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When Will It Not Be News That Someone Is Gay?

gay-lesbian-symbols

News broadcasts this morning are reporting that actress Ellen Page announced that she is gay during a speech to a gay rights group last night:

(CNN) – Hollywood actress Ellen Page, known for her role in the movie “Juno,” announced she is gay, in a very public way.

Page broke the news during an emotional speech Friday in a crowded conference hall in Las Vegas, her publicist confirmed to CNN.

“I’m here today because I am gay. And because… maybe I can make a difference,” Page told a crowd at an event called Time to THRIVE, a conference to promote issues of the gay community.

The Canadian star got a standing ovation during the speech.

“I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission,” Page told the crowd. “I suffered for years, because I was scared to be out.”

(…)

Page, who is set to star in an upcoming X-Men movie, said she had learned a lot from others who have publicly announced their sexual orientation.

“We deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise,” she told the crowd.

Along with the announcement earlier this week from University of Missouri Defensive Lineman Michael Sam that he was gay, this announcement, got me wondering about where we actually stand as a nation when it comes to the acceptance of gays and lesbians and what some in the media continue to call their “lifestyle” for some reason. As we’ve noted here at OTB many times in recent years, public acceptance of homosexuality, homosexual relationships, and same-sex marriage have changed rapidly in a very short period of time to the point where you see that most Americans are just fine with all three, with support growing as time goes by. Public acceptance of gays and lesbians, their relationships, and the idea that they ought to be allowed to marry and raise children like the rest of us has increased at a faster pace than public attitudes changed regarding African-Americans did in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement and Supreme Court decisions such as Loving v. Virginia.  The only significant demographic that hasn’t caught up in this manner consists largely of older people and, well, they’re not exactly the future of the country. Given all of that, one has to think that, at some point, we’ll be in a world where the whole idea of people announcing that they are gay is about as newsworthy as if they announced they were left-handed. In some parts of society, one could argue that we’ve already reached that point.

Ellen Page, for example, works in an industry that has been open, accepting, and supportive of homosexuals for a long period of time. Yes, there was a time when movie stars such as Rock Hudson and others were forced to keep their sexual orientation a secret both because of public attitudes that could potentially ruin their careers and because of the prejudices of the executives who ran the studios that they depended upon for work. For at least the past twenty years, if not longer, though, Hollywood and the artistic community in general have become far more accepting of gays and lesbians and, indeed, a powerful lobbying force for things such as gay rights and marriage equality. Moreover, there are now large numbers of television, movie, and recording artists who are openly gay and who have clearly not suffered professionally because of that fact. So, while Page may have kept her private life private for personal reasons, it’s clear that the announcement she made last night isn’t going to harm her professionally to any significantly degree.

Of course, Hollywood and the artistic world are not necessarily reflective of the state of our culture as a whole and there remain places where people who are gay may not necessarily feel safe in coming out of the closet. As I noted earlier this week — see here and here — the reason that Michael Sam’s announcement about his sexual orientation is so significant is that he is likely to be the first openly gay person to play in an American team sport. Obviously, there have been gay people in professional sports in the past, including each of the major American team sports. This fact was confirmed last year when Jason Collins, who had played on a number of National Basketball Assn. teams over the course of a decades but is no longer an active player, came out of the closet. Long before Collins, there was Glenn Burke, who played Major League Baseball for three years for the Dodgers and Athletics and was out of the closet to his teammates if not the public. Obviously, there have been others over the years in all of the professional sports leagues, but for cultural reasons, both inside and outside the locker room. That’s why the Michael Sam story is important, and why he could potentially play an important role in making American professional sports more open toward gay and lesbian athletes.

Finally, it’s important to realize that gays and lesbians still face the possibility of discrimination or shunning in the far less public areas of our culture where most Americans live and work. In those areas, coming out of the closet is far more difficult than it might be for someone who lives their life in the public eye and is likely to remain that way for some time to come. Additionally, individuals, whether they are public personalities or not, may still face difficulties with family members and friends if they reveal their sexual orientation. For that reason alone, I tend to agree with people who argue that there is some value in the coverage that is given to the Ellen Page’s and, especially, Michael Sam’s of the world coming out of the closet in that it provides some example and, perhaps, some encouragement and support to others who feel like they cannot.

