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    April 04, 2007

    Out cracks the 'glass closet'

    Posted by: Chris

    Outmaycover Gay gossip maven Michael Musto penned the current cover story of Out magazine, on how celebrities like Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper have figured out a way to live gay lives fairly openly without the general public ever being the wiser.

    The story is more interesting because of Out's ballsy cover illustration than in anything Musto wrote. After all the gay press, especially my alma mater the Washington Blade, has been writing about both Foster and Cooper, and their glass closets, for years.

    But it's a bit of a hoot knowing that in bookstores across the U.S. and internationally, the magazine peering public will see too individuals holding masks of Foster and Cooper, over the headline "The Glass Closet."

    I've stated and restated my view on "outing" for years: it's always fair for the media to ask "the question" of public figures and then let the person have their say. If they choose a non-answer, as Foster, Cooper, Clay Aiken, Ricky Martin, Sean Hayes and umpteen others have of late, then so be it. We all know that no bona fide heterosexual has ever refused to answer a question about their sexual orientation, so the non-answer is really an answer, after all.

    There's almost never a justification for "going behind" the non-answer — or a claim of heterosexuality — in the case of entertainment celebrities. Only when public figures have actively worked against gay right does their sexual orientation become so newsworthy that it's worth delving some into their private lives.  And even then, good editors are always balancing the newsworthiness on the one hand, and the degree of invasion into their personal life, on the other.

    Musto does a good job of explaining how the "glass closet" phenomenon works, from the celebrity's rationale (some would say, rationalization) to the media's complicity. It's the latter that gets my goat far more than the former. The publishers of Out magazine — now Planet Out — certainly  understand that rationalization, since the publication with the screaming-faggot name is delivered in a plain brown envelope that doesn't identify its contents.

    I also like that Musto isn't afraid to point out the inevitable goofs when a glass-closeted celeb accidentally lets their little light shine from behind the bushel:

    Keeping the glass up is a high-maintenance job, especially since many celebs are left to do it—or, more often, screw it up—alone. … That would explain the various slipups that happen when the luminaries take their own images by the balls. I was wildly amused some years ago when the terminally noncommittal Sean Hayes was asked by a newspaper interviewer what he likes in a partner and he blurted out that he’s “not into that gay ideal of musclemen.” This from the guy who refuses to label his sexuality. Whoopsy!

    I have a similar story about Cooper, who angrily e-mailed me after the Blade reported, in matter of fact fashion, that Cooper had shown up for the GLAAD Media Awards in New York a few years back — before he was on CNN — and quipped from the stage that he hoped to find a boyfriend from the night's festivities. He can claim he's not out, but he said what he said and he didn't challenge the article's accuracy.

    Clearly the celebrity treatment of homosexuality has trended along with society's acceptance of gay people. The days of Ellen (and even Rosie's) big coming out party already seem dated. The ho-hum reaction to T.R. Knight ("Grey's Anatomy"), Lance Bass (N Sync) and Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie Howser, M.D.") isn't just due to their B-list status. As America cares less, so will celebrities.

    And someday, both Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper will ride that wave, and no doubt receive courage awards from gay rights groups when they finally do so.

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    Comments

    1. Silas on Apr 5, 2007 1:03:14 PM:

      Anderson Cooper goes to dangerous countries all the time. Then the gay community wants to put the label of gay on him further endangering his life when he travels abroad. Not every gay person can carry the torch.

    1. Joseph Kowalski on Apr 5, 2007 5:09:47 PM:

      To the best of my knowledge, Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper have never said or done anything which would harm the gay rights movement.

      I don't understand the obsession some gay people have about outing these two people. They have every right to live their lives as they want, without interference.

      All of us who are out should think back to the time before we were out, and think about the feelings we had back then. I know I would have resented any intrusion by others. Now think about having those feelings and not only having to deal with personal acquaintances, but also with millions of strangers.

      And the point Silas made is a good one. Anderson Cooper would be in much more danger in those foreign countries where being gay can mean imprisonment or a death sentence if he was gay and out.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Apr 6, 2007 4:16:40 PM:

      The basic truth of the matter is that gay people are supposed to sacrifice everything for the movement.

      By that mentality, Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper, assuming they even are gay, are being selfish by not outing themselves and allowing gays to exploit their private lives for publicity purposes. Clay Aiken, assuming he is even gay, is being selfish by not outing himself and allowing the gay community to exploit him as a means of discrediting Christians and Christianity.

      Meanwhile, Rosie is out there as a shining example of gays being bullying lunatic conspiracy theorists.

