet quasi-out existence as an average bisexual woman is testament to that), but it shouldn’t be fought by sacrificing the privacy of those who are not ready to share what shouldn’t be headline news, but still is in 2018.

Coming out is still a political act of activism (though we can all agree it shouldn’t be), even in western public spaces where it’s generally more accepted. So look at queer activists, look at allies, look at celebrities who are out; no shortage of LGBT+ idols warrants bullying people into coming out.

Although we have seen terrible outings of people in the British public sphere (looking at you, Daily Mail), as a person who has studied British media law, I can guarantee British press makes a better balancing act between privacy and freedom of speech than the American press, who are notoriously bad at respecting privacy.

If we call for celebrities’ personal lives to be respected, that extends to queer celebrities’ decisions about making their sexuality public or not.

This story in particular has a happy end: though Lee Pace called W Magazine out for asking intrusive questions, and later came out in a Twitter thread, a brief cursory glance of the replies reveals positive messages.

Brian Moylan doesn’t seem to have learnt his lesson, but sadly he works in an environment, which allows him to do that, and justify it with a seemingly noble cause.

So, hey, Brian Moylan, I come from a country with a crappy LGBT rights track record and I’m desperately in need of people to fight the stigma world-wide.

But here’s another thing we do in the queer community: we respect people’s decision to come out (or not) on their own terms and in their own time.

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