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Richson: Taking the shock out of coming out

BY BRIANNE RICHSON | FEBRUARY 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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Amid my weekend spent Googling and thus fangirl-ing over various Olympic athletes (specifically, skier Gus Kenworthy and his Russian-born puppy posse), I came across various articles splashing the information that well-known actress Ellen Page came out at a conference hosted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The event, specifically for the purpose of promoting LGBT rights and welfare, was an appropriate venue as any for Page to make such a personal announcement. I am a Page fan, despite the stardom she found in playing a bizarre poster child for teenage pregnancy in the film Juno, because I find her quirkiness and unconventionally pretty looks charming and refreshing. I’m not sure that her announcement makes me look at her any differently, as it shouldn’t. She’s still a talented actress. Did her announcement surprise me? Maybe. I don’t know. Should she even have had to make an announcement? Of course not.

And then, yesterday, I found myself on Facebook (not that this is particularly notable), and a side-ticker proclaimed that actress and on-screen badass Michelle Rodriguez publicly confirmed her romantic relationship with British model Cara Delevingne. This surprised me, as I frantically began searching “Cara Delevingne bisexual????” because I had no idea that the gorgeous model with the flawless eyebrows was anything but straight. It just seemed logical to me.

I had ignorantly assumed that anyone who pranced around in elaborate, bedazzled lingerie annually as millions of viewers tuned in couldn’t possibly be anything but heterosexual. I don’t care about Delevingne’s sexuality — what unsettled me were the assumptions I had made without even consciously being aware I was making them.

Perhaps it’s time to stop perpetuating assumptions of heterosexuality by eliminating the element of surprise and the grandeur of celebrities’ coming-out announcements altogether. This grandeur is not surprising — they’re celebrities — but the attention we devote to celebrities coming out likely makes things worse for those struggling with the thought of making their sexuality a matter of public record.

In her proclamation, Page stated that she was “tired of hiding,” as she rightfully should be.

Constructing your own identity is exhausting, and the more involved the façade becomes, the more energy you’re spending not being yourself.

Why should romantic interests and sexual orientations have to be public and newsworthy? Granted, I would probably rather read about these things than the breaking news that Hot Pockets allegedly contain meat from diseased animals, but … still. A change in what is newsworthy is going have to come from the top; the media have to condition the public to believe that sexual orientation is not newsworthy and shouldn’t matter.

Likewise, celebrities ought to set an example by stopping these announcements, these proclamations of one’s “being.” These announcements only play into mainstream society’s assumptions that to be straight is “normal” and to be different requires explanation and justification.

I haven’t ever felt the need to announce to the world that I was straight, or confirm that, yes, I did have a poster of Orlando Bloom as Legolas in Lord of the Rings above my bed in my grade school years. This is a luxury that, as a straight female, I am afforded, but it shouldn’t have to be that way.

Maybe it’s another ignorant assumption of mine that it would be feasible for a lesbian or gay or bisexual celebrity to live a life without making an announcement about sexuality. It would be a brave course of action, but so is a public statement.


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