Submitted Date 03/01/2019

During a recent car ride, my mom and I were having a conversation that got me thinking. For reasons long since forgotten, we were chatting about the HBO show True Blood, and one of the show’s stars, Joe Manganiello (if you don’t know who he is, he plays a werewolf, and he’s incredibly hot). And that’s when my mom, who is not overtly homophobic, said something that made me instantly red in the face. Her comment amounted to if Joe Manganiello is gay, “that would be a shame.”

I took a moment to collect myself. Then, I asked her why it would be a shame and she told me it would mean he’s off the market for us ladies. Okay. Well, that wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I wanted to challenge this thinking and said, “I doubt I’ll ever have the chance to sleep with him, so it doesn’t matter much whether he’s gay or not. He’s still hot.”

If you were watching the Oscars, this past Sunday, you’ll know that - **spoiler alert** - Rami Malek won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. Mercury, as I’m sure you’re aware, was a gay (or possibly bisexual?) superstar before gender identities were as open as they are today. I wonder, how many women back then were crushed to discover Mercury’s sexual orientation? And then, how many were saddened to hear of his death in 1991 as a victim of AIDS?

My musings on the above essentially boil down to one question: does it matter if a celebrity is gay? Let’s break this down.

Genuine performances. If an actor who is gay portrays a straight person in a film, does that make their performance less believable? Considering that this person is most likely NOT portraying themselves in the role, then why separate their character from their gender identity? If we can believe that they’re a doctor living in Minnesota (or whatever) why would the doctor’s romance with the local waitress be the part we pull out as unrealistic? My first response would be, no, their performance is not less genuine. But wait…

What if that same actor is in another movie, where they play a character who struggles with their gender identity? Suddenly, I’ve done a 180. This time, their performance is more compelling, because I feel like the actor is more invested in the role. I assume it’s personal to them.

Personal lives. Actors are, like most people, just someone doing a job. Whenever someone asks me, “is that the guy who’s married to (insert supermodel’s name),” my usual reply is that I don’t pay much attention to a celebrity’s personal life. Their job, as an actor, is to entertain me by portraying various roles. If they’re doing a great job of that, leave them to their private business. And yet…

Breaking news: Actor found guilty of sexual assault. Now I’m paying attention. Boycott their movies! Vilify them in the press! Prosecute to the full extent of the law! Scrutinize their producers! Suddenly, I’m super concerned about who they are in private.

Advocacy. Is an actor who is openly gay automatically obligated to advocate for gay rights? Celebrities are in a unique position to influence public opinion. They hold the spotlight and have a choice in how they use it. I’d want an actress to advocate for women’s rights and I’d probably expect a person of color to advocate for racial equality. I think that’s what I’d do in that position. But I’m not famous…

What if my whole career and financial stability hinged on what people thought of me? The job that I’ve trained for, dreamed about, sacrificed all of my time and energy to could be in jeopardy if I speak out. And if I do become a spokesperson, everything I say and do will be even more closely scrutinized to see if I properly represent my position. Other people in the world, who identify with me, will be looking in my direction for support.

That answer, for me at least, is an easy one. I would definitely stand up and be an advocate, but maybe you can see why someone else might hesitate.

It should be blindingly obvious to you at this point that I’m heavily in favor of gay rights (and women’s rights, and racial equality…). It’s probably equally clear, though, that I’m of two minds about the sexual orientation of celebrities. Now, if only I knew some I could bounce these ideas off of.

What do you think? What's your take on the part a celebritie's gender identity should play in the the public view?


*photo by Denisbin via Flickr


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