Remember when Jodie Foster furtively announced she had something to say when she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes earlier in the year? Couched in terms of a ‘coming out’ speech, she then told us “I’m Single!” It was totally brilliant, in so many ways.
So, I just wanted to say: “I’m Straight!” Seriously! No, not seriously at all, but for all the dickheads that complained – about so many things – but in particular about how straight people don’t announce they’re straight the way gays announce they’re gay, I just thought I’d throw that out there.
The thing is, I posted this great photo of the awesome Ellen, the Generous one, last week, and there was a landslide of comments. I’ve never had so many comments on a single post. Heading for 5,000! And that’s just on my posting of it. The awesome George Takei posted it on his Facebook page (the sweetie doesn’t know how to “share” posters – thanks, George!) and had a similar landslide. [I’ll admit to having been a TOTAL dork and writing the wrong Facebook URL on the poster – whoever owns the URL FB/SueFitz must have had a few unusual messages, since my page URL is FB/SueFitz50 – what a noddy!]
I could say I was shocked by a lot of what was said, but to be honest I wasn’t really. Although it does always amaze me what people are prepared to write IN PUBLIC that speaks so openly to their prejudice, bigotry, hatred, ignorance, rudeness, and generally thickness and prickery. Myself, I don’t stand for that kind of shite on my page, so I just delete it, and in many cases I also banned the person from the page, since I really don’t want them around. (Freedom of Speech, my arse; all freedoms and rights come with the responsibility to act like a grown-up.)
The most common ‘negative’ response was one that came mostly from men (literally hundreds of them), and almost without exception the wording was this: “then stop shoving it [homosexuality] down our throats” – and this went along with comments about “why do gays have to come out” and “stop with the gay pride parades”. Of course, it’s the usual approach of the bigot to describe everything in terms of “all” and “they”, ie. all gays behave in the same way – “they” all come out publicly, “they” all participate in gay parades, “they” all “shove it down our throats”.
ANY comment that implies all members of any demographic all behave in a certain way is instantly recognisable as bigotry. All gays do not participate in gay parades. All gays do not come out publicly. And I’ve never met a gay man or woman yet who “shoved it down my throat” or anyone else’s throat that I’ve noticed.
Why do some gays come out? Because they’re bloody amazingly courageously wanting to be themselves, that’s why. If you’re black you don’t need to ‘come out’ – it’s obvious what colour your skin is. Generally we can tell women from men. We can generally see (and many still judge) many different demographics solely by their appearance. Does being black or a woman describe who you are? Well, yes, actually it is a part of who you are. I’m a woman – it’s a huge part of who I am. It’s not everything that I am, but it’s as much a part of who I am as being a mother is a part of who I am. I’m also 50 years old, a New Zealander, and I go to the gym. These are all aspects of my own personal demography. They describe me. Some of them are things that other people make a judgement of, positive or negative. Some of them are visible, others I have to “say” or you wouldn’t know. For example, the default position of anyone owning a Facebook page like mine is that they’re assumed to be American until they say otherwise. So every now and then I mention it, because I’m actually very proud to be a New Zealander. I think New Zealand is an amazing country – it’s beautiful, it’s more politically sound and less corrupt than most. We have a great health system and a fabulous education system, and we were nuclear-free long before it was cool. And we have the best rugby team in the world. Who hasn’t heard of the All Blacks? What’s not to be proud of?
What if being a New Zealander had been a crime for most of history? Or if New Zealanders were treated wholly badly when they were in other countries? What if being a New Zealander meant people looked down their noses at you, or looked the other way, or felt sick to their stomach at the sight of you? Would I proudly assert my nationality then? My oath, I would! I’d be even LOUDER about it! And if I was a public figure – a famous opera singer or actor or sports star or, hey, a comedian! – then I’d know I had a responsibility to represent my country proudly and forthrightly, because I’d know that those who judged me wrongly for my nationality really needed to get their attitudes and judgements sorted. (A bit like when people like to ‘correct’ my spelling because they don’t know their English from their American.)
So the thing is, when homosexuality has been a crime for so long, and when legal marriage between same-sex couples is still not legal in most of the world, and when gays are still picked on, attacked, judged, penalised, prejudiced against in so many ways, then to come out is still an act of bravery. And to be a public figure who comes out is arguably an even greater act of bravery. Ellen Degeneres made a huge name for herself as a stand-up comedian before announcing she was gay (that’s a simple fact of media history for those who think she became successful because she’s gay), and after coming out publicly, not only was she lambasted through much of the media but she was definitely denied work in many circles for the next several years, and she almost certainly foresaw the likelihood of that occurring. Not surprisingly she is reported to have suffered a major depression from the attacks. I haven’t read any of her three books so I have no idea if she’s ever regretted the decision to ‘come out’ (is there another way for a public figure to come out other than publicly?), but I don’t imagine so. She’s free to be herself, and I do recall reading a comment from her recently that the last four years (her marriage to Portia de Rossi) have been the happiest of her life.
As an aside, I love her line from the 2001 Emmy Awards, hosted less than two months after the 9/11 attack: “What would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?”
If you don’t like Ellen, then you’re free to turn off your TV set or change the channel. If you’re from a demographic that’s not suffered a great deal from prejudice, be grateful. If you’re black, gay, a woman, Hispanic, Maori, a dwarf, suffer from a speech impediment, a solo parent, or from any other oft-judged group, well then, you know… That to be OUT AND PROUD a) takes courage, and b) is pretty much a responsibility for any public figure, since one pretty much must stand up for one’s demographic if one is able to, at least until true equality arrives.
If you’ve got a beef with the gay community, get over it. If you truly feel something is being “shoved down your throat”, that is so extraordinarily Freudian that I do have to wonder what fears these hundreds of men harbour about their own sexuality, because for sure one doesn’t have that reaction when one is secure in one’s own sexuality.
And for those apparently thousands of people who feel it’s okay to write obscenities on a public post about a celebrity (and especially one who really is quite a beautiful soul), you really need to understand that such words reflect entirely on you and not the person you’re aiming it at.
And finally, for the god-botherers and bible-bashers (by which I do NOT mean decent Christians with proper respect for themselves, others and their Faith) who can’t help themselves but condemn someone to hell for their “sin”, you are so, so far from the Light.
Check out my novel “Angels in the Architecture” on Amazon. It’s a story of religious difference and political intrigue in two amazing years of history: 1185 and 1981; through the extraordinary eyes of two autistic children. Complex and thoughtful, this story will stay with you a long time.