Celebrities in The Closet

An issue which has occasionally been touched on before but perhaps not really discussed at length, is the matter of public figures such as celebrities and politicians refusing to reveal their own sexual orientation while being in positions of power or celebrity-status to influence the public perceptions and attitudes towards gays, lesbians and transgender people.

The matter has recently come to prominence with high-profile chef Gordon Ramsay outing Channel Nine television presenter Tracy Grimshaw as a lesbian during a Food & Wine Show presentation.

Despite being a high-profile personality in Australia and having graced the covers of many women’s magazines, Tracy Grimshaw’s sexuality has always been out of bounds. Typically, the subject matter of interviews with Grimshaw will revolve around her love of horses and her rural lifestyle south of Sydney.

At 49 years of age, it appears that Tracy is still a spinster.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

However, if (and I’m not saying she is) but apparently Gordon Ramsay is convinced she is, a lesbian, then wouldn’t it do Tracy and others a power of good if she just admitted it?

It seems that public figures, so called celebrities in particular, are still uncomfortable with the idea of coming out of the closet. If and when it does occur, it’s usually because public speculation has become so rife that the individual concerned is pretty much placed in a position to either confirm or deny.

Anthony Callea eventually came out of the closet when a Sydney radio station blurted out Anthony’s partner being a “he” which was pretty much public knowledge to everyone in the Sydney gay community anyway.

Everyone from major Hollywood blockbuster stars to a member of the royal family have been subject to speculation over their sexuality. Many go on to lead ostensibly heterosexual, in appearance at least, lifestyles.

Liberace, for example, maintained throughout his entire life that he was not homosexual and successfully sued a number of newspapers that alleged that he was. He maintained this position despite dying from an AIDS related illness in 1987.

And then there’s our very own pin-up boy who’s been known to wear the occasional pearl necklace Ian “I’m not Gay, Okay” Thorpe.

So while the “mainstream world” has jumped ahead in leaps and bounds in terms of society’s acceptance of gays and lesbians, it seems that the pressure to remain “in the closet” is still alive and well in the world of fame and fortune.

Wouldn’t it be tremendously inspirational for young people to witness more role models, such as Ian Roberts, come out and dispel the bigoted and prejudice views held against gays and lesbians and demonstrate that we’re just like everyone else and exist in all walks of life?

Personally, I believe this would help prevent many youth suicides, and even if it saves one confused teenager from taking their own life, or resorting to a life of self-destructive behaviour, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Do public figures and celebrities that make their fortune from their infamy have an obligation to make their sexuality known, or is their insistence to remain “in the closet” not just deceitful but actually perpetrating negative sentiment towards gays and lesbians due to their reluctance to admit to their own inner truth?

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28 Responses

  1. Wow, I don’t know where to start actually… Honestly, I don’t think I want to get into this one besides stating two things.

    Firstly, I don’t think a person’s sexuality &/or “kinks” are fodder for public consumption. No-one really cares whether a journalist or actor prefers blondes or brunettes, so in a supposedly enlightened society – it shouldn’t matter either if they are male or female. And I don’t think anyone seriously believes they have the right to know just what tickles a celebrity’s fun stick/button – ruling out their right to know kinks (if any) they might also have. So long as it is legal, it is no-one else’s business but the participants.

    Secondly, the idea that AIDS is a “gay disease” or that being prissy means a man is gay is so positively neanderthal as to make me think this is mostly taking the piss. AIDS/HIV is a sexually transmitted disease that can be caught by either sex from either sex. And a majority of gay men I know (as friends or acquaintences) are much more manly than some of the prissy, attention-seeking heterosexual boys I knew in university.

    I really hope you’re taking the piss here reb, cos I thought more of you.

  2. I don’t believe that any public person is under any obligation to relate anything about their private lives unless they want to. One proviso…unless their private life effects the job they do; if they are for example gay and are making derogatory comments concerning gays then this is obviously hypocritical.

