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.
In “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” