Why Is It Easier For White Gay Celebrities To Come Out Of The Closet Than Black Gay & Lesbian Stars?
Entertainment Weekly’s new issue this week is about celebrities coming out of the closet. The pop culture magazine examines the changing attitudes society has about gay and lesbian stars coming out of the closet. Is this really progress? A quick glance at the cover of Entertainment Weekly and the majority of gay stars on the cover are white gay males. Only two lesbians are on the cover Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch. The only non white person on the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly is comedian Wanda Sykes.
Fifteen years ago, when Ellen Degeneres came out she was on the cover of Time Magazine. It is true that North American culture is more accepting of celebrities coming out but only if they are white. Now Ellen Degeneres has a hit talk show and has made millions of dollars after coming out. Can anyone imagine an A list black gay or lesbian celebrity come out of the closet and actually acquire more fame just like Degeneres after coming out?
Degeneres received support from the mainstream white heterosexual and gay media after she decided to come out in 1997. Degeneres white skin privilege allowed her to navigate the terrain of coming out as a lesbian. Degeneres whiteness was her bargining chip to minimize the collateral damage of coming out.
Since the white image is still viewed as natural in society, Degeneres whiteness made it easier for her to declare she is a lesbian. Degeneres didn’t have to deal with any racial issues when she came out of the closet. Since whiteness is still constructed out of dominance in North America, Degeneres being gay wasn’t seen as a threat to mainstream white American society.
The paucity of black gay and lesbian stars coming out is because being gay in North American generally means being white not black.
The television shows such as Modern Family, Will & Grace, movies such as Brokeback Mountain and The Kids Are All Right all have the same white image about homosexuality. Entertainment Weekly’s cover about coming out reinforces the white gay image.
Hollywood just like mainstream society is still racially stratified. Heterosexual black actors complain about not obtaining decent film roles like their white counterparts. The entertainment industry does not have a level playing field for people of colour. Black gay actors probably fear coming out will destroy their careers.
It is easier for a white gay celebrity to come out than a black gay and lesbian star. There is a paucity of African American stars coming out of the closet.
Although the mainstream media promotes coming out as a magical, wonderful, moment in a gay person’s life this is not always the case.
In the black community, black gay stars fear criticism by the black media and their fans if they come out.
The black media also has a propensity to ignore queer black stars for a number of reasons. There is an attitude in the black community that homosexuality is a white issue and not a concern to blacks. There is also a don’t ask don’t tell attitude in the black community about homosexuality. Of course, black people already are cognizant Wanda Sykes is a lesbian but homosexuality is considered a private matter. Homosexuality is still a taboo topic to discuss in the African Diaspora.
Sykes was courageous in coming out because she is one of the few black celebrities to declare she is a lesbian. However, the mainstream white culture reinforces the subliminal message is gay people are generally white not black, Asian, Native American, or Hispanic. Of course, there are people of colour who are gay the question is why are most lesbian and gay stars of colour still in the closet?
Gay people of colour are marginalized not just because they are gay but also due to race and identity politics. Last year, the only high profile black celebrity to come out of the closet was CNN journalist Don Lemon. However, most black people yawned and didn’t care that Lemon came out because he’s not a real star he’s a journalist.
The black media only briefly mentioned Don Lemon’s decision to come out but he was generally ignored. The real big black gay and lesbian celebrities are unwilling to come out because they have already built their brand and audiences. If or when a higher profile black queer star comes out of the closet then the black press will pay attention.
There is a reason Queen Latifah, Tyler Perry, Tracy Chapman, Missy Elliott and the rest of the high profile black gay and lesbian stars are not out. Tracy Chapman is a multi platinum and Grammy award winning artist she chooses to not announce she is a lesbian because she believes it is a private matter. Chapman probably wants the general public to focus on her music and not on her sexual orientation.
Queen Latifah has high profile endorsements with Cover Girl cosmetics, Tyler Perry has a huge following in the African American Christian community, and Missy Elliott is a well respected rapper. Tyler Perry’s new movie Madea Witness Protection comes out this week Friday. Perry’s core audience are black Christians he can’t just come out of the closet and declare he is a gay black man. Perry is fearful if he does come out he will lose the audience he has worked so hard to reach.
For an A list black star to come out as gay and lesbian is still considered a form of career suicide. After coming out of the closet who will support the openly gay or lesbian black star?
