Clay Aiken - Coming out and defining heroes
I did something naughty today. I called a good friend at work who is a dyed in wool conservative Republican and said the following:
"We are working fast. We got Lindsay Lohan and Clay Aiken yesterday."
Needless to say, he got the joke but didn't appreciate it. I guess I am going to have to buy him lunch next week.
I was referring to two incidents in which celebrities have come out.
Lindsay Lohan (the newest track on the Hollywood train to stardom and ruin - let's hope she doesn't go the way of Carole Landis and Lupe Velez) has admitted to dating female DJ Samantha Ronson.
While it is still up to speculation and may be considered as a stunt via Madonna and Sandra Bernhardt, I still say good for her.
Since talk has been going on about the two dating, I have stopped being exposed to pictures of Lohan with no underwear, Lohan passed out, Lohan drinking too much, etc.
If they are dating, maybe Ronson is good for her.
Now the Clay Aiken situation is a bit more definite.
Aiken has come out as a gay man.
And in other news, I will be on the next cover of People with the headline "Yep, I'm an African-American."
I think that a lot of jokes about Aiken's coming out stems from the fact that for a long time, he was a stereotype.
You know the one I speak of - the who is he kidding. Everyone knows he is gay so he should just come out stereotype.
But when you stop laughing, you have to admit to yourself that Aiken came out for the right reason.
He did not want to teach his child that lying about one's self is a good thing.
End of story as far as I am concerned.
But there will probably be discussion as to Aiken's celebrity status and his "responsiblity" to the community.
Before it gets into overdrive (and it can despite this wild presidential election), allow me throw out some thoughts.
I don't buy the celebrities should come out because they have a responsibility as role models argument. There are just too many problems with that.
Just because someone is in the public eye doesn't make them suitable spokespeople. And we shouldn't try to anoint them as such.
Remember the hell Lance Bass went through when he made comments about "straight acting." To some folks, he was someone who should have known better. Why? Because he sold millions of records?
To me, he was still a child just coming into something he did not fully understand. He made mistakes just like I did when I first came out (in my case, it was some very ugly comments about women in general, i.e. referring to them as a certain aquatic animal). The only difference is that his being in a former member of a boy band magnified his comments.
Then there is the tug of war. Let's say Ellen DeGeneres is invited to an HRC function. Before she even agrees to attend, another group who is angry at how HRC supported ENDA legislation that omitted the transgender community starts making public requests for her to boycott the function?
Now what's Ellen to do? Before she probably got her outfit picked out, she is in the middle of a hot mess.
Let's face it - our community objectifies being a celebrity too much. This is not to downplay celebrities or the visibility that gay celebrities provide us. This is to say that role models and heroes don't necessarily have to be actors, actresses, singers, etc.
They could be people next door who, while not fitting the physical image of homosexuality that is thrust upon us, are heroes in their own way. The young gay man who adopts three children, the lesbian who staffs the local pride center without wanting anything in return, the transgender person who, while quiet and unassuming, carries herself with a certain aura of grace and dignity that would make Audrey Hepburn jealous.
And let's not forget the nameless faces who show up at city council or state legislative meetings, who write letters to the editor, who kick in a little money to support a function, or who greet you with a simple hug.
I have been fortunate to be exposed to all of the above. And I consider them as my role models.