That leads us, though, to the question that serves as the title to this post. How close are we to the day when someone, whether they are a celebrity, a sports star, or just the guy or girl in the next cubicle is gay is as unremarkable as the fact that they are straight, or left-handed, or that they prefer Vanilla Ice Cream to Chocolate? Ideally, that’s what we as a culture should be aiming for, right?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ernieyeball says:

    When Will it Not Be News that Someone is Gay?

    Right about the same time it is news that someone is a homophobic bigot…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    When organized religion is placed in the dust bin of history where it belongs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  3. James Pearce says:

    In Ellen Page’s case, it’s been an open secret for a while. If she were to make this announcement earlier in her career, it would have no doubt influenced the course of her career and possibly cost her some roles.

    So I can’t really get onboard with this:

    So, while Page may have kept her private life private for personal reasons, it’s clear that the announcement she made last night isn’t going to harm her professionally to any significantly degree.

    As enlightened as Hollywood is, I think this announcement obviously means that Page will no longer be cast in certain roles.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    For many of us, it already isn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. KM says:

    When people stop trying to diminish, attack, demonize or legally punish those who are gay. You have a right to a personal opinion – you do not have the right to have society enforce your personal opinion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Unfortunately, we’ve seen with the reactions of the Right to Barack Obama that bigotry can have a very long tail.

    There are the early-adopters of tolerance, people who upon first hearing the term “gay marriage” thought, “Eh, why not?” Then there are the foot-draggers who need a little convincing but eventually agree, “Eh, why not?” But there will be a persistent segment, maybe a quarter to a third, that just cannot let go of the pleasure and validation they get from despising someone for no logical reason.

    So, I think at this point it’s already not a big deal to most Americans. But will we still have people a decade from now, or two decades from now, who have a problem with gay people? Take a look at the persistence of racism for a clue to that.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    On an unrelated note, please look into the abysmal responsiveness of this website of late. I’m often seeing >2 minute page load times, and that is increasingly making it difficult to continue participating.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. DrDaveT says:

    Left-handedness is an interesting comparison. It was unacceptable (to the point of forced conversion) in English-speaking nations within the last century, and is still unacceptable in many Islamic societies. It faced the same “nature versus choice” debate, as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Grumpy Realist says:

    As long as we have states attempting to pass anti-gay legislation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. ernieyeball says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I know nothing about how the internet works and even less about why some folks like Chocolate over Vanilla Ice Cream (I’m a Butter Pecan guy myself).
    I have noticed recent technical beefs like yours by commenters about this site.
    The only thing on my screen that I can stew about is that there are large blank areas between some paragraphs that might contain something pertinent to the story. At one time newspapers called it “art”.
    Afterthought. Seems like the Three Quick Questions survey is repeating itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @ernieyeball:

    We are in the same group. I know that when I click this, it does that, but how it happens under the hood might as well be witch doctor sorcery.

    I just know that when it takes a webpage 2 minutes to load (when it does indeed load at all), I’m going to lose interest and move on to other things.

    Is anybody else encountering the same sort of problems? I have FiOS, and other pages are loading at their usual lightning speed. It seems to be just this one that is problematic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. CSK says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    You certainly have a point vis-a-vis the fundamentalists, but the mainstream Protestant denominations in the northeast have moved for years now toward actively embracing their gay congregants. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, is openly gay and has a husband. Same for my local Lutheran pastor. I wasn’t raised religious, but I have to commend their attitude that gay or straight, we’re all God’s children.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Tran says:

    Probably never? As long as tablods cover things like Madonna’s latest boy-toys, they will always cover famous people coming out, if only to run “XYZ COMES OUT! See our exclusive list of out celebrities s/he could hook up with!” headlines.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. rudderpedals says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I’m also on fios and then through wifi and it’s loading superfast as always. But. But I have adblock installed and javascript is off everywhere except for otb.com and the avatar place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @rudderpedals:

    I have Adblock as well. Maybe it’s just a function of location, like some localized problem between here and their servers. No idea. It is highly annoying though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. ernieyeball says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Mr. Mataconis addresses this in the snow thread.

