Tag Archives: being an ally

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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Quick Anti-Racist Note #2

White allies do not pretend that what they said did not matter and is in the past. Listen, I’m a child of the 90’s I am all about repression and selective memory around things but it doesn’t work if you’re trying to be an ally to any cause. You can’t gloss over stupid things that you said, reactions you had to people, ignoring moments of racefail because that’s not being an ally. You cannot truly be involved in anti-racism if you refuse to acknowledge your own moments of racism (this goes for all anti-oppression work, you can’t fight sexism/heterosexism/classism/ablism/etc. without being aware and working on your own lapses). If you want to do those things, that’s your choice and right but don’t call yourself an ally or try and trade on a reputation for understanding oppression because it’s obvious you don’t.

Quick Anti-Racist Note #1

White allies do not make the conversation all about them and their feelings when they’ve been called on something they’ve said because that diverts the conversation from its original topic and recenters it around whiteness. Instead true allies listen and try to understand why what they’ve said might have offended someone, they understand that calling something that they said racist or bigoted is not actually calling the person racist or a bigot but simply pointing out the lasting and sometimes subconscious effects living in a white supremacist society has left on all of us and that we all need to work on within ourselves. They take it as critique, not judgment.