Is He or Isn’t He? Take 5,890,763,111 – The Zachary Quinto Edition

Politically I’m quite a bit to the left (quelle suprise, I know) so it’s fairly often that more mainstream media pisses me off. Mainstream GLBT media especially which tends to be very white, male and “normative”, ignoring a lot of other parts of the queer community and thus pissing me off. So I tend to stay away from sites like Afterelton.com, the exception to this is the Glee Recaps which I enjoy and head over to read every week. This particular week I clicked on a link in the sidebar to a weekly column entitled, “Best Gay Week Ever!” and was scrolling through when I came across this charming little tidbit.

There was a lot of discussion this week about Zachary Quinto’s declining to address his sexual orientation when asked by the New York Times. That is certainly Quinto’s right and we here at AfterElton.com firmly don’t believe in outing in any way, so that’s pretty much all of what I have to say about Quinto.

But I just as firmly believe that every GLBT person who is able to live a life today that is more free and open than ever before has an obligation to do their part to make things better for those who come after us.

That’s why I’ll always champion out actors like [Chad] Allen and Cheyenne Jackson and Jonathan Groff, and won’t spend much time thinking about those who benefit from the sacrifices made by others yet live in glass closets.

Okay. *Deep Breath* Let’s ignore the hypocrisy of “[we] don’t believe in outing” and ending the rant with “others yet live in glass closets” and the fact that after saying that’s all that will be said about Quinto that the following two paragraphs are pretty much a passive-aggressive statement all about Quinto despite the fact that his name doesn’t appear. This isn’t even really about the person who wrote this column as much as it’s about  this pervasive idea in mainstream GLBT media that being out is the only way to live your life and that it’s worth anything and everything and on and on. It’s happened with rumors about Elijah Wood and Queen Latifah and Ne-Yo and a hundred other entertainers, along with the continual refrain of “Why won’t you just come out?” and frankly I’m sick of it.

First of all, let’s talk about the fact that the only reason that Quinto has had his sexuality questioned is his support of GLBT causes and issues. Take a moment to contemplate the sad fact that any straight man cannot support GLBT causes without it become a question of his sexuality and inevitably his manhood as well. That’s a whole research thesis in and of itself.

Now, let’s also look at the fact that Quinto [and Wood, Latifah, etc…]  could very well be straight, that his denial to reveal his sexuality could actually be a strong and interesting position of basically saying, “Despite my heterosexuality I don’t feel the need to confirm or deny my sexuality and make that the issue here rather than the GLBT issues we’re talking about”.  I don’t subscribe to the idea that a ‘No comment’ is the same as admitting to something. There are simply too many variables that we don’t know, that we can’t know, to make it that simplistic.

And let’s say they are queer in some fashion (or even straight!), maybe they just feel it’s none of  our damn business and that’s okay. It’s okay for someone who lives their life in the spotlight and has everything scrutinized to want to keep their private life private. Now I’m not one to jump on the “woe are the celebrities/rich” whiny bandwagon by any means and I admit to an unhealthy love of celebrity gossip and reality TV but should someone be judged and held up for (albeit mild) contempt because they didn’t answer a question the way you wanted them to? I don’t think so.

There is a contract between entertainer and audience, it says: you will entertain me and I will pay you. That’s it. That’s all she wrote.  Somehow it’s shifted to this entitlement that we as the audience have the right to know everything about an entertainer and put them on some pedestal as a leader, a hero and it’s an insidiously pervasive idea our society. Bottom line is that none of these people that (the generic) you believes to be in the closet ever promised to be your: leader/lover/healer/hero/figurehead/and the list goes on. To put that expectation on them and then be angry when they refuse to live up to it exhibits a level of arrogance that really bothers me.

And finally, and this hearkens back to what I said about not knowing all the factors, the idea that just coming out is the solution is too simple and too one-pronged a position to take for such a complex issue. (This at the base is the same issue I have with the It Gets Better campaign, even though I get the motivation and impulse, because it doesn’t always get better for some folks and others can’t wait that long). The thing is that you can’t know what is best for someone else. It’s impossible. You don’t know their family dynamics like they do, their religious affiliation and level of belief, their ethnic culture, their racial identity, their connection to community and that community’s value system, their political identity, their age and how they’ve identified so far, their class background and a hundred other things of both large and small effect that determine whether it’s better for someone to come out of the closet.

