Friday, 13 December 2013

What's The Big Deal About Coming Out?

What is the big deal? 

When Tom Daley, the English 2012 Olympic diving bronze medalist, announced via YouTube in early December that he's happy in his relationship with another man, the news not only hogged British headlines and feeds of both traditional and social media, his 'confirmation' was a talking point in the comments section of some dailies whose readers are regularly more vocal about sociopolitical issues such as pension, rail fare, tube strikes, National Health Service (NHS), and benefits appropriation.   

The 2012 London Olympics pool shower shot that raised the alarm.

Here are screen shots of Metro's comments section:

To quote one of the readers, "In this day and age, is being gay really such a big thing that it ends up as front-page story on a newspaper or as a lead item in the evening news?" And another, "When did sexual orientation become news?"

The above statements are of course open to misinterpretation and can be mottled by claims of discrimination, but yes, I agree--how would a person's or for this matter, a celebrity's sexual orientation not be a feast of curiosity subject to spectacle when it is treated as such especially by the media and some gay men themselves?

Long before Tom's very public announcement, gay and straights alike have been speculating about his sexuality, so I suppose the giddy and jubilant reaction amongst gay men is simply a show of excitement and but-of-course-you-are-what-makes-you-think-you're-not familial support. I'm as straight as my hair but I joined the coming-out party, mainly because majority of my closest friends are gay men, and I was happy for Tom to finally tell the world (or least Britain) that yes, he's indeed in love--with a man.

As a well-loved public figure, he's obviously careful with his image and how it is perceived by the public, which, let's face it, is still generally homophobic, so he tempered his announcement by slightly reversing after changing gears, saying that he still fancies girls. 

A friend explains the above, in gayspeak, as he claims, as sort of a peace offering to girls he (applies to others) had been intimate with who knew he was gay but dismissed their gut feeling as more of stereotyping a fit and ripped beautiful young man. He loves the feeling of security and being special with another man, but he still cares for the girls and would love to still see them to share popcorn with.

I then queried my other gay friends if they have ever shared popcorn with girls (I'm 100% sure I've never ever shared popcorn with them). It's a resounding NO.

Coming Out or Staying Silent?

I have a friend who left what could have been a promising showbiz career back in Manila as the talent company (something like Simon Cowell's Syco) he had a contract with insisted on him covering up his homosexuality. I thought that if he went ahead, either he would forever be silenced by the cultural stigma of coming out, or he would eventually be an all-out drag like another Filipino celebrity who was once married to a woman but now physically resembles the ex, or he would do what Tom Daley, Joe McElderry, and Ricky Martin have done: go public.

 Remember Joe McElderry? He won the 6th series of X Factor UK in 2009. The following year, he announced on his website that he's gay. Perhaps because the public knew it for a fact all along from the moment he auditioned for X Factor, the news was sucked into obscurity. In a way, maybe the public felt that some celebrities use their sexual orientation as publicity to revive a floundering career. And I'm not saying that Joe played the game, but the public does think that sexuality-related announcements could be a career move ploy when noise is made out of complete silence.

Ah...Ricky Martin. He shot to fame via the Puerto Rican boyband Menudo which I went gaga over. I can categorically say that he was my very first crush. When he publicly and proudly acknowledged also in 2010 that he's gay, it didn't cause quite a stir, for Ricky had gone past the peak when it was best to drop the bomb. In other words, everyone already had a clue. He still makes me dance to 'She Bangs' though.

  In 2010, prior to Martin coming out, Barbara Walters expressed some regret for pushing Martin in a 2000 interview to admit if he was gay. The Toronto Star quoted her as saying, "When I think back on it now, I feel it was an inappropriate question" (lifted from Wikipedia).

I do think that asking if a person's gay is invasive and too probing, in the likeness of a woman being asked if she can have children or not. And this is the reason why I don't completely agree that a person's sexual orientation should be announced, confirmed or denied.

