Bil Browning

Kinda: Kevin Spacey sorta comes out

Filed By Bil Browning | December 17, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: closet cases, coming out of the closet, gay actors, Kevin Spacey, Queen Latifah

When I wrote about Queen Latifah being photographed on a yacht in an embrace with her lover, I mentioned the conversation Jerame and I had at home about whether or not she had a duty to come out.

I argued that Neil Patrick Harris was a better person since he came out and didn't try to dodge the question by claiming it was his personal life, etc. The comments on that post astounded me as many of you agreed with kevin_spacey.jpgJerame that Queen Latifah should come out on her own time and not someone else's schedule.

The Daily Beast has an in-depth interview with actor Kevin Spacey - also a well-known closet case (at least professionally). In the article, Spacey does a wee bit of the dodge-and-weave, but I think this is about as close as we're going to get to a public coming out. The interviewer is a gay man and questions Spacey about why he's never come out; he pegs the actor as one of us and there's no denial.

Check out the interview after the jump. I'm curious to see if Projectors agree with his logic about using sexuality as a weapon and how it relates to the recent rash of gay teen suicides.

May I talk to you man-to-man? We can go off the record for this if you want.

You're conducting this interview so you can stay on the record if you wish. I don't mind.

OK, but at any point you want to go off-the-record let me know. Casino Jack has a tribal motif running through it. There is Abramoff's taking advantage of the Native-American tribes and playing them off each other. There is the tribe of lobbyists in D.C., which is itself a tribal town. And there is his deep identification as a Jew that almost takes on tribal aspects in its religiosity. As I sat in the screening watching all these tribal narrative streams blend together I began to feel compelled to put this to you. We gay men have always proudly claimed you as a member of our tribe, and yet you don't proudly claim us back. Why?

Look, I might have lived in England for the last several years but I'm still an American citizen and I have not given up my right to privacy.

But that's where we differ. I don't think being gay is a private matter. Heterosexuals don't consider their heterosexuality itself a private matter. I'm not asking you what goes on behind a locked door anymore than I would ask a heterosexual. I'm not asking if you're a top or bottom. That's none of my business.

Let's enlarge the subject even more. I think what we have seen in terms of gay teenagers committing suicide because of bullying is anguishing. I think young people, if they are feeling like they are confused, need to know that there are people to talk to and that there are places they can go and not feel alone. But I feel that they have just as many rights as I do to not be bullied. And I don't understand people who say, "Well, this is a terrible thing that is happening to this young person whose life is being exposed," and then turn around and do it to another person. People have different reasons for the way they live their lives. You cannot put everyone's reasons in the same box. It's just a line I've never crossed and never will.

Well, I don't equate my discussing this with you as bullying you. You are an accomplished grown man, not a fearful teenager. But would you do one of those "It Gets Better" videos? I think that would be great if you did one of those.

Yeah. Absolutely. I'd do one of those. But why is it in this country that kids might think it's OK to bully and make fun of somebody? I'll tell you why, because what do they see in the media happening all the time? In the media they seem to think that's OK So if we stop using sexuality as a weapon against people maybe everyone will eventually get cool with it.

But I'm not attacking you. I don't see sexuality as a weapon. I see it as a gift. Look, I know that being an actor--and all the emotion and sexuality and longing that is projected onto you in a role by an audience--complicates the issue in that you have to take into account their required complicity in the very essence of your art. No performance is complete until their belief is a part of it. But I stopped being an actor after I left Juilliard because I couldn't live a lie to enable myself to pretend. That was too much of a double whammy.

I don't live a lie. You have to understand that people who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie. That is a presumption that people jump to.

There are lies of omission. But I have never heard that you are at all hypocritical in your daily life with your close friends and family. You've admitted you're a political animal so you have to understand the social significance of your being more open when discussing this. But you've been great to keep this all on the record. I appreciate that. That speaks to your innate integrity.

Look, at the end of the day people have to respect people's differences. I am different than some people would like me to be. I just don't buy into that the personal can be political. I just think that's horseshit. No one's personal life is in the public interest. It's gossip, bottom line. End of story. Now some people feed that. They'll go to the trendy restaurants where all the photographers are and then bitch about being famous. But if you don't want to feed that and you want your life to be based around what your work is then it ends there. Your saying that you are gay and that is how you walk about in the world and it has nothing to do with your true private life is a good distinction for you to draw. But it's not such a good distinction for other people. Personally, I don't really think that distinction exits. Look, I think finally this is a very important issue to be discussed. I do. Mainly because of how sad it is that young people in this country--and even around the world where they don't have the freedoms and rights we do--are being subjected to the kinds of abuse they are being subjected to. That's what is shameful.