      It would seem better to me that the gay community make it clear that Anderson Cooper and Jodie Foster's private lives are irrelevant (as we insist others do relative to ours) and that people like Rosie who hide behind the gay community as an excuse to be an idiot do not in fact represent many, if any, gays.

      But instead of confronting and countering those in our own ranks who create negative publicity.....we seek desperately about for positive.

    1. William on Apr 6, 2007 4:18:19 PM:

      Though I'm sure both are very hetero, I recall both Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves being very vague or who's business is it, when asked about their sexuality by the press. In other words there are straight celebrities who feel the question is intrusive, stupid and a non-issue across the board..

    1. Brian Miller on Apr 9, 2007 12:18:24 AM:

      I'll not respect the closet. It's absurd -- like someone "objecting" to the idea that his nationality or gender "must be kept secret." At this point, it's moot.

      As for sexuality being a "private" matter, both Cooper and Foster have profited from "playing on" their sexuality with opposite-sex audiences. It's a bit rich for celebrities who definitely play on sexual magnetism to complain later that their sexuality is "private" and "intrusive."

      A life in the public eye -- with its high paycheck -- also includes scrutiny into other areas. It comes with the territory. Nobody forces folks into celebrity, and the more they attempt to defraud the public with "ambiguous heterosexuality," the more closeted gay celebs will find themselves under the public's microscope.

    1. adamblast on Apr 10, 2007 11:51:01 AM:

      Bottom line: The closet is *not* a value-neutral institution.

      Those who stay in the closet due to persecution or fear have my sympathy.

      Those who stay merely to maximize their earning potential are helping to perpetuate it--at the expense of progress towards justice.

      Homophobia is a deadly and serious problem with real-world consequences. Perpetuating the closet for dollars is wrong.

      Neither gay groups or the mainstream media should remain complicit with those who keep their homosexuality an "open secret."

    1. Silas on Apr 11, 2007 3:55:09 AM:

      Yeah, I hear it. That's why people like Brian Milly who say "As for sexuality being a "private" matter, both Cooper and Foster have profited from "playing on" their sexuality with opposite-sex audiences." Then worship straight men that play the bisexual card or tease by suggesting they would have a gay relationship.

      Why is it ok for straight people to profit at every turn and at the expense of gay people? They don't pay the consequences. They can always say they are straight. Look at Madonna.

    1. keith.d on Apr 11, 2007 3:21:27 PM:

      I remember (was it Out magazine?) the hoo-ha over the "Outing" of Ellen Degeneres, but she was in a public bar with her tongue down another woman's throat - that sounds pretty OUT to me. And Anderson Cooper makes that comment in a public event, but expects the press to hush hush about it?

      Ridiculous.

      If you want to be in the closet, that's fine. But celebrities expect complicity from not only the press but their fellow gays and lesbians around them - 'let it be our little secret.'

      Rosie acted like she was raising her adopted kids all on her own and with not a care in the world or any need for "special rights," and Sean Hayes - in his responses - makes being gay seem to be a bigger issue than it is.

      People know Sean Hayes is gay and what a lot of people who are uncomfortable with gay rights see is someone who's 'keeping it in the bedroom' - which is just what they mean every time they vote against our right to marry or be safe at work and home.

      There are a heck of a lot of people who have lost family, jobs, and even lives fighting for our civil rights and we honor those people by being out and fighting harder, not by winks and nods.

      Let me be clear.

      I do not think that a person has a right to be in the closet in this day and age, it's harmful to our community and it damages our struggle as a community to win our equality.

      Personally, I would not forcibly out anyone - but someone who wants to share in the benefits of our struggle should be there for the cold harsh realities of it as well.

    1. Aggie on May 17, 2009 10:44:10 AM:

      Then if Sean Hayes is gay you will be able to tell us more about Reyna Larson and the fact he said on Jon Stewart's show that he was straight. The only thing is that he threw it in the middle of the conversation and it passed unnoticed. Have you ever met him in real life? I seriously doubt it or you would change your mind very quickly.

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    1. nfl jerseys on Jan 4, 2011 1:03:12 AM:

      I remember (was it Out magazine?) the hoo-ha over the "Outing" of Ellen Degeneres, but she was in a public bar with her tongue down another woman's throat - that sounds pretty OUT to me. And Anderson Cooper makes that comment in a public event, but expects the press to hush hush about it?

    1. cheap shoes on May 12, 2011 10:56:34 AM:

      I've stated and restated my view on "outing" for years: it's always fair for the media to ask "the question" of public figures and then let the person have their say

    1. Cheap air jordan shoes on Jul 19, 2011 3:55:57 AM:

      Why is it ok for straight people to profit at every turn and at the expense of gay people? They don't pay the consequences. They can always say they are straight. Look at Madonna.

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