Basically by taking the position of out being the only way, the GLBT mainstream not only makes an amazing display of privilege in urging everyone that one way is the right way, they are also saying that coming out is worth everything you might change. And that’s probably the case for some and some of have less to lose but for others maybe they don’t want to deal with familial fall-out, maybe they don’t want to change the way people look at them, maybe they want to keep their career on a huge uptick [anyone remember how quickly Rupert Everett’s rocket ride to leading man came to an abrupt halt, Hollywood is always more comfortable with gay actors when they play gay/desexualized characters] and maybe they just don’ t think it’s any of your business. And maybe just maybe they’re fine with that decision, maybe it actually makes them happy. Maybe things are more complex than ‘in the closet’ = sad panda and out = healthy vibrant queer.

Because I’m not talking about staying in the closet miserable and afraid by any means, I think every who wants to come out should be able to in a safe and loving environment. I also think someone should give me a billion dollars. Not only does not everyone exist in a scenario where they are able to come out but some people don’t feel the need to, some just don’t care about making an announcement to anyone. I’m saying that this is a much more complex and minefield laden issue than a simple “Hey, come on out, the water is fine.” and that whatever decision someone may make on the spectrum of ‘out’ to ‘in’ their choice is a valid one and one that should be respected.

Really it all amounts to the fact that we should be praising Quinto and others for supporting GLBT issues however they identify. This focus on “Well are they or aren’t they?!? And if they are they should be out!” makes it seem as if the only reason they could ever be invested in the politics is if they had a personal stake in it which is surely not the impression that should be given out.  And I think that with his activism and voice Quinto is (as the columnist above stated of GLBT out actors) doing his “part to make things better for those who come after us” whatever his sexual orientation may be.

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8 responses to “Is He or Isn’t He? Take 5,890,763,111 – The Zachary Quinto Edition

  1. You just became my new favorite writer! You’ve said so many basic, true things here that I can’t begin to pick them all out, but here are a couple of my favorites:

    it doesn’t always get better for some folks and others
    can’t wait that long

    how quickly Rupert Everett’s rocket ride to leading man
    came to an abrupt halt, Hollywood is always more comfortable
    with gay actors when they play gay/desexualized characters

    I also think someone should give me a billion dollars.

    I also can’t add anything nearly incisive enough, to compared to what you’ve already said, to warrant saying.

  2. Thank you for this. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Zachary Quinto- especially his strong personal boundaries. You have stated in a very succinct and powerful way the thoughts that have been in my own mind. Sometimes, it seems that there’s a bit of social monotheism at play- ‘out’ is the OneTrueWay™.

    No, it isn’t. Nor should it be.

    Again, thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for this. You’ve said everything I’ve been saying about this issue, but better.

  4. Well stated. He does so much for the gay community and I was so saddened to hear the responses on the web to his “it gets better” video. Why does it matter so much to some people if he’s in or out, gay, bi or straight? He’s a human being, who has made it very clear that he dosent talk about his private life. IMO people need to leave well enough alone and respect his wishes.

  5. I think it is easy for us (in general) to say why can’t he simply say “I’m straight, gay or bi” but not talk about specifically who he is dating, but there are probably MANY reasons why he chooses to answer his questions this way that we simply don’t know.

    I believe him when he says he is single, I think him letting his work speak for himself and letting certain private things about himself out when he wants to is fine, and I am sure he knows that this causes a lot of speculation and rumors. However, I bet this also teaches him who he can trust and who he needs to keep at arms length.

