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"Yep, I'm Gay!" Time's cover story on Ellen Degeneres set in motion a new movement of celebs coming out. And at that moment in time, it was much needed. Gay visibility was so low that even fog lights couldn't find them. With Ellen's announcement, a light was shed on, and slowly but surely more people became more comfortable coming out of the closet. More than 20 years later, more celebs make being part of the LGBTQ+ community a part of their act than ever before. Is coming out necessary?
Ben Platt, who rose to fame as the title character in the hit musical, Dear Evan Hansen, visited Ellen's talk show to talk about his new album, the Ryan Murphy show, The Politician, he was cast in, and his love life (spoiler: he's single...). While talking about his music, Ben talked about coming out in his song "Ease My Mind." He said that it was liberating to talk about his sexual orientation in the song, and that it was the first time he had been able to do so. Then the cutie told Ellen, “Hopefully we’re past the time where it has to be this whole giant announcement and it can just be part of who you are….” For a long time, a statement like this would have set off a fierce debate about whether or not queer celebs had a responsibility to share that part of their lives with the fans.
At one point, I was on the side of every LGBTQ person having a responsibility to come out. The reasoning was about visibility, as mentioned above. If every queer person came out of the closet, then the "majority" would be forced to recognize that there was someone they loved who identified as a member of the community they so despised. Dick Cheney proved the fallacy of that argument. For those that are unaware, Cheney's daughter, Mary, is a lesbian. Yet, he continued to spout his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. It was a tough pill to swallow that the whole basis of my argument was a straw man argument. Still, I persisted in that belief.
A (sadly) former friend would read me the riot act on my stance, he believed very strongly that since straight people didn't have to come out, neither should queer people. His way of thinking was that people should be free to love who they wanted, political connotations be damned.
Recent celebrity coming outs have applied that notion. Miley Cyrus declared that she was pansexual. There was a bit of furor over her marriage to alleged heterosexual Liam Hemsworth. People were mad that she married the white guy, who is (allegedly) straight. Shouldn't she, as a queer person, marry another queer? As with all of the controversies that she has been in the center of, Miley shrugged her shoulders and continued to live her truth. As she should.
Country music star Cameron Hawthrone took a similar stance when he came dancing out of the closet (that pun will be funnier in a few sentences). For the most part, country music has not embraced LGBTQ+ artists with the same fervor that pop and rock music has. When Cameron released his music video for "Dancing in the Living Room," it showed him dancing with another man, and suddenly it was understood that Cameron is not straight. As of yet, there doesn't seem to be much negative effect on his career. A sign of the changing times?
It would seem that the era of using a big announcement to say, "I'm gay," is over for celebrities. There is still much work that needs to be done, but the homophobia and hate that was once so prevalent is now replaced with nonchalance. Maybe Ben Platt wasn't so far off with his wish.