    Doug Mataconis says:
    Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 15:27
    John, Yea we are aware of it. Something going on under the hood that is being worked on as I understand it.

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/snow-on-the-ground-in-49-out-of-50-states/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Kathy Kattenburg says:

    Given the law just passed in Kansas legalizing Jim Crow segregation of gays and lesbians, Doug, I’d say we still have a way to go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  18. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    Given the law just passed in Kansas legalizing Jim Crow segregation of gays and lesbians, Doug, I’d say we still have a way to go.

    Don’t worry, Kathy. The “law” is just a bill, and while it passed the Kansas House, it will die in the Senate and will never even approach the Governor’s office.

    So it won’t actually become a law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. al-Ameda says:

    Well, as long as there are people who essentially believe that Gays are on a mission (they’re going door-to-door) to convert people to a “gay lifestyle,” or they’re trying to destroy happy heterosexual marriages – as long as that is the case, I suspect that it will always be news when prominent entertainers and politicians come out as Gay.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. “I suffered for years, because I was scared to be out.”

    So, in uber-liberal Hollywood and the entertainment industry she suffered?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 15

  21. Woody says:

    Entertainment celebrities – sport figures included – have publicists whose mission is to get their client talked about. The publicists will promote their client’s sexuality in any way that they deem advantageous.

    As to non-celebrity, I’m old enough to remember when a woman became a CEO, that was news. Now that occurrence is merely mentioned in newspaper business sections (entertainment companies, of course, excluded).

    It’ll happen, but we’ll likely not notice it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @William Teach:

    So, in uber-liberal Hollywood and the entertainment industry she suffered?

    Yes, she was afraid of Mel Gibson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @ernieyeball:

    Mucho excellente. Thank you for the info, Ernie. Much appreciated

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  24. JKB says:
  25. A note to everyone:

    We are aware of the blank spaces that are appearing in posts at the moment. The issue is being worked on under the hood so to speak. Please bear with us while we get it figured out.

    Rest assured, though, that you’re not missing out on content there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. Kathy Kattenburg says:

    @James Pearce: That’s not what I’ve read, James. My understanding is that the Kansas Senate is expected to pass the bill with great enthusiasm, and that the Republican governor of that state will sign it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    You’re such a victim. It’s very unfair. You need to spend more time feeling sorry for yourself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  28. bill says:

    we should assume everyone is gay, and who really cares anyway?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    My understanding is that the Kansas Senate is expected to pass the bill with great enthusiasm, and that the Republican governor of that state will sign it.

    I seriously doubt it. Some Republicans in the Senate have already said they won’t support the bill and it would be the easiest thing in the world to kill it quietly. Much harder to push it through and weather the controversy, only to see it voided in court.

    This bill will die and the Republicans will find some other way to continue their anti-gay agenda, probably with similar results.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Kathy Kattenburg says:

    @James Pearce:

    “Some Republicans in the Senate have already said they won’t support the bill and it would be the easiest thing in the world to kill it quietly. Much harder to push it through and weather the controversy, only to see it voided in court. ”

    Well, obviously I would love for that to be true, but I have much less faith in Republicans’ common sense than you appear to. I have no idea what would make you believe Republicans would be concerned about wasting time or creating controversy, after what? 45 votes to repeal Obamacare, not to mention all the glaringly unconstitutional abortion laws Republicans have passed in various states that are extremely controversial and waste endless time that could be spent on helping jobless Americans. What on earth would make you think Republicans, either in Congress or in the states where they have a majority in one or both houses, care about being controversial or wasting time?

    Obviously, if this bill does pass and is signed into law it will be immediately challenged and hopefully blocked from taking effect pending court review, so the fact Republicans would spend any time at all on such legislation shows they don’t care about creating a controversy or wasting time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    What on earth would make you think Republicans, either in Congress or in the states where they have a majority in one or both houses, care about being controversial or wasting time?

