David Badash

Ricky Martin's Coming Out. "Congratulations!" Or, "What Took So Long?"

Filed By David Badash | March 30, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, Ricky Martin

Yesterday ricky-martin.jpgon my own blog, I wrote, "Ricky Martin Comes Out: 'I Am Homosexual.' In Other News, The Earth Is Round." The title itself got a lot of guffaws on Twitter and Facebook. But at the end of the piece I wrote,

While I'm happy Ricky Martin has found the strength to come out, I have to ask, what took so long? Everyone must make their own journey at their own pace, but, like Sean Hayes, Ricky Martin was an assumption, and the LGBTQ community needs everyone's help, now more than ever. Those in the public eye have a responsibility to help their community.

That part didn't get as many laughs. Readers were split. So, I thought I'd share my thoughts with the Bilerico community, and ask you yours.

I embrace, support, and welcome Ricky Martin into our community. I hope he will use his position to support us, just as our community has supported him. I'm sure we're all happy that he has found himself and the strength to be true to himself.

Everyone's journey is different and no one can truly understand another person's choices, pain, or needs. I, myself, will confess I had it pretty easy. In honor of National Coming Out Day last year, in these very pages, I wrote, "How I Never Came Out." In it, I tell how "I never really had to" come out. A fact that I confess I neglected to consider when I rhetorically asked of Ricky Martin, "what took so long?"

That said, after listening to many readers' and friends' responses, here are my thoughts:

Several reminded me that Ricky Martin has a huge Latin fanbase who would not have supported his coming out, saying Ricky Martin himself grew up in a fiercely homophobic, latin, Catholic culture.

My response is, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, the teen whose body was decapitated, dismembered, and burned in Puerto Rico. The Governor of Puerto Rico, where Ricky Martin grew up, refused to label that despicable act a hate crime, forcing the federal government to threaten to make Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado's murder one of the first hate crime cases prosecuted under the newly-signed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. What a great opportunity Ricky Martin had then to speak out against this heinous and despicable act, and throw his support to battling the increase we are seeing in homophobic hate crimes.

Several mentioned that had Ricky Martin come out earlier, his career would have died and he never would have reached stardom, thus rendering him unable to use his star power to help the LGBTQ community. To that, my response is, Ellen DeGeneres, who came out at a time it was not popular to do so, and, though putting a bump in her career, rendered her ultimately more popular and more powerful.

Several mentioned that it takes courage to come out, that perhaps it was just too hard for him. To that, my response is, Constance McMillen, the rural Mississippi eighteen-year old who just wanted to take her girlfriend to her high school prom, and ultimately was scorned and chastised by her classmates. She sued, thanks to the help of the ACLU, and won.

Several mentioned that he needed to come out on his own schedule, when it was comfortable for him. To that, my response is Wanda Sykes, who felt compelled after Prop 8 to do something for her community, and came out to speak publicly about anti-gay rhetoric and hate. Her career certainly hasn't been hurt -- she's more popular than ever.

While Ricky Martin may be seen by some as a fading icon in America, internationally, he is a huge star. Again, to those who say he needed to come out on his own schedule, I think of all the bi-national couples he could have helped. While we're fighting for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA,) what better spokesperson than someone like Ricky Martin to help educate the public? I hope now he will choose to use his position to help our community more directly.

A reader reminded me of this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.,

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

I have this final point to offer: Rock Hudson. He was a man, dying of AIDS, with no financial or career concerns left. He had all the friends and money he needed. His coming out as a gay man dying of HIV/AIDS in 1985 would have hastened this country's move toward understanding and de-stigmatizing the disease that ultimately killed him, and put a face on a disease and a minority that desperately needed help. Instead, he pretended he was straight, went on Dynasty as a last attempt to prove the illusion he trying to live was real, and, sadly, died.

Times were different then. Times are different now.

OK. One last point.

If you're in the public eye, if you chose a career in the media, in entertainment, or even in politics, you make your living from those who vote for you, buy tickets to your shows, movies, concerts, buy your recordings, buy magazines that put your picture on the cover. In short, your entire career exists because of others. Which means you have a responsibility to give something back, to help others in your community, even if it's hard, even if it hurts a little. To those who do, from the bottom of my heart, I say, "thank you."

Every day, too many LGBTQ teens, like Derrick Martin, are forced out of their homes, before or after coming out, because of the response they receive from friends and family. Every day, the bigotry machine on the right is working to not only stop us from gaining ground, but to actually roll back our hard-won advances. (A few of the latest examples, the Governor and Attorney General in Virginia who removed LGBTQ protections from state workers and advised public schools and colleges to do the same, and, our marriage loss in Maine.)

In his coming out letter, Ricky Martin wrote,

This was not supposed to happen 5 or 10 years ago, it is supposed to happen now. Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment.

That of course is true because it is his life. All I can do is respect that. But I ask others not yet out, make this your time, too.

I'm happy Ricky Martin found the strength to come out, and I sincerely congratulate him. I'm sure his journey, like those of Constance McMillen, Derrick Martin, and countless other youth, and even adults who choose to come out after decades of living in the closet, was not an easy one. But I fervently believe we are all in this together.

To those who are living in the closet, afraid of what they may lose, I urge you to think of how much more you will gain, and I urge you to consider how much good you could do for yourself and for your community, by taking that step to come out, and live proud.

Now, more than ever, we desperately need you.


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Hi David,

I appreciate your arguments above, but honestly, I don't think he owes anyone anything...and here's why:
Ricky isn't just sitting around waiting for the new Xtina single to drop while sipping a cocktail (as I have been for the last two hours)...
He runs the Ricky Martin Foundation and does amazing, amazing things to educate / stop child trafficking...that's his cause. If he didn't show up to a candlelight vigil for a victim of a hate crime because he was in a poor country trying to stop / talk about slavery, I'd be inclined to give him an auto-free-pass.

