New York Observer takes on media outing of gay celebrities


By Dennis Ayers[e]After Elton[m]

The New York Observer has a very interesting piece on Wednesday called “Outward Bound: Celebs Struggle To Keep Sexuality Secret(ish), But Media Make Mischief

In it, author Daniel D’Addario rounds up the usual glass closet suspects: Anderson Cooper, Queen Latifah, etc. and tosses in a new one for good measure (Chace Crawford). Then he asks various journalists how their media outfits handle coverage of them.

Illustration by Dale Stephanos for New York Observer. Via After Elton.

I was struck by this quote from journalist Brian Moylan (previously at Gawker, now at Moylan thinks not reporting on someone’s sexual orientation is a rights issue:

“You don’t write a profile about Chris Evans being in The Avengers without asking who he’s dating. You ask Daniel Craig about his recent marriage—and he gets pissed off, but you report the answer. Not asking people about who they’re dating is discrimination. Plain and simple.”

I’m not sure I agree with the “rights issue.” (Who exactly is being discriminated against? The straight celebrities who face greater scrutiny in their personal lives than their gay peers?) But discrimination or not, it clearly shows a double standard.

Right here at AfterElton, we have struggled of late to figure out the best way to report on public figures who are most certainly gay, but who seem to go to great lengths NOT to talk about that subject.

As AfterElton is focused on gay visibility in popular culture, we want to celebrate those public figures who we think are positive gay role models. And so, when we talk about a celebrity who is on record as being gay we often refer to that person as an “out gay actor” or “out gay singer,” etc.

But how are we to refer to people such as Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons? Gay, certainly. But “out” gay? It certainly doesn’t feel like that when their management tells you that for an interview all personal questions are off the table. Should we refer to them as “gay” at all when they clearly don’t want the attribution in the public sphere?

Honestly, it would be so much easier if sexual orientation were treated like any other basic biographical fact. “He’s left handed, of Polish extraction, he’s twenty eight… he’s gay.” And we do seem to be moving in that direction. In fact, courts are starting to find that it’s not libel to claim someone is gay. But we’re not yet at the point where someone’s sexual orientation is totally fair game for reporting.

Gawker’s Nick Denton thinks we’re getting there though. He gives it five years before everything is open, “all secrets out there.”

We’re looking forward to seeing what that looks like.

Check out the full Observer piece here.

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