  6. sorry for my long reply

    but thank you for this. These are the things that those of us outside the GLBT community who DO fight for equal rights for GLBT people worry about. What civil rights movement when all it seems to be is about wanting actors to tell you who they slept with last night. Civil rights is about wanting equal rights in society. Where is the drive for more gay lawyers or doctors or the first gay president equal access to education and jobs and housing. People who are people first, their jobs families and lives next and just happen to be gay that is equal rights. Every time there is a call for some actor to out himself it sends the message well there is something different and therefore wrong about being gay so he needs to be outted. If someone wants to tell us that is different!. Barak Obam considers himself the President who just happens to be the first black president. So many want to turn people, especially males especially in Hollywood who they think are gay into not human beings but just someone who is gay? BS. No to this trivial nonsense of outing entertainment figures. Since no straight actress has to tell me who she slept with why should a gay male actor. The straights do it for attention and are only asked about their love lives when they bring it up or get married or start dating someone or dump someone or have a kid. he is paid to act not to have sex in real life. If Roe vs Wade is about my right to my private body then I can’t turn around and tell someone else to live gay the way I want that is not a civil right’s movement it is a joke. The bullies are those who think every gay male wants to flame for them, or wants to be a gay personality or wants to live different than any straight actor. It is almost Nazi like -we must keep track of the gays so they must all tell us where they are BS. It’s out and out wrong to suggest that ALL gays who are out as we assume out to be are happy BS and it is even more hateful and insulting to suggest someone not branded on their forehead as gay is unhappy. BS. Why is it that only gay people are to be judge by one part of their lives while women, African Americans, straights, whites, etc everyone else etc gets that civil rights is the right to be judge first as human next by how you live next by what you do in society or the way you do your job and last by your gender or race if ever. MLK would be shocked by a civil rights movement that says judge me by who I slept with not my character. Be out be loud be proud be without a job be who we say you should be not who you are. BS. Civil rights and equal rights means you can opt not to talk about your sex life you can opt not to be seen as just one part of your life. Unless you are gay and actively stating to be something else while working against gay civil right- looking at you many republicans, not talking about your sex life does not make you closeted. Oddly we don’t out the real closeted gay people who are working against gay rights we out the people living their lives the same way we are so we can make them different to us. And the real ugly part of it is taking away the rights of someone like a Quinto who may see as an example his Italian roots or first generation roots as more important to who he is than who he sleeps with, who may see acting as more to his core than being gay. In order words it is up to him to decided what is most core to Zachary Quinto not us! The left of which I am part of has made a mess of this subject and until the left cuts the crap they really have no room to talk about the right and it’s bigotry since more women in this country vote DEM yet many women resent gay actors because they can’t imagine them in love scenes – if you are watching a movie to believe the two straights are getting it on in life then you have far worst issues. And if the left can be trilled when a Sean Penn wins an awards for playing gay but we are still allowed to say I have a hard time believing such and such an actor who is gay in a role then we need to clean up our own act and stop pretending that Nazi like marking anyone simply one part of their live is somehow good or positive. No out does not equal happy for everyone and no not everyone not telling you two snap and who I was with last night is not unhappy. Get over our egos and accept that. Civil rights is the right of the individual person to seek their course to happiness and not be held back due to being part of any group because of how society sees that group.

    Last it harms the cause because the message sent is anyone not gay should not care about the death of gay teens no straight male should want to be friends with or concern about what are seen as gay issues and none of the rest of us should give a damn. It is idiotic. Civil right is the individual is seen as an individual and judge as a person! Civil right is one’s race or gender does not mean you HAVE to live a certain way. And equal rights is someone who is not the same race as you or gender as you still cares about the issues that affects you!

  7. Nice to see you updating again! Your posts are always so insightful and thoughtful. I hadn’t thought much about this issue before reading your post here. You’re right about the assumptions made about anyone (especially a man) who advocates for LGBT rights. Lots to think about!

  8. I can’t tell you how long I waited for an article like this. Being an heterosexual gay rights activist myself, I‘m sometimes so tired of getting questioned my sexuality because of it and I always wonder, why this issue is so important, when the real messages lies in our movement, not in our private lives.
    I think Zachary nailed it in the NYC article when he said, that he prefers to talk about important things than the question, who he‘s sleeping with. The problem at least for „heteros“ like me is, that our motivation always get questioned as if we are not allowed to walk open minded on this earth or choose our closest friends only on the love we fell for them.
    I do not care about Mr. Quinto‘s sexuality, I do care about his work as an actor and his political intentions and I wish, other people could just do the same.
    Thank you for being more precise in your article than me ever could be in an foreign language.

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