To Come Out or Not to Come Out?

Black celebs beset by gay rumors don't have to follow Anderson's or Don's lead. But it would be nice.

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 Just this week, Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean has been at the center of rumors swirling around his sexuality. In a review of his new album, Channel Orange, which drops in the U.S. on July 17, a British writer at This Is Max praised Ocean for being brave enough to open up about his sexuality: "On the songs 'Bad Religion,' 'Pink Matter and 'Forrest Gump,' you can hear him sing about being in love, and there are quite obvious words used, like 'him' and not 'her'."

The singer has remained mum on the subject. [UPDATE: Ocean has since posted an essay to his Tumblr revealing that his first love was a man.] But that, of course, hasn't halted plans for his coming-out party. AllHipHop.com asked its readers if the singer's sexuality made one bit of difference to them: "Would this stop you from buying or listening to his music?" One commenter replied, "Do whatever you want in your private life, but if you make being gay the focal point of your music I'll have no use for it."

In May the National Enquirer -- that shining pillar of responsible journalism -- quoted several anonymous sources in a story entitled "Raven-Symone Gay Shocker!" that claimed the 26-year-old former child star was shacking up in a "love-nest apartment with her 24-year-old girlfriend."

Raven-Symoné addressed the rumors via Twitter, sending two pointed missives in 140 characters or less: "My sexual orientation is mine, and the person I'm datings to know. I'm not one for a public display of my life" and "However that is my right as a HUMAN BEing whether straight or gay. To tell or not to tell. As long as I'm not harming anyone."

She's right, of course. Her life, her business. But as Cooper pointed out in his public coming-out letter, remaining silent on a hot-button but very personal political issue can (and will) solidify unspoken shame and the sanctioned discrimination that comes with it.

What's a celebrity (gay or straight) beset by such rumors to do? Deny, deny, deny. Ignore, ignore, ignore. Or should that person offer up his or her personal life for public consumption, regardless of the possible dangerous consequences for his or her career, family and friends?

Queen Latifah, whose private love life is constantly making headlines, performed last month at the annual Long Beach Pride festival. The crowd was so hungry for an announcement that when Latifah called them "her people" and referred to "unity," the coming-out rumors almost felt real.

For her part, Latifah immediately set things sort of straight by telling Entertainment Weekly, "I've never dealt with the question of my personal life in public. It's just not gonna happen." It was a line she's repeated several times. In 2008 she told the New York Times that her sexual orientation is simply off limits. In 2007 she told People magazine the same thing. The list goes on.

And yet people still sift through every innuendo for some clue to the 42-year-old's "secret life," which could also be defined as simply her life. Why? Are some of us just annoyingly nosy, or is there something more serious going on? A search for self-acceptance, self-reflection?

Dragging anyone out of a closet isn't the answer to increase mainstream visibility of non-heteronormative living. But it is one answer. Just as African Americans call for more positive depictions of themselves in film and television, the doubly or triply ostracized groups that represent LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer) people of color are crying out for the same thing.