a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Do LGBTQ Celebs “Owe” Us?

Posted on: January 14, 2013

Last night Jodie Foster came out at the Golden Globe Awards.

This, of course is nothing new to the world and as she said in her speech, it’s nothing new to people who know her. She spoke from the heart, and in circles a bit, but she emphasized the need for privacy, the desire to keep her private life private and separate from her public persona.

Jodie said:

I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago, back in the Stone Age. In those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends, and family, coworkers and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her. To everyone she actually met. But now, apparently I’m told, that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a primetime reality show. You guys might be surprised, but I’m not Honey Boo Boo child…

If you had been a public figure from the time you were a toddler, if you had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else.


Jodie’s heart-felt speech brought tears to the eyes of many of the celebrities in the room and I personally felt a bit choked up, it was truly beautiful. Over on Twitter, though, I got into a different sort of conversation. One of my followers and I chatted (in 140 characters or less) about my feeling that celebrities should always come out and her feeling that even though they’re celebrities, they don’t owe us anything.

Her thoughts were that celebrities don’t owe us intimate details of their lives, that family struggles around LGBTQ identity are real even for celebrities, and that celebrities like Jodie Foster make a name for themselves by their body of work, rather than their sexual orientation. My feelings are that in our celebrity-obsessed world where children aspire to be a Kardasian or an NBA player rather than a firefighter or the President of the United States, there’s a bit more responsibility there hasn’t been before. The shunning that happens to an actress or singer (looking at you, Queen) who is assumed to be gay or who comes out as gay isn’t as harsh as it is. Having the visibility matters, therefore the most visible people in our society owe it to us to come out.

We had the sort of conversation you can only have over Twitter where you listen to the other person’s opinion in earnest and hope that they hear you too. I didn’t walk away from it feeling angry or upset, but I did contemplate it all night. The follower said something that I keep turning over in my head. She said that the term “should” is a big word. And I agree with her.

In my opinion LGBTQ celebrities should come out in a public way, definitely in their own time (Ricky Martin, Jodie Foster), but that they should, nonetheless do it.


What do you think? Should LGBTQ celebrities come out? Do they owe it to the rest of us?

2 Responses to "Do LGBTQ Celebs “Owe” Us?"

No one “owes” us persay. But we as human beings owe it to each other to make the world a safe place where someone can mention the type of person they’re interested in dating or who they are in a relationship with, without it being a big deal.

Yes, I think celebrities who are queer should come out, because they help normalize queerness by doing so. But “intimate” details? Ewwww….

And, honestly, that’s one bit of rhetoric you often see from the anti-gay crowd, and not something I want us to pick up, even casually. The idea that by saying something like “my wife” or “this man I used to date” that you are revealing icky private details no one wants to hear. Saying you’re gay is not the same as talking about your sex life, no more than saying you’re straight is.

Saying who you’re married to is not an intimate detail for any straight person except the most reclusive. Many straight celebrities do keep their partners out of the spotlight, but the fact that they exist and who they are is public knowledge. For straight people not in a committed relationship, saying things that indicate straightness is also not an intimate detail (talking about attractions, exes, etc).

Why should these basic pieces of information be normal for straight people and loaded for queer people? Yes, they are, no question about it. But part of the work of coming out is to make such revelations mundane.

I don’t think celebrities owe the public anything when it comes to their personal lives.

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