Being gay, though a significant part of asserting one's identity, is not a phenomenon. It's not a diagnosed illness or pre-existing condition that has to be disclosed, say, for insurance purposes. It's not a dirty little secret. It's not someone's other self that is allowed out only on special occasions.

Most of all, it's not the public's business.

But then, when you're a public personality (and perhaps you have some corporate sponsors who exercise opinion on how your image is projected), you seem to owe the public an unsolicited explanation to dissipate the rumours. At the same time, you owe it the people wo admire you to inspire them that it's perfectly alright and liberating to be yourself. 

But is it Tom Daley's own making that him, being gay, is news?  I do feel that the media's reporting paints homosexuality as unnatural, unprecedented, tabloid material, a state of oddity, peculiarity and novelty that dwarfs other headline-worthy news. The public, in turn, is left with that impression and sees such news the way it is presented to them.

I wish to see future decisions of coming out as being in the same league as women celebrities announcing that they're expecting. It's still none of our business, but it's so quotidian that it doesn't land the headlines unless you're HRH Duchess of Cambridge. 

No, actually, let me backtrack, I wish to not see celebrities coming out via social media and landing the headlines in the future. They don't have to go through the spectacle of having their sexual orientation scrutinised, nor their relationships.

The fact is, some people are gay. Let's all get over it.


  1. It's sad that even in the present time we live in that many people feel they should or have to cover up who they really are. I had a co-worker who did not come out until his last day, even though we all knew, he said it was freeing for him.

    Happy Holidays Marj and thanks for the comment! x/Madison

    1. Gay men are so part of my life, I feel strongly about this. I don't see them as anything other than who they are.

      Happy holiday, too Madison! xxx

  2. It's meaty. It's juicy. It's gossip. We all love to gossip. And media capitalises on this love for gossip to earn. A recent example: The death of freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was eclipsed by… a SELFIE.

    1. But that's exactly it, why would someone's sexual preference be meaty and juicy? It shouldn't. It doesn't even faze me, I don't even flinch when I hear someone's homosexual. Some are black, some are white, some are gay, some are straight, it's a fact and it shouldn't be front page news.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly, the media's making this to be something unnatural and it's in a way stigmatizing gays even more. But that's just my humble opinion...:)

      Happy Monday, dear!!;)

    2. Agree with you both. The trouble is, anything that a famous celebrity does is something that the media knows the public will buy into whether it's true or not. It's sales and viewership at the end of the day, but it's kinda lowly to make a fiesta out of someone's sexual orientation. There's so much more to report about.

      Thanks Walter and Peet! :)

  3. It's surprising that it's still a big deal in almost 2014 but it's reality. I hope that more progress is going to be made and that in the next 10 to 20 years coming outs won't be 'news' any longer.

    1. And have you noticed, the focus is more on gay men than lesbians? Even in the sexual orientation arena, there's double standard. Have a good day Anouka :)

  4. Yes this is an interesting one. I'm not sure whether it's the fact that the celebrity is gay that makes for meaty, juicy gossip, it's more to do with when and how they announce it. If we all knew Tom was gay right from the outset when he hit our screens, I don't think it would have made any headlines, it would just be a case of he's gay and that's life, but when the public are left speculating and debating and you do nothing to quash the rumours until years later, that's what then makes the headlines.

    However this then begs the question why should he have to announce whether he is gay or not, exactly like you said, women don't go around announcing that they are infertile.

    I think the key is, if you're gay, don't be secretive about it, I think the public are far more accepting of it now. If you're asked the question or there is speculation, put them straight and be proud.

    Hope you are having a great week - can't wait for this week to be over xx

    1. I must have developed a gay-dar over the years, I just know now when someone is gay--but I can't tell with women. Strange.

      I just wish that such announcements would be very few and far between in the future. It's just not absolutely necessary. There are lots of other gay persons in the public eye who didn't discuss their sexual orientation.

      I love Tom, by the way, gay or not. Lovely young man as far as I'm concerned. Maybe next time he can join Strictly? :D

      Same here Colleen, can't wait for the week to be over. Just dealing with shopping monsters at the moment! Ha Ha xxx


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