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Outing celebrities
Outing celebrities
by Jennifer Vanasco - SGN Contributing Writer

Recently, Perez Hilton outed another celebrity.

This celebrity, an actor, is not a big name. He's young. He's no one with any power in Hollywood.

In fact, he's someone who's taken on Gay roles. He's appeared at Gay events and supported GLAAD. And the character he plays has been involved in a Gay controversy not of his doing that he has born with grace and humor.

The question is: should he have been outed?

Outing has long been controversial in our community. Most of us are a bit hypocritical about it - we play the game ourselves, in small groups. Is that news anchor Gay? Did you hear that this friend of a friend of a friend's personal trainer slept with that big movie star years ago? I don't think there was a Lesbian alive who didn't discuss Jodie Foster's presumed Gayness before she finally thanked her partner in an awards ceremony.

And yet most of us think that the kind of outing that Hilton did was bad. In an AfterElton poll, over 1,000 readers said that Perez was a "jackass and bad for the Gay community" for outing this celebrity. Only 142 readers cheered him on.

Who is right?

In some cases, outing seems pretty clear cut. Politicians who introduce anti-Gay bills and get elected by using anti-Gay rhetoric when they themselves are having sex with men should be outed.

As Sen. Barney Frank once said, "People have a right to privacy, but not to hypocrisy."

Then there are examples that are less than clear. There are major celebrities, politicians, sports figures, journalists who are out in the community with their partners, go to Gay events, and yet never reveal to the public - through interviews or by holding hands on the red carpet - that they are Gay. They are semi-closeted. Their Gayness is invisible to any not in the know.

Even if the public suspects, they are happy to play along with the celebrity version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

These types of celebrities might not actively work against the Gay community. They may be positive or neutral. And yet we know that they are such beloved figures that if they would just come out, the public would have to start adjusting its stereotypes. And young people who are far from urban centers would have more role models to look up to and more possibilities to look forward to.

If these major public figures came out, we think, the public's perception of homosexuality would have to widen. People who persist in thinking of us as faggots and dykes would finally have to admit that Gays and Lesbians come in all flavors, and that we are a people to be admired.

Maybe. We could be right about that. Or the major public figures who stay semi-closeted could be right. It could be that a homophobe's beliefs are immutable, and when he learns a major public figure he likes is Gay, instead of feeling more positively about the Gay community he will simply feel more negatively about the public figure.

Yes, family members and close friends who come out often change minds. But that's because it is hard to distance oneself from family. When you love someone, you struggle to understand them. When you simply admire someone, you can turn away.

And then there is the third case, like this newly outed celebrity (who has not, as of this writing, either confirmed or denied). These figures are both semi-closeted and semi-public, mostly unknown except to a small subset of people.

Hilton's idea is that these Gay celebrities should be treated like heterosexual celebrities. And celebrities, to him, have no right to privacy. If they have a new boyfriend, a new girlfriend, then it is fair to reveal that.

Instead of helping keep the closet door shut, like most press organizations do when they fail to mention someone's life partner in an obituary, or call someone else's constant companion "a friend" in photo taglines instead of speculating that they're "together," Hilton says that Gays and straights should be treated equally.

And yet, what is good in theory isn't always good in practice.

We all know that if this young celebrity is tagged as Gay this early in his career, then he might never move forward. He might never break out of the small world he's in into the bigger world of stardom, where he could actually do us more good. He might forever be ghettoized.

On the other hand, if he makes it anyway and is openly Gay, he could help change everything.

So should Perez Hilton have outed him?

Right now, it's impossible to tell. All we can do is wait and see what happens next.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. E-mail her at jennifer.vanasco@gmail.com

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