Although Anderson Cooper’s coming out garnered more media attention, Frank Ocean’s announcement promises to usher in important change, Touré writes in a piece at Time. He says it’s harder for people to hate gays when celebrities who have come out are in their living rooms 24/7, so to speak.
Two famous men came out this week, but little about their moments was similar. Coming out remains a political gesture — an act of resistance in a world that still tries to attach shame to homosexuality. When gay bashing remains prevalent and politicians and voters work to constrain gay civil rights, one’s sexual orientation cannot be just someone’s “private business.” Knowing people are gay is a path to acceptance. Studies show that people are more likely to be at peace with homosexuality even if they only know homosexuals through parasocial relationships — the sort of one-sided relationships we have with celebrities. It becomes harder to hate gay people when you find them in your living room all the time via Modern Family or Will & Grace. So coming out remains important because the visibility and normality of prominent gay Americans makes life easier for less famous gay Americans, some of whom commit suicide because they fear the life ahead of them. “There is value in standing up and being counted,” as Anderson Cooper said in his coming-out statement on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Cooper is one of cable TV’s best and most prominent broadcasters and also someone who has been rumored to gay for a long time, but that widespread opinion is irrelevant because of the message that not standing up tacitly sends. As Cooper wrote in his statement, “I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something” …
Where Cooper talks about it as an almost clinical fact about himself — “I’m gay, always have been, always will be” — Ocean takes a much more nuanced view by describing a pivotal relationship, never attaching a label to himself. He writes of his first love affair, four years ago, in language that could easily fit a heterosexual relationship, normalizing gay love, revealing it as functioning just the same as straight love. His silence could have suggested that he thought there’s some reason to be quiet about being gay. His speaking out makes it clear he knows there isn’t.
Read Touré’s entire piece at Time.
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