Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Happiness is a Choice

Advocate cover - Portia de Rossi
Portia de Rossi knew her "quiet life" was over when she fell for Ellen DeGeneres. Now, with a new book and a passionate taste for politics, she’s ready to step forward as the first lady of our fight for marriage equality.

She has that least likely of all Hollywood endings — a marriage everyone believes is the real deal. "It’s one thing to have attention; it’s one thing to stand for something," she says. "But unless it’s backed up with genuine happiness, I think people can sense that it’s not worth celebrating."

Whenever anyone asks De Rossi about marriage equality — and, grateful for whatever "little tiny platform" she’s given, she hopes they will — she reveals herself to be an impeccably prepared spokeswoman, a perfectly poised first lady of advocacy. Further proof will come in March when the Human Rights Campaign will acknowledge De Rossi with its Visibility Award at a ceremony in Los Angeles.

A year and a half after their 2008 wedding, she and DeGeneres are still that almost obnoxiously adorable couple. If anything, getting married has only made them more so. Even the paparazzi seem to buy into their love story, mostly leaving the two alone. "To think that a married gay couple is considered boring and normal is fantastic," she says. "Happiness is a choice too. It’s a choice to live in a state of gratitude and to fix what makes you unhappy. Being honest with who you are, being able to go out into the world and show people that you can be successful and be happy and be in a good marriage — it’s important."

She makes another straightforward "case closed" argument for actors coming out, usual Hollywood scare tactics be damned. "People say, 'There are lots of openly gay actors.' And I’m like, who? If everybody I knew that was gay and not being open about it came out, it would make a huge difference to people coming up as young actors in Hollywood. Huge. To producers, to people in casting. I’m sure that when I was with Ellen a lot of people wondered if I could play a straight role convincingly. By having the opportunity, other people can go, 'Oh, that’s OK. It didn’t kill that show. That was believable.'"

In comparison to her wife, at least, "I haven’t said 'I’m gay' that often," she says. Maybe that was true back when the idea of Portia as the femme fatale still cast such a long shadow over her public life.

This is what she has to say now: "Being on Oprah was a very surreal moment — to go from being so closeted and so afraid to talk about my sexuality to sitting with my wife, talking about my wedding and how much I love her. To look out at that audience and see most of the audience crying — Oprah was crying! Life can take so many twists and turns. You can’t ever count yourself out. Even if you’re really afraid at some point, you can’t think that there’s no room for you to grow and do something good with your life."

Source: Advocate, The Great de Rossi

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Gay Celebrities Don’t Have To Come Out?

Celebrities like Michael Urie and Matt Bomer have been getting hammered recently for not being more vocal about their sexuality. Bomer, who was pictured kissing up on another man, defensively explained that he’s “completely happy and fulfilled in my personal life” and doesn’t give two shits that people think he’s gay. Urie, meanwhile, argued that he didn’t feel the need to declare his sexuality, a move that had this site’s owner saying Urie’s an “anti-activist,” because coming out’s “the most powerful and necessary action any LGBT person can make.” The Ugly Betty actor did, however, say that he’s dating a man, so he’s being criticized for not coming out enough. This debate makes me wonder: Should it be someone’s duty to declare his sexuality? We’re constantly coming out, so how often and when does it need to be done? Should people be required to come out and show the world a positive gay face?

Activism, like gay people, comes in many forms. Coming out counts as an example, yes, but not coming out isn’t harmful. It would be nice if Urie, who plays one of television’s most hilarious gay characters, could own up to it, rather than relying on the “it could hurt my career” excuse and insisting that just because he’s with a man now, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s “gay.” He’s queer. Fine, whatever. But Urie’s parsing and Bomer’s avoidance both fit into a Hollywood model, their approaches are not necessarily harmful. They’re weak and lamentable, yes, but in the long run not calamitous. Staying in the closet only hurts when it’s coupled with harmful action, like anti-gay legislation, hence the moral relativism of outing a politician.

While the “coming out can hurt a career” argument has grown a bit dated in the wake of Neil Patrick Harris, it can be evoked, as in the queer case of Anderson Cooper. It’s no big secret that Cooper’s dating a man. Some people, however, insist he should take the next step out of the closet. Kathy Griffin recently argued against outing him because he goes to third world countries that aren’t always hospitable to the gays. That’s a valid point, yes, and one that I have made in the past. Whether or not it’s right remains open to debate. It does, however, bring up another, far more pressing question: does being gay have to come first?

There was a time when I definitely would have said that gay people, especially high-profile actors, should come out the closet. I still think that’s true: it’s always wonderful to have strong gay role models, like Neil Patrick Harris or Jane Lynch, and gay people today should constantly be aware of past and present struggles. And thank goodness the Proposition 8 and hate crime battles helped energize a new generation of activists. But as time goes on and I become a little older, though not necessarily wiser, I’m beginning to see that we all have to wear our sexuality in the way that suits us best. Being gay does not have to be the primary part of someone’s personality. In no way am I saying one should hide their gay ways – that’s just cowardly – and fighting for gay rights should be everyone’s concern, but there also comes a time when people need to focus on other parts of themselves, rather than the parts they use in bed.

Yes, actors and other celebrities have a responsibility to set a good example, and, in my opinion, should take advantage of their platform for progressive causes. But to say that celebrities have to come out forces them to make a decision they may not be comfortable with, and that isn’t fair. We may be disappointed that celebrities cop out and stay in the closet, but we should respect their decision, even if it means losing respect for the people themselves.

Source: AKA William