Last week! Or when he was fourteen. Or some time in between.
Hmmmm.... He just got named today as the spokesperson for the HRC's Coming Out Project. If you're like me, you might have wondered if naming someone who just came out last week to help others come out is such a good idea. I mean, would he be ready to be experienced enough in outness and would he be over the shock of coming out in one week?
Of course, his coming out wasn't that simple. There's a video up on the HRC webpage (link above) where he gives more information about his outness. He first came out to his sister at fourteen, and in the later years of his NBA career, he was out in his native England and an open secret here amongst his teammates.
This makes you think about how and when someone is considered out. I think that most queer people already know that coming out is more than one announcement. But you have to wonder about whether Ted Haggard can properly have been outed by Mike Post. Haggard still hasn't said that he's gay, but pretty much everyone all over the country knows that he prefers men. Is he out? Amaechi identified as gay at age fourteen, and most people important to him knew before last week. Was he out before the announcement of his book? Rosie O'Donnell was out to everyone in her personal life before she publicly came out, and if MadTV sketches are history, pretty much everyone in the country knew she was a lesbian before she came out (even she thought that everyone knew, she said later in an interview). Can her announcement really be called coming out?
This may seem like splitting hairs on a term that inherently means different things to different people. But when we invest ourselves in helping others come out, setting up "Coming Out Projects", talking about the ethics of outing others, and constructing our own coming out narratives, we should wonder about what exactly we're talking.
And, more importantly, by making someone the official spokesperson on coming out, are we making one definition, one coming out story, prescriptive or normative?