I’ve been out for more than twenty five years. Yet, periodically, I have found myself “inned” by friends/family/colleagues. Sometimes, that “inning” came from fear and/or judgment, but, more often, it was an impulse borne of courtesy or a sense of protection. Still, with each “inning,” it became necessary for me to find my way to undo that recloseting with integrity and grace. This “inning” is one of the most insidious tools of heterosexism, and is why lgbt folk find themselves obliged to come out over and over and over again with each move or new job or family realignment or whatever.
And for those also in the public eye, one of heterosexism’s most storied traditions (called variously “the open secret” and “the glass closet”) has persisted in “inning” anyone who has not, oh, issued a press release saying “yup, I’m gay.” As a media tradition, the “open secret” and “glass closet” began as a homophobic mechanism of fear, control and judgment, yet it’s a tradition that persists out of a (perhaps misguided) heterosexist sense of deference ostensibly “protecting” the gay in question. Still, this particular invisibility cloak remains a caul of fear, control and judgment. It “ins” the outness of public figures like Anderson Cooper and places upon them the additional burden to undo the workings of both heterosexism and homophobia through public declamation.
So, while I understand all the “duhs” and “shrugs” and “shocked (not)s” that come when someone like Anderson Cooper finally issues that press release, I can’t join in that righteous cynicism. Indeed, such snarkery seems to me to derive its pleasure from the very heterosexism that inned Anderson in the first place.
Coming out, whether for the first time or after years of practice, is rarely simple. By coming out, you aren’t expressing yourself necessarily. Rather, you are making a choice to emphatically confront the heterosexism and homophobia operating in your life. You are choosing to take a stand against all the forces that “inned” you in the first place. For some, it’s easier than others and, for some, it takes what it takes. Still, I always admire those public figures, like Anderson Cooper, who choose to dismantle the glass closet being built and rebuilt around them, especially when they find a way to do so with integrity and grace.
So, in honor of Anderson Cooper’s recent press release, here’s hoping that these “glass closets” and “open secrets” will soon stop being part of fame’s welcome wagon… Here’s hoping that already out queer folk entering the public eye soon won’t have to bother with when, whether or how they will or won’t issue their own stupid press release… Here’s hoping that, with the “glass closets” and “open secrets” out of the way, we’ll soon be able to celebrate those public figures who choose to use their prominence to confront heterosexism/homophobia in other more interesting ways…
But for now: Good on ya, Anderson. What’s next?