The whole article is definitely a must-read if you're interested in Spacey. I wish I could have the chance to interview him specifically about the LGBT angle and his thought on queer rights.

So what do you think? Do you agree with Spacey's logic? Disagree? Why?

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I agree with him, it's bullying. He's an artist. He has no obligation to your political agenda. I think it's horrible the way we badger artists about this. It's enough that he's committed to doing good work. Leave him alone.

I agree with him. I like watching movies and TV shows, so I appreciate actors. I also appreciate actors' takes on their characters and the shows/movies they're on. I don't need to know who they go home to at the end of the day or if they have a baby bump or any of the other tabloid headlines that are just none of my business.

It's great that the interviewer has such an open opinion of sexuality. Other people don't live that way.

I think they both make good points. If Spacey wants his private life private, that's his right. But there's a difference between acknowledgment and promotion. He doesn't have to be Ellen and Portia and publicize his relationships. But if the question is put to him, why not just say "Yes, I'm gay." You can just leave it at that.

I think it has to do with identity. Right now he's largely viewed as an actor, not a straight actor or anything. But if he comes out, he will be seen as a gay actor and it will color everything he does from that point on. Some people are ok with being seen as a "gay actor" and having "openly gay" preface everything someone says about them, but some people are not and i think that is understandable.

Why is it wrong for someone who's straight to "out" someone who's gay, but it's okay for a gay to "out" another gay?
Why is it necessary for people to stand on a soap box and announce it?
You think that if a gay "outs" another gay it is ok? That the person who is "outted" will be safe? That's it's different than being "outted" by someone who's straight?
Years ago, a friend of mine wanted to keep the knowledge of his sexuallity from his family, for good reason. His partner wasn't keen on this and thought he should "face his demons". The partner called his father and told him. His father picked up a baseball bat, went to his son's home and beat him to death.
It doesn't make a difference whether you are gay or straight... it is not your place to out someone.

He says about bullying: "it's a terrible thing that this person's life is being exposed." But I would argue that what is terrible and destructive is not the exposure per se, but the shaming and denigration of gay people. And to be closeted is to capitulate to , and arguably collaborate with that shaming and denigration. Especially when you are a wealthy and powerful adult with other viable options. I can't really accept his likening his own situation to that of gay kids harassed to death.

However, nor do I believe, in this day and age of greater visibility, that it would be accurate to suggest he has a responsibility to come out, in order to single-handedly let the proverbial lonely gay kid in Iowa know that it's OK.

I think he is trying to protect his career. And I empathize with that, although I am not sure his fears are realistic . Attitudes are changing, and since he is not really a Hollywood romantic leading man , I'm not sure it would actually hurt him to at all to just say "yeah I'm gay".

In general I think we need to recognize and have compassion for one another around the fact that there may be compelling reasons to be closeted; after all, if that weren't the case, it would mean our battles were already won.

So while I'm not impressed with his justifications, I do have compassion for his choice.

I would argue that what is terrible and destructive is not the exposure per se, but the shaming and denigration of gay people. And to be closeted is to capitulate to , and arguably collaborate with that shaming and denigration. Especially when you are a wealthy and powerful adult with other viable options. I can't really accept his likening his own situation to that of gay kids harassed to death.

Yes. This.

A few questions:

Does the amount of personal time taken in one's own life to come out of the closet correlate to the amount of despair felt by our LGBT youth from a corresponding amount of LGBT presence within their worlds?

If we are an LGBT community as opposed to an LGBT population, does that mean it is more important for us to come out for each other than for us to come out for ourselves?

How would Harvey Milk contemplate these questions?

Just pointing this out:

OK, but at any point you want to go off-the-record let me know.

Fine for a celebrity journalist to do a bad job this way. Too bad too many hard news journalists act this way too.

To blame the gay community for the bullying that exists toward our gay youth is absurd. The blame squarely falls on the bullies... the ones who actually do it and the one's (such as religious leaders) who teach them to do it.

A movie star can not come out and have a career as a leading man. Ellen, Neil Patrick Harris and others are not male leading men in the major motion picture industry. Just ask Ruppert Everett what happens when a leading man comes out. As an extremely talented actor who's career was ascending at a steady rate, ask him how many leading roles he's been offered since coming out.

It's nice for those of us who are in positions that allow the freedom to come out and still work in our chosen field. It's unfair to ask those who are not in that position to risk everything they've worked for and deservedly attained, because you think that it may help others.

It is not up to anyone but the person him/herself to make that monumental decision... period.

I think he's completely dissimilating. It's very simple: if you're embarrassed about who you are, then you hide it. If you aren't, you just state your truth. There isn't a heterosexual alive who has ever refused to say what his sexual orientation is, or ever lied about it.

