Why the example of Kevin Spacey and others should serve as a reminder of just how dangerous homophobia can be
No, I’m not going to excuse Mr. Spacey’s behavior, which – although not proven in a court of law – has been subject to so many young men coming forward with similar stories that we simply cannot turn a blind eye. I’m not a court, but I’m also not going to apologize for his behavior or in any way try to minimize it. What I want to point at is something else entirely, how people like Mr. Spacey (we currently have a similar example with an LGBT woman in our public broadcasting system here in Sweden, and allegations against George Takei have also surfaced) who have lived closeted most of their lives, endanger themselves and – more importantly – others, for fear of being outed.
Why would anyone be afraid of being outed?
Right! Right? Well, being LGBT is unlike being a “four-eyes” or a “redhead”, things kids were teased with when I grew up. Being LGBT can get you killed, fired, imprisoned, put in a mental institution, neutered or made homeless (to just mention a few relatively common side effects.) Even in the U.S., where gays and Lesbians can get married these days, they could also lose their jobs for it, be refused access to anything from cakes to healthcare, and the Vice President of the Republic (a closeted gay himself!) wants to hang us all… Are you sure it’s so given to come out?
Yet we should, we have to. Particularly in the countries where being LGBT isn’t illegal. But that’s not the point here today. Instead, let me go back a few years, to that fateful night of Kevin Spacey’s assault on a very young Anthony Rapp, way back in 1986. What a year that was. Remember? Reagan was president, HIV was everywhere. Rock Hudson was already dead, and people were panicking that “poor Krystle might have AIDS…” That’s the world where a much younger Kevin met a fourteen-year-old Anthony. It’s a world where Hollywood is so homophobic and so closeted (remember how Stephen on Dynasty had his boyfriend killed by his own dad, and nobody batted an eyelash? Since we’re already on Dynasty turf with Rock Hudson…) that coming out, for a young actor like Kevin Spacey, irrespectively whether it is as gay or bisexual would’ve effectively meant the end of his fledgeling career. If you look at his IMDB profile you’ll see that he was just about to get his first roles in TV and film. No young actor (in their right mind) would’ve come out. They’re still not doing it…
His behavior is inexcusable, of course (I can’t say this enough), but at least partially explainable because of the environment that LGBT people face. You can’t date openly, like everyone else, so you do it clandestinely, and some just can’t do that without stepping over the line. Ask any Republican congressman or senator who’s been caught in similar positions over the decades, either with (young) boys or with male escorts. There’s a reason why they did it clandestinely: homophobia. Because they knew that if they came out, their careers would be over: politics, business or the movie industry, doesn’t matter. Most straight actors just date ahead, no worries about tomorrow’s repercussions. Some, like senatorial candidate Roy Moore, still doesn’t care that he once dated teens. Different topic, but equally disgusting.
Over the years, things have changed, and very brave people in many countries have come out and paved the way for others, Ellen DeGeneres being one good example in the U.S. Kevin Spacey’s weird coming out (as if anyone in the LGBT community didn’t already know) last week was awkward at best, and people have said pretty much everything that needs to be said about that. Yet this is still a thing. People his generation and younger are still afraid of coming out, and that fear, that paralyzing feeling of what a coming out might do to your career, is numbing. Couple it with the immense power of stardom (or economic, political power) and you have a very toxic mix. I think the Swedish case, and as revealed over the past few days, George Takei, are all expressions of this. And for the final time, not an excuse, merely a possible explanation. Worse still, not only does their closet behavior threaten their own existence, but also that of the people around them. I don’t doubt that there was a level of attraction between the stars and their victims. I’ve been the younger man attracted (being as much of a closet case as they were) to the older, too. I wasn’t out. Heck, I wasn’t even fully aware of being gay. But my older suitors were, smelling the gay (we call it gaydar) on me. That makes young LGBT people particularly vulnerable, because they’re not only insecure about their true identity, far from accepting it, and then being preyed upon? Wow. A dangerous cocktail. I was lucky to have been treated with respect and love, but when the other person is a star, closeted and paranoid, a quick “getting their rocks off” may be the only thing on their mind, not your well-being.
I can’t know if Mr. Spacey had acted differently if he’d been straight like a fiddle, or out. Plenty of straight men (and women) who’ve acted horribly against their fellow human beings. I honestly couldn’t say. Looking at other powerful predators from the Kennedys, Donald Trump, Dominique Strauss-Kahn et al., homophobia isn’t necessary, but secrets and lies certainly aren’t helpful in situations like that. And I think in this situation, it might have made it worse… What do you think? One thing’s for sure. The #MeToo campaign better keep going until we have this mess sorted out for good, because no woman, no man deserves to be treated this way, against their will, and most certainly no minor.
It’s an unacceptable behavior to harass other people, sexually or otherwise. My take. What’s yours?
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