    We have progressed somewhat I believe, in that we now have serious actors (rather than comic actors in times past) portraying gay people such as Brokeback without it being the death nell to one’s career. However, and unfortunately we (Western society anyway) are not yet ready for a gay actor to portray a heterosexual romanic lead. Perhaps it will take an acting equivalent of Matthew Mitcham to enable this to happen. So far the movie industry hasn’t got a terrific track record with the only actors who have come out are either elderly or they have been subsequently relegated to gay-only/just friends roles.

  3. Well, I’m heterosexual … there, I’ve said it!

    Happy now, sreb?

  4. I really hope you’re taking the piss here reb, cos I thought more of you.

    I thought it a brave and thoughtful post from reb, considering how some of the recent threads have degenerated, so I feel a certain trepidation in commenting myself.

    Well, I’m heterosexual … there, I’ve said it!

    Happy now, sreb?

    hehe, just keep fighting the good fight TB 🙂

    Wouldn’t it be tremendously inspirational for young people to witness more role models, such as Ian Roberts, come out and dispel the bigoted and prejudice views held against gays and lesbians and demonstrate that we’re just like everyone else and exist in all walks of life?

    Isn’t Ian a wonderfully articulate spokesman and advocate for gays? I wish he had a role in youth counselling or something (maybe he does, I really don’t know). None tougher on the field than Ian, commanding the respect of all and ended up morally heads and shoulders above those who would carry out public humiliation, discrimination and ridicule of others for laughs.

    Perhaps with the public debates we’ve seen recently, Australians are showing that we’re starting to come of age and are ready to tackle the ‘just joking’ ridicule of others who are different which is so prevalent in our society. Just because historically Australians have always ‘taken the piss’ of others in supposed ‘good natured fun’ is just not OK anymore, it hurts. People are better educated and have wider friendships in a multicultural society, so the old stereotyping and marginalising of others is not so acceptable any longer (I hope so anyway).

    Do public figures and celebrities that make their fortune from their infamy have an obligation to make their sexuality known,

    I think that if they want to make their sexuality known, good on them, but if for whatever reason they feel they cannot, it should be respected.

    …or is their insistence to remain “in the closet” not just deceitful but actually perpetrating negative sentiment towards gays and lesbians due to their reluctance to admit to their own inner truth?

    Depends on whether they are strong enough mentally, physically and emotionally to withstand the personal and public attacks from others where their work may all too easily be devalued and criticised, not on merit but simply because of their sexual orientation.

    I wish that the acceptance of individual sexuality (which is part of an individual’s personal culture) becomes so respected that sex is no longer an issue and gays/lesbians can be open and honest without fear of recrimination and condemnation by other groups in society. Won’t it be great when we can see another person as just the same as ourselves before we notice their skin colour, race, sexuality etc.

    It appears that Gorson Ramsey must look over the papers for recent controversial issues in the country and then makes a controversial public statement of his own as a publicity campaign. What channel does he appear on?

  5. Well said KittyL..hugs Min..

  6. I tend to concur with kitty’s sentiments in their entirety. My only slight philosophical quibble is with this:

    Won’t it be great when we can see another person as just the same as ourselves before we notice their skin colour, race, sexuality etc.

    I’d prefer the ‘before’ to be an ‘and’ or a ‘whilst’, perhaps, without the attribution of priority for those sub-routines. I tend to think it’s important that those personal attributes can and do be acknowledged in an environment of mutual positive regard, if persons are to be accorded their full measure of person-hood and equal opportunities for relational authenticity; and that people not be considered ‘just the same’, but ‘just themselves’; not despite their differences of all sorts, but in celebration of them.

  7. and that people not be considered ‘just the same’, but ‘just themselves’; not despite their differences of all sorts, but in celebration of them.

    Most certainly legion, you say it so much better than me.

