While Gay asserts that taking a stand can be beneficial for many people, she admits that coming out is not equally difficult for everyone. She maintains that society classifies certain queer people as the “right kind of gay” (165). Those who do not fit this mold often are ignored or ostracized. One such person was Sally Ride; after her death in 2012, Ride’s wife was ignored and denied the benefits often given to heterosexual widows. Since she did not fit the mold of a “white, handsome, successful, masculine,” male, their relationship went widely unrecognized (165). Due to her deviance from the norm, she is not recognized as the “right kind of gay” and is not accepted. This fear that one will be ostracized from society if they do not fit the mold of the “right kind of gay” thus makes it more difficult for some to come out.
One of Gay’s main points in “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” is that there are unrealistic social pressures for LGBTQ community members with noteriety. At the same time as she is passionately expressing this, she is unknowingly pressuring a gay celebrity who at the time was closeted. Gay writes “I do not know the man. Maybe he is homophobic, maybe he isn’t. I do know that he doesn’t think about language very carefully” when discussing rapper Tyler the Creator’s use of homophobic slurs. Her assumption that Tyler is a heterosexual man is in direct contrast to her point that celebrities shouldn’t feel obligated to discuss their sexuality publicly. The use of slurs in his songs is likely a reflection and commentary of his life experiences as a homosexual man, for Gay to assume his sexuality is somewhat a contradiction. While Gay points out an important point of the continuing deep rooted culture prejudice and injustice, she is forgetting her main argument and perpetuating the assumption and lack of privacy. Tyler, The Creator, who also does not come from a place of privilege alike to Frank Ocean, has important perspective that is forgotten in this piece: that it is difficult to give up these privacy, and all public figures still struggle with the issues of injustice. Privacy and publicity is a complicated balance, and the assumptions we make with it persist to perpetuate injustice though we may try and fight it.
Gay argues that our society obsesses over categorization of different aspects of character, including political orientation, gender identity, sexuality, and so on. She speculates that this obsession has become almost habitual, writing that, “we don’t know what to do when we don’t know the answers to these questions or, worse, when the answers to these questions do not fall neatly into a category.” Gay’s observation reveals our need for binary explanations of behavior, perhaps to simplify the complex nature of reality. She also expresses the discomfort people experience when having to deal with such complexities and ambiguities. Gay argues that people believe that categorizing people will alleviate this discomfort. This obsession with categorization, Gay argues, explains our expectation that celebrities will share their private lives just because they are in the public’s eye. This relates to her main argument where she asserts that humans have a desire to know about people’s private lives, as well as our fixation on placing people inside and outside of the norm, when in reality, the norm is much more convoluted than we want it to be.
In the chapter “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories,” Roxane Gay iterates the importance of well known public figures coming out to the world in order to help advocate for gay rights. For example, Gay states, ” Still, prominent gay people need to stand up and be counted because the word “gay” is still used as a slur,” (p.165). Gay states this to point out that these celebrities need to share their private lives to help improve the environment surrounding homosexuality, and she uses the reasoning of the existence of slurs still to demonstrate that there are issues that remain unresolved and celebrities have the platform to accelerate change in this sense. Gay’s use of the phrase” be counted” pushes the idea that more people standing behind change the greater the movement becomes. Also, the idea of continued sharing leads back to Gay’s argument that all people need to stand up and be apart of the change, but that the advancement of acceptance is fueled by figures that have a public following.
Gay argues that how non-normative marriages are held to different, and higher standards than normative marriages even though they shouldn’t be. For examples, Gay uses the examples of Zach Walhs who had to extensively prove that his two mothers were apt parents in court. Parenthood should be defined more broadly than a man and a woman. A parent should be defined by their actions rather than their specific sexual orientation. Often, gay parents are forced to prove their parenting abilities in order to be recognized as “normal” parents whereas the stereotypical parents of a mother and a father would not have to go to such lengths to do so. Gay uses this court case to highlight societies tighly held preconceived notions about what parenting is “suppose” to look like. Currently, people who are subject to this treatment are the ones speaking out about it, but that responsibility shouldn’t be completely on their shoulders. Instead everyone should broaden their definitions of what relationships look like to lighten that burden on the LGBTQ community.
What struck me most about the article by Roxanne Gay was her statement: “We act like placing these people [public figures] in categories will have some impact on our lives… The only thing satisfied by that information is my curiosity.” I understand that in the grand scheme of things, the way that other people act does not directly impact us. However, Gay failed to recognize the importance of indirect exposure to people of different sexualities, especially celebrities. When Raven Symone came out as a lesbian in 2012, she had a very lasting impact on fans of her Disney Channel TV show – they began to realize the importance of being true to yourself. This sparked more young people to come out to the LGBTQ+ community, proving that celebrities do in fact have an unwritten social contract that allows their following to be influenced by what they have to do and say. Hence, I disagree with Gay in that there are impacts on the wider community when a celebrity comes out. However, her point about the categorization of sexual orientations and gender identities also stands true, as we have mechanized sexuality and made it a binary system that oversimplifies the reality of gender and emotion.
In “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” Roxane Gay delves into the issues that celebrities face when trying to live a private life in the public eye. Gay specifically explores the task that society places on public figures to pave the way for change, in this piece she discusses the role of certain public figures that have made their private lives public to support homosexuality. Gay contrasts and compares the ability for certain celebrities to “come out” and the ease or risk that came with their decision to disclose their sexuality to the world.