    Here’s what I think:

    It’s a mistake to think that Republican lawmakers are immune to public opinion. Indeed, they are incredibly sensitive to it. Yes, they could give a rat’s ass what your average liberal thinks, but they consider the views of their right-wing constituents to be marching orders. As in, “It’s not our duty to question why, just to do or die.”

    This is why they’ve spent so much energy over the last few decades trying to make the anti-gay views of conservative Christians a matter of public policy. Problem is that these days, that kind of thing doesn’t take you as far as it once did. The only group that really cares about this stuff are older conservative Christians. The younger generation is more tolerant and not really that interested in marginalizing gay people. Moderates, they’re swinging more toward the liberal “who gives a shit” side.

    In other words, an anti-gay agenda like this has limited appeal. Even for Republicans.

    They are more interested in signaling that they represent a broader range of interests than they are in going to the mat for the jerk who doesn’t want to make a wedding cake for the “homos.”

    That’s why I think this will die in the House. They made their gesture. The old guard, anti-gay wing got their vote in the House and their tingle of joy. And that’s about all they’ll get.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. David In KC says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg: last I heard in the local paper here in Kansas City, is that it is going to die in the senate. Not that it would surprise me if it did pass. But apparently the language is a little too broad and there are unintended consequences. My guess is it dies or gets a rewrite. I’m hoping that it dies, a rewrite would likely still be challenged immediately and be a waste of money that the state cannot afford after they cut income taxes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @HarvardLaw92: FWIW, I haven’t had any such issues. I use Firefox and am otherwise just lucky as computers, and by extension the internet, generally hate me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg: Kathy, it’s dead. The GOP Senate realized that all people have to do to avoid Kansas is drive thru OK or NE and they won’t have missed a thing. In other words, business people said, “We don’t want to get sued because you are stupid.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As to when it won’t be news that someone is gay, it will happen when a person no longer has to fear being disowned by their parents because of their sexuality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  36. Stonetools says:

    The Republicans are going to continue to emphasize the gay issue because it’s a way of driving the evangelicals / fundamentalists to the polls. The evangelicals aren’t necessarily in favor of the Republican’s serve the rich/kick the poors political program, so the Republicans have to find some way of enlisting evangelical support. The way is to stigmatize gays and defend the “honor of traditional marriage”. Get the evangelicals to vote for you and then when you in, vote for tax cuts and eviscerate environmental regulations. In that way, religious bigotry and serving business interests work together. As long as that continues to work the gay baiting will go on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  37. de stijl says:

    The Kansas Gay Crow bill is a win / win for Republicans in the state. They are sending a loud and clear signal to the base that the Other will be stigmatized, ostracized, denounced and derided. That is the first win.

    The second win is when a court shuts this atrocity down. Now, the base will be enraged / energized because they are being stymied, shut down. We are being martyred. We are on the side of God and the communist secular atheist paganists have thwarted us by judicial fiat.

    It’s a grift play. A well played coming-and-going grift play; profoundly cynical, but effective.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds: “Unfortunately, we’ve seen with the reactions of the Right to Barack Obama that bigotry can have a very long tail. ”

    Seconding this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  39. Barry says:

    @Tran: “Probably never? As long as tablods cover things like Madonna’s latest boy-toys, they will always cover famous people coming out, if only to run “XYZ COMES OUT! See our exclusive list of out celebrities s/he could hook up with!” headlines. ”

    In a pedantic sense, you are correct. The real question is when does somebody coming out as interesting as the tabloid gossip about who’s going out with whom?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Barry says:

    @Stonetools: “The evangelicals aren’t necessarily in favor of the Republican’s serve the rich/kick the poors political program, …”

    There’s no evidence in favor of that thesis, and much evidence against it.
    (for right-wing evangelicals, not the liberals, of course)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. Eric Florack says:

    @ Doug…

    The answer to your question is, it will keep being news so long as the left can make political points out of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Eric Florack says:

    Beasleys comment provides an interesting sort of proof for my point.
    Consider… if a player is a Christian and comes out as such, the relax from the press and the left (but I repeat myself) is “keep it to yourself”. Come out as a homosexual, and the press can’t get enough of it.

    Gee, no double standard there, huh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0