  8. Legion, on June 7th, 2009 at 9:39 pm Said:

    Legion, I doubt whether anybody could express it any better.
    I lived a long time in Asia in multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious societies, and despite what the media may make of how at times these differences result in violence, these were generally the exceptions. When it came to the ordinary person living their normal lives, you know the type, the ones who never do anything interesting enough to be of use to the media, I felt that generally they lived in your “environment of mutual positive regard”.
    I often compared that to Australia’s self proclaimed “tolerant society” where being tolerant for many people actually means “I don’t like you, but I’ll put up with you”, and to the person claiming to be non-racist, but makes positive efforts to help people of other races, because he feels that people of that race need the superior assistance that people of his race can offer.

  9. I don’t believe anyone has an obligation to make any of their personal life known.

    A celebrity, actor, journalist, royalist etc etc are doing a job, just like all of us. Because their job involves public exposure, does not give anyone the right to investigate their private life unless that private life involves illegal activities which should then be scrutinised by the law and not the media.

    My customers utilise my services for obtaining finance and place a trust in me to perform that job to the best of my ability. My customers do not have a right to pry into my personal life and I do not have the right to pry into theirs.

    While I agree reb that celebrities that are gay coming out may have a positive effect for other young people dealing with their own sexuality. It could also have the reverse if the celebrity is abandoned by their family and friends.

    In addition I have met many people who think a person is gay and still treat them the same because they only think they are gay. When the person has come out their attitude has completely changed because it is no longer a thought or rumour but rather a fact.

    Only the individual can make a decision on who to tell and when to tell them, None of us knnow the personal circumstances, anguish or family situation. I truly believe to out a person is a cruel act as we do not know the personal situation or their current state of mind when it is suddenly brurbed to the world.

    The only thing I have ever cared about is how a person treats me and those around them. Anything else is simply peripheral to a friendship.

  10. Thanks everyone for your considered and thoughtful comments. I find myself in agreement with you all.

    I was initially a bit taken aback by Ben’s response that seemed to suggest (correct me if I’m wrong) that by asking the question “do celebrities have on obligation to come out of the closet, given their public profile and power of influence, that I’m somehow saying that they should. This isn’t the case, I’m simply asking the question “should they?”

    There are many gay activist groups (and individuals) that would say that these sorts of high profile individuals do have an obligation to disclose their sexual orientation and this is not something I agree with.

    While I believe that it would be a tremendously powerful inspiration to others – particularly young people who may be struggling with gender and sexuality issues, I don’t think anyone should be compelled to tell anyone anything.

    However an underlying issue is that many people – particularly celebrities in the entertainment industry – where you would think that being gay would be a non-issue, are still very reluctant o disclose their sexual identity.

    Perhaps this is for fear of losing sponsorship support or losing out on playing “action hero” roles if the individual is a male. I don’t know, but it seems that fear of disclosing one’s true nature and sexual orientation is still alive and well.

    I wonder why this is, in today’s supposedly enlightened society?

    But it is interesting how some celebrities like Rove for example enjoy lampooning and even flirting with the idea that they might be gay, and couldn’t really care less what people think, whereas others like (name withheld) and (name withheld) are so anxious about maintaining the appearance of heterosexuality even though many in the entertainment industry know that they are gay.

    Clearly there is still some stigma, and we still have a long way to go…

  11. Reb,
    perhaps the perception of whether the public person is trustworthy or deceptive for profit then becomes more important than any other considerations?
    Credibility?

  12. Actually, no reb, my criticism was not directed at the concept of asking the question implies the answer you already have.

    My annoyance came from the fact that you make allusions to a man being gay because he is prissy (& the corollary, being gay means you are prissy). Or worse, because a man had AIDS makes him homosexual. These are the negative stereotypes used by religious organisations when attacking the homosexual parts of our community.

    I’m not homosexual and yet the implication that being gay makes you effeminate or that AIDS/HIV is a gay disease is something that riles me up.

    So for the record, no I don’t think celebrities should have to disclose the sexuality. It may be a good thing for homosexual youth. But just because something is good does not obligate someone to do it.