Gay speaks about Anderson Cooper and how he made a statement when he came out about being able to make a statement and “be counted” (p. 163). When Cooper released his statement about being gay he acknowledged that although he would prefer to keep his private life private, he also thought there was a significant value in his “coming out” to the world because he, as a public figure, could progress this world (p.163). Gay then talks about how for someone like Cooper to come out is good and progressive for society, but he does fit into a label of the “perfect gay” and how that label needs to disappear because it makes it harder for some people to be themselves if they don’t fit into that label. I fully agree with Gay in this sense because not just a specific person deserves to be able to disclose their sexuality and have it be aceptable. Everyone deserves the same respect and to be “counted” in the same way someone like Cooper was.
Gay also talks about Frank Ocean and how for him in the R&B/ hip-hop industry it was much riskier to “come out”. Gay talks about how not only did his race but also his industry posed a more challenging process than for someone that wasn’t African American or in the “homophobic R&B and hip hop community”(p.167). Although Frank Ocean did receive very public support from many other artists and his friends the issue is still that many of his friends use homophobic slurs in their work with no regard for how it may make homosexuals feel or how wrong it is, simply because they can say it doesn’t offend their homosexual friends.This is a stigma I feel needs to be changed in our society for sure.
In “A Tale of Three Coming Our Stories,” Roxane Gay discusses how society tends to place the responsibility of paving the way to a better future on the people who are suffering from current social conventions. She uses the examples of three prominent public figures coming out to emphasize the unfair burden that gets forced on them.
Gay discusses these stories in the context of privacy, which I think is a very interesting angle to approach it from. It’s true that we as a society tend to pry into the personal lives of public figures, and this has a greater effect on queer public figures than those who are heterosexual because it often forces them to unwillingly come out, or to share more information about their private lives than they actually want to. The way that people tend to justify this is by saying that the celebrities who come out now are making it better for queer people in the future. However, that’s a pretty unfair responsibility to push on them. Why is it only their duty to fix the world that hates them?
That being said, I personally don’t really see any kind of solution to this problem, as celebrities will always have to deal with the public prying into their private lives, and this will inevitably affect queer celebrities in a much different and more troubling way than it will for those who are heterosexual. While I completely agree with Gay in her assessment of how unfair it is, I unfortunately don’t have any kind of solution to offer.
In her piece, “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories,” Roxanne Gay begins by examining the privacy rights, or lack thereof, of those who have risen to success, fame, or power. Arguing that privacy should be a right afforded to anyone —regardless of race, class, or sexual orientation— Gay proceeds to protest the general society’s “need” to become privy to the private matters in these public figures’ lives. She maintains that those in the spotlight are “flesh and blood” (162), too, and just because they choose to be in the spotlight does not mean that they have “shed their inalienable rights” (162) and expectations of privacy.
Gay also asserts that because of their social status, these public figures are expected by society to assume responsibility for larger societal issues, namely, the stigma surrounding homosexuality. Using the examples of Matt Bomer, Anderson Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris, and other celebrities that fit the “acceptable” level of homosexuality and contrasting these individuals with the artist Frank Ocean, Gay emphasizes that “coming out” is not equally difficult for everyone and that some have more to lose than others. In this case, just because Frank Ocean is well-known and well-liked by many, he was still taking a big risk due to his part of the “notoriously homophobic R&B and hip-hop community” (167).
I agree with Gay in that those in the spotlight should not feel the social pressure to come out in order to alleviate the stigma surrounding homosexuality. Arguing that in order for progress to be made, we all have to take a stand, no matter how small, and those in the spotlight should not have to “forge these inroads on our behalf… [and] carry the hopes of so many on their shoulders” (168).
Roxanne Gay’s “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” examines the relationship between privacy, social visibility, and the responsibility to promote progress that often falls upon those in the public eye. Essentially, Gay argues first that society places an unnecessary pressure on celebrities and public figures to disclose aspects of their personal lives, especially then it comes to sexual orientation. Gay argues that the reasons we give for overstepping these bounds aren’t sufficient—to “reveal hypocrisy” for “the greater good” is not a justifiable reason for “forcibly out[ing]” someone. She argues that our society, so comfortable with freely sharing personal information, feels entitled to everyone else’s information as well.
I found Gay’s argument linking class to privacy interesting, though I’m not quite sure if I agree. Keizer claims that people in a higher social strata have more access to privacy, using the example that a pregnant woman to show how her “condition” becomes more visible. I don’t know why a pregnant woman’s visibility would change if she were more privileged, so I found that argument a little confusing.
Keizer then examines celebrities coming out, such as Anderson Cooper. Her observation of a “right” kind of gay was very powerful, I think—recently, a celebrity coming out is a fashionable public statement where the celebrity asserts him or herself and protests against social stigma. But Gay is right in that Cooper is in a less risky position to assert his sexual orientation, considering that he is, as Gay describes, “not too flamboyant, not too gay,” and that it’s often a lot more difficult for people to come out that Cooper makes it seem.
I really appreciated that when Gay demanded social change from heterosexuals, she gave specific examples of stopping using “gay” as a slur, stopping supporting artists like Tyler, the Creator, and voting for marriage equality. I’ve found it really frustrating when authors simply spend their time explaining a problem and then just saying, “this is wrong,” without ever really citing specific examples of how a reader might be able to help the issue, so I found Gay’s outcry more powerful because of her specificity.