One of the dilemmas some queers of colour experience is the struggle between coming out of the closet and losing respect from their race and cultural community. It might be difficult for a person that is not of colour to truly understand this point. We live in a white centered world despite the progress of the civil rights, feminist, and gay movements. The mainstream white culture is the dominant culture, but for people of colour there is a private sphere beyond the public realm.
Another issue that tends to be ignored is the fact that the gay media in North America is controlled by white people. Remember four years ago the controversy over proposition 8 in the state of California? Dan Savage the white gay activist blamed the black community for voting in favour of banning gay marriage. Even though, blacks account for about 4% of California’s total population.
Dan Savage’s racism and anger towards blacks underscored the racial tension and friction between white gays and blacks. Savage was condemned by black gay activists for his anti black racism.
On this blog, I have discussed numerous times the issue of racism within the gay and lesbian community. In North America there are even separate gay pride events for blacks and whites. In major American cities such as Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York City, black gay pride is popular among black gays and lesbians. The reason African Americans decided to create black gay pride is due to the fact blacks wanted to claim their own space. Black gays and lesbians were aware that the mainstream gay community did not provide a safe space for them.
Across North American the lesbian communities have created their own Dyke March because they are cognizant of the sexism of gay men. Lesbians realized they needed their own space separate from male homosexuals to celebrate being lesbian.
Some black gay stars are reticent to come out to the gay media because they don’t trust the mainstream white gay media.
Some black gay stars don’t see any benefit in coming out. The mainstream white gay publications Out Magazine, Instinct, and Advocate, are geared towards a white queer audience. The white gay media’s attention is focused on white queer culture not black queer culture.
More must be done in the mainstream society and queer communities so that real progress can take place and that black gay stars can come out and be successful.
Sydney Morning Herald Article: Gay Marriage Conscience Vote Will Stop Same Sex Marriage Becoming Legal In Australia.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are delaying a final vote in federal parliament hoping to shore up their numbers.
- ADVOCATES of same-sex marriage accept Parliament will defeat two bills later this year calling to legalise gay marriage but believe public pressure will ultimately prevail.
The Finance Minister, Penny Wong, one of the strongest proponents for a change to the Marriage Act, said yesterday that change would come.
”I think the campaign is not going to go away because, ultimately, it’s a campaign for people’s equality,” she said.
A seven-member parliamentary committee split 4-2 against same-sex marriage yesterday with one abstention as it handed down a report which contained no recommendations, only information for all politicians to use to inform their final decision.
The committee chairman and Labor MP, Graham Perrett, along with fellow Labor MP Laura Smyth, favoured gay marriage while Liberal MPs Sharman Stone and Ross Vasta, and Labor’s Mike Symon and Shane Neumann opposed it.
The other member, the Liberal moderate Judi Moylan, gave no separate opinion.
Because both pieces of legislation are private members bills, time set aside to debate them is limited and no vote is expected until the end of this year at the earliest.
Priority will be given to the bill introduced by the NSW Labor MP Stephen Jones. The other is a Greens bill, sponsored by Adam Bandt.
”We’re short of the numbers at the moment but anything could change,” Mr Jones said.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will vote against gay marriage but has allowed Labor MPs a conscience vote. Number crunchers estimate about 36 of the 70 Labor MPs will vote for same-sex marriage while 10 to 15 are undecided and the rest will vote against.
Tony Abbott will not allow a conscience vote and all Coalition MPs are required to vote against same-sex marriage. Backbenchers can cross the floor but any frontbencher who does so would have to resign from the shadow ministry.
Mr Bandt, who will hold off on his bill until later this year or next year, said the delay between the start of debate and the final vote would be used to increase public pressure on political leaders, especially Mr Abbott, to have a change of heart.
”I’m optimistic of achieving reform within the life of this Parliament with some more discussion and more persuasion,” he said.
Parliament’s standing committee on social policy and legal affairs received a record 276,437 responses to an online survey it conducted as part of its inquiry.
Church groups and the Australian Christian Lobby have fiercely campaigned against gay marriage, despite Labor’s bill exonerating the churches and any other religious groups from having to marry gay people.
Mr Perrett, who holds a marginal Queensland seat, said ”it is important to remember that God did not write the Marriage Act”.
With public opinion polls consistently showing majority support for same-sex marriage, Mr Perrett said it was incumbent upon MPs to respond to growing public support ”by categorically opposing laws that legitimise discrimination”.
Ms Stone and Mr Vasta said the Liberals had promised before the federal election not to legalise gay marriage.
