Disclosure & Choice: When Do We Deserve to Know Someone’s Sexuality? (Handy Flowchart Included)

Last week, Ricky Martin came out and the blogosphere emitted a collective “duh”.
Newsweek issued a slideshow titled “We Already Knew, Ricky” and Gawker gleefully compiled an entire slideshow of people who “need to finally come out of the closet”.
Even relatively mainstream media sources like ABC News and Rollingstone.com were sure to mention the “years of scrutiny about his sexuality” and “speculation” that preceded his announcement.
The jokes, puns, and in some cases, ridicule, did not stop there. Headlines like “Ricky Martin decided against a “DUH!!! I Love Dick!” People magazine cover” (DListed) and innumerable “livin la vida blank” puns filled my reader.
After these knee-jerk reactions came the just-plain-jerk analyses. Why did Martin wait so long to come out? Didn’t he care about gay rights? How selfish and spineless was he not to have come out at the height of his career? And wasn’t *like* Barbara Walters *like* soooo vindicated?!
This week, Julia Baird of Newsweek took it a step further, even going so far as to praise this public reaction as indicative of how tolerant, progressive, even “healthy”, our nation has become:

“While it may have been a wrenching decision for Martin personally, there was something refreshing about eye rolling replacing homophobic invective…tolerance of homosexuality is likely to mean we live in a democratic, developed, wealthy country.”

This analysis of the public reaction to Ricky Martin- and a plethora of other celebrities- coming out misses the point. Eye rolling isn’t replacing the homophobic invective- it is the homophobic invective.
More ranting- with graphic accompaniment- after the jump.

Acting publicly cavalier, catty, and sometimes cruel about something so personal, at a time when people in different professions, locations, or economic situations could face tangible hardships, discrimination, and prejudice because of just such an announcement, is ignorant at best and homophobic at worst.
These reactions don’t suggest tolerance, but exploitation. They don’t reflect social enlightenment, but social entitlement. And they don’t reflect progress, but privilege.
As a bi-racial cis-gender able-bodied woman in a heterosexual relationship, I may not be able to say I know what it is that Ricky Martin went through before deciding to come out. But I can’t help but be struck by the hypocrisy of an America that forbids disclosure from their armed servicepeople and demands it to the point of issuing a frenzied media mandate from everyone else. Whether the criticism was coming from other gay men and women or not, rushing to judge the timing or impact of his decision fails to acknowledge his humanity and undercuts the ownership of his decision.
As long as our reaction is an invasive, entitled “duh” rather than an informed, supportive “thanks for choosing to share”, our collective privilege is showing, and we’re not making real progress for the LGBTQI rights agenda.
The truth is that we still live in a society where you can be best-friend gay, or girl-who-kisses-girls-gay, or celebrity gay, but you can’t be soldier gay, or congressperson gay, or equally-employed gay, or teen-at-her-prom gay, or married gay. And as long as we’re saying “duh” instead of acknowledging these realities, we’re at a standstill as a society on this issue.
So you know what I think? The real “duh” move is to repeal DADT, legalize gay marriage, and leave everyone’s choice about when, where, and to whom they disclose their sexuality as just that- a choice neither mandated nor forbidden by the government, media, or anyone else in between.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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