Just saying.

I liked what you wrote though. Keep on keepin' on.

I'm not inclined to criticize other people's coming outs. More power to Ricky Martin for eventually coming out.

The Amazing Randi also came out recently, as well as Meredith Baxter. I think we have to accept eventually that there will always be people who come out later in life as long as homophobia exists, and that blaming the individual isn't going to improve the system.

Plus Ricky Martin's hot.

Cute, handsome, talented. family man (Bravo) and who cares about which hole it sticks it in.

My reaction is 100% same as yours, Alex --- maybe Ricky has been assumed to be gay for decades, but he found the courage to go public when he was ready, and not before ---

--- and I have two things to say to him: (1) I didn't come out completely until I was ready, either, and (2) Congratulations, Ricky Martin, we're glad to (finally!) have you (officially!) on the LGBT team!

Alex,

While I don't disagree with your thoughts on coming out, I want to stress that I wasn't blaming Ricky Martin as much as I was highlighting missed opportunities and identifying that we all do have the ability -- regardless of our station in life -- to personally make a difference.

I offered examples of people -- in the public eye and not -- who made the choice to support their community by coming out and standing up for their rights, and ours, and in doing so, made the world a better place for us all.

Alex Grigny Alex Grigny | March 30, 2010 9:02 PM

Raised in Uruguay and Argentina, my mother baptized me when I was 8 years old. I was brought up in a homophobic and classist environment, I was not even allowed to play with my neighbours because they were working class. I joined the Order of Preachers (Dominican Friars, catholic) when I was 18. I left the order when I realised I could not resist temptation, and a few years later left for Europe. I learned to accept my feelings for other men, and come out of the closet for myself and other when I was 26 yo. I have NO RIGHT to criticise other people's coming out past struggles, unless they are actively damaging for their own personal benefit our LGBTIQ rights to be who we are. My coming out was too painful to start judging others. Maybe I'm too old to do that (61), or people who had an easy coming out are too young? Who knows... In any case, I applaud Ricky Martins' decision without reservation.

Obviously you haven't dabbled in Latin American media, the industry his actual livelihood depends on.

Good for you that some places-- mostly cities, which urbanite gays don't understand that they do not represent the U.S. population as a whole-- in this country have become more accepting.

In Latin American media, and culture in general, it hasn't progressed to that place. There are legislative advances, but in general the workings in a government down South surprisingly are more secular than up here.

If his career had suffered, would you have set up a fund for him? Do you reckon gay folks would have made mass donations to match the losses? Would you have replaced family and friends behind your computer along with fellow bloggers?

I doubt it.

Like you David, I didn't have to come out. But it's because I was outed.

I was outed before I knew I was gay. I was called a dyke before I knew what it meant. My high school guidance counselor asked my classmates if I was gay without asking me. I only found out about it because someone had the decency to tell me my guidance counselor had asked her if I was gay.

I was rumored to be something I wasn't sure I was and wasn't sure what it even meant. I didn't come out so much as a confirmed the rumors to be true. And in doing so I had to own every slur thrown my way, every insult I had to say "yes, it's true."

Although, I don't think I'd change it because I ended up stronger for it. But I was also pretty hard headed...obviously. I mean I didn't exactly try to change my appearance or behavior to avoid being bullied. One of my friends said that I was bringing it on myself.

My internal realization was actually separate track from what was going on publicly. And what was going on publicly was people trying to humiliate me and they had no right. Because some people aren't as strong. Some people take their own lives when they're pushed out before they're ready to deal with it.

Shaming people gay people for not coming out sooner, for not being stronger or wiser, is bashing them for not being the kind of gay you think they should be.

Ricky Martin apparently had somethings happen in his life that gave him the strength to come out now. And I don't fault him for not coming out sooner.

I don't believe in forcing people out of the closet simply because it will benefit me. Yes, he is a public figure but he is still a person and as such deserves some control of his life. He came out when he was ready and that is how it should be. I applaud him for coming out period because he didn't have to. When I came out to my family and friends it was because I was ready and comfortable and frankly had no fear of how they would react. There are people who I don't speak to anymore and it hurts but it would have hurt even more if I hadn't made the decision all by myself to come out. We all live by our own time line and our own schedule.

I applaud him for coming out. I do not criticize him for waiting this long. Each of us has his own journey with a psychology so complex I think no one else can judge. Yet, without the cheerleaders encouraging coming out and telling us how much there is to gain, the path of least resistance is to remain closeted. I do think that the more people who are visible, the more acceptance we will have.

And yes, Ricky Martin is so hot!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 31, 2010 6:36 AM

It's never too late.

I agree with you, Mr. Badash - hook, line and sinker. And you said it so perfectly, that I barely need to comment here. It's not my business, but I think he should've come out sooner. One's personal sense of courage, self respect and legacy is more important than most any amount of $ in the bank.

as one who has not yet come out publicly, i have to chime in with my agreement that timing is up to the individual. i have come out to a few people, but not to intimates. that's a choice i have to make for myself, and nobody else can make that kind of choice for me. i don't know when my time will be, nor do i wish to know. when i know, i will know.

i was never into ricky martin musically. maybe that threatened part of me thought it was inappropriate to enjoy a gay man's music - i took it for granted all these years. i don't know much of anything about his music, but at this time it makes no difference. it is to his credit that he has come out as a gay man, regardless of how long it may have taken him to do so.

congratulations, ricky...one day i will be congratulated as well.

Coming out like many other things is a personal choice. It took me 41 years to come out. It was the right time for many reasons. I do not believe for a second that my timing was perfect but there were many things that had to be reconciled. Ultimately I lost many things by making this choice but I also gained many new wonderful things as well.