by j. brotherlove
First let me state that this is not an analysis of R. Kelly’s "Trapped In The Closet" soap-opera. Although, I have to say I don’t get the fascination with the series (now on IFC’s website). I imagine it’s akin to watching a train wreck. However, New York Times’ Kelefa Sanneh suggests the joke is really on the viewer:
Many of its biggest fans seem to think they’re laughing at Mr. Kelly, not with him, as if the whole thing were some sort of glorious, terrible mistake; as if the far-fetched plot turns (most infamously, the policeman cuckolded by the “midget” hiding beneath the sink) and cliffhanger endings (“Oh my God, a rubber!”) were the work of someone who set out to make a traditional musical and failed.
Yup, it’s all planned. Seems Robert is still up to his old pimp tricks. What I really wanted to address is the gay community’s growing obsession over (perceived) closeted entertainers.
I’m trying to understand why we are spending so much time trying to figure out who is trapped in the closet. Sure it makes for good giggles when one of the "obvious gays" claims otherwise; I’ve fallen into the trap myself. But when these discussions turn into lengthy, passionate pow wows, I have to wonder, who does this serve?
Last week, an excuse to ogle Michael Jai White at Rod 2.0 turned into a debate about Tyler Perry’s sexuality and his claims in Essence that he’s waiting for the right woman (hehe - see, a giggle). A similar debate came up a week prior when Rod wrote about Ne-Yo defending his sexuality against rampant "internet rumors."
This isn’t a black gay thing by any means. There are more than a handful of articles criticizing Anderson Cooper’s refusal to publicly come out (despite Anderson’s occasional hints). And Merv Griffin’s recent death trudged up more discussions about his sexual orientation (culminating in a controversial article that was suddenly removed from The Hollywood Reporter’s Past Deadline website).
Enough already. Can’t we leave the gay rumor trap for straight people to whisper about? I side with nOva who commented: "If the man says he’s not gay, whether he’s being truthful or not, then it should be dropped." I’ll add that it serves us no reward claiming other’s sexuality for them. If anything, it reinforces their fear.
Coming out is a slow and painful process for most of us; a process that never really ends. If I was a closeted entertainer watching how the gay community approaches the subject as of late, I wouldn’t come out either.
I’m not suggesting we have to stay silent about these things. But let’s put it in perspective and place more passion behind issues that really matter like how to build romantic relationships, engaging our political candidates, how to help gay youth struggling with suicidal thoughts, convincing older black women to be tested for HIV or why there aren’t visible black gayborhoods.
Fully realizing that my current status might make any claim I have as a member of the LGBTQ community tenuous at best, I’m going to offer this up.
I don’t so much care whether regular, every day folk live their lives in the closet. I care more when someone who has tremendous influence and has the ear of a president at the time when Gay men were dying in great numbers chooses to remain silent (Griffin). I care more when someone who is a trusted media figure who at one point was a prominent member of the GOP (Cooper) refuses to speak out while their friend/party continues to do evil in their name. In some respects I suppose I could say that Tyler Perry carries much of the same responsibility, but I prefer to live in a world of denial where Tyler Perry and his Productions don’t exist. ;-)
For me, it’s less about scuttlebutt and juicy gossip as holding such people to a higher standard because to whom much is given, much is expected (or something like that).
Talking about issues surrounding identity and the responsibility one has to their community is a touchy subject because more often than not it bears shades of “you’re a credit to your race” discussions. Because many in *this* community seem so focused on assimilation and convincing heterosexuals that we’re just as mainstream as anyone else, most of our energies are directed externally . I think there’s a feeling that we have to win them over before we can begin to focus on issues that are more inwardly focused. Rosie had to become the most trusted woman in America before she could come out and start talking about the rights of GLBT parents in such a way that straight folks would give her an ear. We’re still fighting for full equality as citizens (well, I’m not because I live in Canada *smug look*) ;-) and I think it’s kind of understandable that less focus is directed on the in-house stuff when the house we all live in is built on sand, so to speak.
I think the reason so many of us look for celebs to be gay is so we can somehow have that extra validation. “See? It’s normal. Everyone’s gay, including Joe MovieStar”.
It’s always been my belief that if these stars are gay, then they don’t really owe me any kind of confessional. It could be argued that many of their close friends and family already know about them. Coming out to the public, while admirable, isn’t necessary far as I’m concerned.
I care more when someone who is a trusted media figure who at one point was a prominent member of the GOP (Cooper) refuses to speak out while their friend/party continues to do evil in their name.
Excuse me? Cooper was never a prominent member of the GOP; his party affiliation is unknown, as are his political beliefs (as it should be). You are perhaps thinking of Joe Scarborough? Please, let’s not smear people with ugly rumors of GOP affiliation.
No, I’m thinking of Cooper. It’s come up a couple of times in print, on the web, and from gay political activists/pundits. Sexual orientation isn’t the only thing Cooper’s been mum about.
Of course, it’s all hearsay and I wasn’t in the room, but heavens, I thought everyone knew about that one.
On second thought, I’m not going to contribute to the very dialogue J. was critiquing in the first place. I still maintain that I’m more forgiving of average Joes/Janes who don’t disclose their sexual orientation than anyone who has a high profile.
Speaking Of Merv Griffin, there is an exciting new group on Yahoo called The Judy Garland Experience. The group has the largest and most diverse membership of all the Garland groups and fan clubs, and we are always having lively discussions on a variety of topics. We also have amazing photo albums filled with never before seen photo’s of Judy.
The group’s audio files are the rarest on the Web and are constantly changing, but if you check in right now you can hear Judy’s complete performance on The Merv Griffin Show where she sings, dances, trades quips with Totie Fields, and more. We are also featuring a never released Judy concert that was recorded in Canada in 1965, an ultra rare performance featuring Judy and Helen Forrest on The Dick Haymes Show, and dozens of other aural odds and ends that will have Garland aficianado’s drooling. We even have an unreleased concert from Al Green. Why are we featuring an unreleased Al Green concert you ask, you will just have to visit The Judy Garland Experience to find out! But be forwarned, once you visit our little Judyville you may never want to leave.
#4 - I’ve certain heard people trying to sell that story, but all anyone can find in the way of ‘evidence’ is one small campaign donation in the nineties to a GOP candidate… who was not only openly gay, but a former classmate at Yale. I would be very curious to know whether or not you think that makes one an important GOP operative? How does one become ‘prominent’ in the GOP without holding actual party positions? I’d also be interesting to know who’s trying to get this story into circulation?
Well, this is the first I heard about Cooper and the GOP. But really, he’s a Vanderbilt; it wouldn’t be much of a stretch would it?
Steering this back to the main topic, I agree with most sentiments that whether or not I care if someone comes out is related to their “role” or “status” as a public figure.
I am honestly tired of all of this hidden “blame” for those that are “in the closet” in the first place. I think being out is personal, and if you choose that, rock on. If not, well, I guess that works for you.
God, thanks so much for saying that, J. This conversation about who is and who isn’t gay makes even less sense when those who may be in the closet can clearly see that they will get no further support (in $$$) by those same people who want to “out” them.
Anderson Cooper is NOT a Republican. Just to clear it up.
I think part of it is a civil rights thing. There were many black entertainers who could have used their celebrity to do some thing positive for the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. Most of my LGBQT friends are activists and sitting around talking with them, everyone is gay. What I’ve noticed is that they really want an out and outspoken celebrity. And not some minstrel, but a person with gravitas and clout (Anderson Cooper, for example) who could stand up and be heard by the American people. I think it’s frustrating to them on that level.
My 2 cents.
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