  13. Reb re: Perhaps this is for fear of losing sponsorship support or losing out on playing “action hero” roles if the individual is a male. I don’t know, but it seems that fear of disclosing one’s true nature and sexual orientation is still alive and well.

    I wonder why this is, in today’s supposedly enlightened society?

    In a word Reb, stereotypes. One just needs to have a look at the weekends Daily ‘graph to see how the sexes are portrayed..the males the humph-grunt slap ’em on the back at the pub ultra dominant male types and the women doe-eyed and submissive. Whereas the truth is that people are rarely either of these extremes. And the above portrayal of heteros compares how with gay and lesbian stereotypes and how they are mostly depicted by the media?

  14. My annoyance came from the fact that you make allusions to a man being gay because he is prissy (& the corollary, being gay means you are prissy).

    well I think that’s a pretty unfair accusation. “Prissy” is your term, not mine.

    “Or worse, because a man had AIDS makes him homosexual.”

    Well that’s an interesting conclusion to reach. I’m a homosexual and I don’t have AIDS, does that mean I must be straight..??

    Talk about totally getting the wrong message.

  15. Min,

    I can understand the nature of stereotypes and society’s pressures that compel some people to live up to them.

    What I don’t understand is that in the entertainment industry in particular, that many people still feel the need to remain “in the closet” when it’s so completely unnecessary.

    Would people care less if SBS news reader Anton Enis was gay? Probably not, He is, and they don’t.

    Perhaps it comes back to what JohnD was saying about “tolerance” and what Legion was saying about “celebrating” our differences.

    It seems that Australia (and perhaps America too) has a long way to go before we reach that stage.

  16. Ben,

    I think reb’s reference to AIDS in the article was OK – in 1987 by far the highest % of deaths associated with AIDS was in the gay community. In 1987, if you diede from AIDS, there was a high probability that you were gay. Skip forward 20 years and you’re dead right – AIDS is far more widespread in the community and could in no way be considered a gay disease.

    Good thought provoking thread reb. I don’t have an issue with disclosure except where there is hypocrisy in the non-disclosure (ie politicians openly being critical of gays or denying them gay rights while they are gay them self albeit closeted). Other than this exception, I think the disclosure issue is more one for the gay community than us hetero’s. I suspect that you are right reb when you point to the mental health issues than can follow on from non-disclose as being a significant concern and something that could be alleviated by high profile people coming out and embracing their sexuality as something that is OK.

  17. Reb: I do sincerely believe that we are getting there. Can you imagine even a couple of years ago high profile sportspeople coming out. This is obviously having a huge impact on the way that gay people are portrayed and of great benefit to young gays.

    As for people in the entertainment industry not coming out, it could be as Shane says, for family reasons.

  18. reb we have come a long way though.

    Imagine how unsuccessful Graeme Kennedy would have been if he had announced at the start of his meteoric career, I’m gay?

    He was assumed to be gay, never confirmed, but especially the very homophobic Frank Packer thought he was gay and wanted him sacked.

    I think nowadays that Graeme’s comedy would fail but him coming out and stating he was gay would assist his career, and no boss would dare openly state he would want to sack someone because of their sexual orientation as Frank Packer did.

  19. Tol re: I’m not homosexual and yet the implication that being gay makes you effeminate or that AIDS/HIV is a gay disease is something that riles me up.

    I agree..this is an example of what I meant by stereotypes.

    I am thinking of 3 kids who my eldest went to school with. S* was a very good looking young bloke, school captain, champion basketballer and extremely popular with both boys and girls (especially). W*, equally athletic was a little more quiet but still one of the popular kids. B*’s mum was very concerned about him as he preferred playing dressups with the girls (true).

    You’ve probably guessed it, S* and W* came out in their early 20’s and B* is hetero.

  20. @reb:
    You are correct – prissy was my word for you insinuating that because Ian Thorpe wears pearls and other “metro-sexual” accessories on occasion – any denial of his sexuality is suspect. Whatever you want to call it – you are applying your own negative stereotype onto someone to justify your desire to have them “come out of the closet”.