”I do not accept that the view towards marriage has changed since the 2010 federal election,” Ms Stone said.
Beijing — The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Jun. 02 2012, 10:36 AM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Jun. 02 2012, 3:21 PM EDT
Lin Jun was a gentle soul, the kind of guy who went to see The Smurfs movie in 3D and who posted photographs of his beloved tabby cat and snowy Montreal street scenes for his friends back home in China to see.
But the photographs and comments posted on his Sina Weibo account (a Chinese microblogging service that’s part Twitter, part Facebook) also reveal hints of a darker side, one that might have drawn him to someone such as Luka Rocco Magnotta, a porn actor and white supremacist who was already famous online for posting a video of his torturing of a kitten.
The 33-year-old Mr. Lin, who police have suggested might have been romantically linked to the man who murdered and dismembered him a week ago, gave himself the nickname “Justin the Villain” on his Weibo account, a moniker that seems at odds with the soft personality that comes through in most of his postings.
But dark thoughts clearly came to Mr. Lin from time to time. On Valentine’s Day last year, he posted a computer-altered photograph of himself with wild purple hair and a cracked face that turns grey around a mouth of broken and missing teeth. “My self-portrait,” he wrote beneath the repulsive image.
In another on-line posting a month before he was murdered, Mr. Lin took a photograph of an empty Montreal subway car. His mystifying caption “midnight cannibalism train,” led some Chinese Internet users to speculate Saturday that he was somehow foreshadowing his own gruesome death. (Police say some of Mr. Lin’s body parts were eaten before his hand and foot were mailed to the offices of political parties in Ottawa. Mr. Magnotta flew out from Montreal to Europe the day after the killing, and is the now target of an international police hunt.)
Mr. Lin also used the online user name Justin Rain, the name of an actor with a minor role in the Twilight vampire saga. And, once in Montreal, he registered the web domain homoBJ.com.
Other images on Mr. Lin’s Weibo page are much more pedestrian: a poster promoting the 3-D version of the movie Titanic, a robot he and his classmates built for a “mascot competition,” and links to romantic French songs, as well as several postings mourning Apple founder Steve Jobs. “We lost Steve Jobs forever” he wrote following Mr. Job’s death last year. “We lost you forever,” a friend replied Saturday on the same page of his Weibo account.
Also pictured on Mr. Lin’s Weibo is a medical bracelet from the Montreal General Hospital, where he was admitted last August after getting his hand caught in a subway door.
Mr. Lin was clearly very lonely, and somewhat narcissistic. He’s alone in nearly all of the photographs posted to his account. In many of them his chiselled body is either partially or fully naked.
He was also brave. Despite the conservatism of Chinese society – where homosexuality was considered a mental illness as recently as 2001 – he was openly and seemingly proudly gay. (That homophobia lingers in China. Scattered among the thousands of posts on Weibo mourning Mr. Lin’s death were a large number suggesting it was his sexuality that lead him into a dangerous situation.)
Born Dec. 30, 1978 in the industrial city of Wuhan, the capital of China’s central Hubei province, he moved to Beijing several years ago and began preparing for his dream of moving to Canada. He studied French at the Alliance Française cultural centre, hoping it would help him qualify for immigration to Quebec.
More than anything else, it was a partner he hoped to find. When the teacher of an entrepreneurial course at Montreal’s Tyark College asked him what his goal in life was, Mr. Lin said his biggest ambition was to find love. “That is what I remember about him. He was in computers, and he was looking for love,” recalled Alexandra Afanase, a fellow student in the Tyark business class.
While he was initially elated to be moving to Canada – “I’m going to Canada!” he posted on May 10, 2010 – Mr. Lin seemed to feel even more isolated after arriving in his new home. At one point, he notes that he’s the oldest person in his class at Concordia. “Suddenly I realized that I am about 10 years older than my classmates. They would have no problem calling me ‘uncle.’ It’s so crushing,” he wrote.
Using his chosen English name, Justin, he studied computer science at Concordia and worked at a convenience store, where he was described as a polite, responsible employee who never missed a shift – until his sudden disappearance last week. But there are hints that life in Montreal didn’t make him as happy as he’d hoped it would.
One of the first photos he put on his Weibo account after arriving in the city is of a sparsely populated street, under which he posed the question: “what kind of life?”
“You don’t have to consider this question any more,” read one of hundreds of replies that were posted today as news of Mr. Lin’s murder spread through China. “Rest in peace.”