‘Out’ Honors Closeted Gay Celebrities

Out magazine has produced its list of the “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America.” The Daily Intelligencer notes the controversy it will spark, as well as how quickly things are changing:

50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America Out MagazineWhen New York did a “Gay Life Now” issue in 2001, only seven of the forty prominent New York gays asked to pose for the cover were willing. Those big shots may have been gay, and they may have been out, but it just wouldn’t do for them to be gay and out on the cover of a magazine. “There was a time when the closet was a necessary safe haven,” our pal Maer Roshan, who edited the issue, wrote in an angry 2,000-word essay. “But now, it exists as an anachronistic monument to shame. It’s time for our public figures to stop hiding in there — and for journalists to stop helping them.” Six years and a month later, maybe at least that second part has come true. Here’s a first glimpse at the cover of Out magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America” issue. Those are models holding Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper masks on the cover. Neither, of course, would appear themselves.

Perhaps because they’re not actually “out” as homosexuals? While both are long rumored to be gay, perhaps they don’t want to be known for being gay? There isn’t, after all, a comparable list of the “50 Most Powerful Straight Men and Women in America.” Maybe Anderson Cooper just wants to be thought of as a great journalist (insert snide comment here) and Jodie Foster wants to be regarded as a great actress and think it’s nobody’s business who they’re sleeping with?

AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis is on the list at #19. He’s proudly and openly gay and often uses his site to crusade for gay issues. He is not, however, a member of the Gay BlogAds Network. I suspect it’s because he’s not interested in being associated with ads like these:

Gay BlogAds Capture 6Gay BlogAds Capture 5Gay BlogAds Capture 4Gay BlogAds Capture 3Gay BlogAds Capture 2Gay BlogAds Capture 1

These are all standard ads in the network. I captured them on politics and sports blogs from the network, avoiding any sites whose titles or descriptions signaled they were sexual in nature.

Now, to be sure, there are some salacious ads running on other BlogAds hives. Back when t-shirt sellers were a major BlogAds buyer, I run several at OTB featuring buxom females sporting tight-fitting shirts. Still, there’s no other hive which seems to be defined by its advertisers this way. Indeed, even the celebrity gossip sites, which often do feature salacious gossip and photos, attract much more mainstream advertisers.

Assuming Cooper, Foster, and the other non-out celebrities on the list actually are gay, maybe they’re not ashamed to be gay or even hiding the fact that they are but simply living quietly. Maybe they prefer to be thought of no differently than their peers who happen to prefer to have sex with people of the opposite gender? Maybe they don’t think of themselves as having a “gay and lesbian perspective on style, entertainment, fashion, the arts, politics, culture, and the world at large” but rather as individuals with their own views?

Pam Spaulding, who didn’t make the list but probably deserved to, points to reasonable questions by Sarah Warn and Michael Jensen about the thinking behind this list. Both rightly wonder about the implications of treating the suspicion of homosexuality as if it were a fact. Jensen:

I have to wonder if this doesn’t mark a significant turning point in whether celebrities can live in the closet. Out is simply ignoring the question of whether or not Cooper or Foster are gay and discussing them in the same breath as Barney Frank and David Geffen. By putting them on the list, Out says they are the gay and that’s the end of the discussion. That’s a very interesting notion indeed and it will be fascinating to see if the mainstream media follows suit.

One hopes not. It strikes me as an outrageous invasion of privacy.

Less significantly, perhaps, I agree with Warn that the rank-ordering of some of these people rather dubious:

[I]f you define “powerful” as people who can get things done, how on earth did porn director Chi Chi LaRue, blogger Perez Hilton, and Interview magazine editor Ingrid Sischy rank higher than Jodie Foster? And if they’re going to list people who aren’t technically out, why aren’t they including the myriad other more powerful closeted gay men and lesbians (especially politicians) who affect more lives than Chi Chi LaRue?

A good question. Then again, is it any coincidence that the celebrities whose faces-on-sticks they put on the cover are two of the prettiest? Anderson Cooper is ranked #2, behind only David Geffen. Still, isn’t it customary to put the winner on the cover rather than the runner-up? And there are more than a dozen women ranked ahead of Jodie Foster, who barely makes the cut at #43. Why not feature, say, Rosie O’Donnell?

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Gender Issues, LGBTQ Issues, Media, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    I noticed Matt Drudge wasn’t on that list either, despite the various rumors that have been circulating about him for at least as long as Cooper…

  2. You will note that Obama wasn’t on the list either. Make of that what you will.

  3. vnjagvet says:

    There are probably more “in the closet” straight people as “in the closet” gays.

    That is, if “in the closet” means not trumpeting ones sexual preferences to the entire world.

    After all, is it really the entire world’s business?

    It is interesting that there seems to be an exhibitionistic quality to all of this, and a resentment of those who don’t share exhibitionism among their sexual proclivities.

    The same holds true for “don’t ask don’t tell” opponents.

  4. floyd says:

    “After all, is it really the entire world’s business?”…vnjagvet


    It wasn’t until the closet doors were ripped off and gays started to demand approval and acceptance.

  5. vnjagvet says:

    Why does the ripping off of closet doors make it the world’s business, Floyd? Why isn’t discretion as appropriate for gay folks as it is for straights?

    Or is discretion simply passe’?

  6. Christopher says:

    Um, who cares about all those weirdos? Don’t ask don’t tell shouldn’t just be for the military.

    I have no problems with these guys, I just don’t want to hear about it. If all the weirdos would just be quiet about their bizarre sexual preferences (men having sex with other men?!? GROSS!!!) the world would be a much better place.


  7. vnjagvet says:

    Christopher’s sarcasm is hysterical.

  8. Christopher says:


  9. floyd says:

    vnjagvet;It’s the demands for approval and acceptance that make it the world’s business, not the removal of the closet doors.

  10. TOby says:

    The reason ChiChi LaRue and Perez Hilton ranked higher than Jodie Foster is because they have greater influence; the cultural resonance of pron on fashion and advertising can not be underestimated, and perez Hilton, for better or worse, has changed modern celebrity journalism; his site is one of the top five in the USA in terms of hits. That is power, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

  11. Toby says:

    One other thing: would you be quite so defensive if Anderson Cooper or Jodie Foster were disguising their religion purely for career advancement? And the dickhead who thinks that there is such a phenomenon as straight people HIDING their sexuality needs to get his head examined.

  12. So, who are actually the most popular lesbians in America? Probably, I will be surprised to know the names!