    And you know exactly what I am getting at in regards to HIV/AIDS but want to play semantics. If you weren’t making a direct connection between AIDS & gay men – why bring it up?

    I answered your question (which was valid) it was your justifications for suspecting / insinuating certain people were gay that was bad.

  21. Ben,

    The “pearl necklace” remark was a throw away attempt at humour that has (obviously) gone completely over your head.

    As far as:

    If you weren’t making a direct connection between AIDS & gay men – why bring it up?

    As Dave55 mentions, in 1987, AIDS was like 99.9% a homosexual related disease. That’s just a simple historical fact. It was also common knowledge that Liberace had a “live-in” male lover for some five years in the lead up to his death, but if you want to insist that he was heterosexual I’m not going to argue.

    I answered your question (which was valid) it was your justifications for suspecting / insinuating certain people were gay that was bad.

    Where did I insinuate that certain gay people were bad?

  22. Just come back to this thread.

    …and confess not reading “all” posts…

    …I do hope that my remark was taken in the vein expressed …

    I think by now most people posting on Blogocrats know that I believe personal issues (beliefs, sexual orientation, politics etc.) are just that – personal – if you wish to make them known, so be it … but it should not be forced …

    … my original post was made as a … well … star … simple .. just to help my gay mates, sreb and joni …

    KL – top post!

  23. What a difference a day makes..

    Gordon Ramsay si now denying that he called Tracy Grimshaw a lesbian and is having his lawyers examine the recordings from the Food & Wine Show.

    Meanwhile Tracy Grimshaw has denied that she is a lesbian through gritted teeth at the beginning of “A Current Affair” last night.

    Poor Trace is apparently seething over Ramsay’s attack.

    She called him “narcissistic” and “a bully”

    He did or didn’t call her a “lesbian” and make aspersions about her appearance resembling pig like features.

    Personally, I think the “pig thing” is a bit much. Who wouldn’t be offended by something like that?

    I feel a bit sorry for Tracy. She’s been shoved from pillar to post on Channel Nine, and used to have such a natural beauty.

    Now she just seems to harbour a whole lot of bitterness and resentment.

    Maybe I should give her a call and see how she’s doing…

  24. Do not call her reb – the poor lady has been through enough (BTW – I updated the Tuesday thread with a real photo of me!)

  25. What about closeted gay politicians who garner support through anti-gay stances? Seems like a somewhat different case…

  26. Very interesting link, Lotharsson. Thanks for the heads-up, mate.

  27. Thanks for that link Loth.

    I couldn’t agree more with this extract:

    The hatred fomented by the Right against LGBT people translates into legislation that harms individuals, covertly sanctions hate crimes and denies a section of the population civil rights.

    Closeted elected officials who vote against LGBT causes deserve to be outed as traitors to themselves and to their party, as hypocrites, as thieves who steal seats by hiding a side of themselves for expediency and their own future, not caring they throw a segment of the population–and a portion of their souls–under the bus.

    Our sexuality should be the least remarkable part of ourselves.

    So what about who you bang as long as they are of age and consenting? Instead politicians should be concerned with legislating not a false sense of “traditional values,” but laws that support and uphold the words of the Constitution, rather than the pseudo-Judeo-Christian opaque icing conservatives have slathered over the words of our Founding Fathers.

  28. Oh…………!

    When I logged on this morning and I saw the title of this thread “Celebrities in the Closet” I didn’t bother wandering in as I thought it had something to do with David Carradine being found in a broom closet.

    Now I see that it’s just another “Gay” thread

    Of course it turns out that he was not practicing a bizarre sex act, involving strangulation, at all ………according to his family…………….. but was actually in the midst of uncovering a secretive kung fu society. Because of this they murdered him.

    Although………………I do wonder how they knew he was hiding in the broom closet……..!

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