Every time someone references a husband or wife, this is discussing a private matter, according to Spacey, since it reveals your sexual orientation. Obviously no one else in our society sees it that way. So in reality, your sexual orientation is only a matter of "privacy" if you're gay. That intrinsically means that not all sexual orientations are created equally in Spacey's world.

If there was still a significant penalty to being openly gay, that would be a different matter. As an Oscar winning actor though, his career wouldn't be in any danger. And he's not exactly a leading man heart throb.

So for all of his pontificating, it still comes down to lying by omission. "Above all else, to thine own self be true."

Uhhh... you're forgetting one important thing. Declaring ones heterosexuality comes with absolutely no risk.

You can't guarantee that even though he's an award-winning actor, his career won't suffer. Either way, it's his life to live as he feels most comfortable. You certainly have a right to your opinion. You don't the right to project that opinion onto him... regardless how attractive you judge him to be.

Frankly, I think it's you who are pontificating.

"Uhhh... you're forgetting one important thing. Declaring ones heterosexuality comes with absolutely no risk."

And you're missing the point. He's claiming that to reveal your sexual orientation is to relinquish your privacy. Clearly that isn't the case for straight people. So he isn't being intellectually honest.

"Either way, it's his life to live as he feels most comfortable. You certainly have a right to your opinion. You don't the right to project that opinion onto him... regardless how attractive you judge him to be."

This is an absurd straw man argument. Of course he can live his life however he wants to. This is a discussion specifically about his philosophy of hiding his sexual orientation, and that requires opinions. If you don't like mine, fine. But to accuse me of projecting anything onto him is silly.

"Frankly, I think it's you who are pontificating."

I'm not the one with the rap about how something that isn't personal is this super-private verbotten subject matter.

Marshall Thornton | December 18, 2010 11:18 AM

Bullying is only part of the reason that gay teens kill themselves. Lack of strong role models factors into the equation. Yes, there are an increasing number of positive role models out there for kids and things are getting better and better, but every time someone comes out and says "I'm gay. I'm proud of who I am. And I'm going to fight to have a career on my own terms." that makes life a little better for teens.

For this guy to paint himself the victim and compare himself to a teenager struggling with their sexuality is just plain repulsive. I'm supposed to feel sorry for a movie star being asked personal questions? Come on. If he wants his privacy I have a suggestion: stop doing interviews. It's real simple.

"Bullying is only part of the reason that gay teens kill themselves. Lack of strong role models factors into the equation."

This is an important point. By hiding your sexual orientation, not only are you not providing a role model, you are conveying the message that there is something shameful about it worthy of hiding.

This has been said among bi friends over this issue, but I've not seen it in any comments on articles yet, so here goes: anyone ever consider he is bi? His dissembling sounds a heck of a lot like most bi men who don't want people to think they are straight, but they are not gay and, let's be honest, particularly for actors, no one wants to hear that they are bisexual.

It's not like just announcing you are gay, it comes with a whole set of baggage that both gays and straights throw out and myths so many still believe, and the stigma of the down-low crap.... an actor coming out as bisexual would definitely get his reputation and work sidetracked by a huge shitstorm of controversy and people talking about everything but his work.

Kevin Spacey does a job. He is an actor. How is his orientation any interest to any of us? I have gone to the same grocery store for years and never felt the need to know the orientation of the checkout person that serves me every week. My doctor? I have no idea. My kid's school teachers? Ditto. Indeed, if I were to ask any of them about their job, and then changed the subject to their sexual orientation, saying everybody already thinks you're gay, would that not be extremely rude?

I think that Kevin Spacey handled the interviewer's prying very graciously. But it was prying, do not fool yourself. There are plenty of people who feel comfortable sharing their orientation, but that should not lead us to expect it.

Nadine Lockhart | May 1, 2011 3:18 PM

Everyone has made good points, even if opposite. But if I distill all the information, Spacey may make it sound like a personal choice, but I believe it is professional. A survey was taken as to how many Top Twenty Box Office Male Actors were OPENLY GAY--the answer was zero. Why the need for him to SAY it; we all know. Wasn't it worse when he had his phony relationship (female) story? His friends and lover(s) know; if you need more proof than your own intuitive GADAR, then it's just an ego thing. He states in the interview, he'll NEVER come out "It's just a line I've never crossed and never will." Nuff said. But, human nature being what it is, unless he is sooooo careful, someone he knows well, unless he choses so perfectly, will eventually come out to OUT him. Bottom line, he doesn't want to be known as a GAY ACTOR. But he is. And it's too bad, but he probably see this as not the time where it so acceptable, it wouldn't make a difference, but it would, so he's discreet. The irony is, the more people come out, the sooner it would be a time when it wouldn't make a difference.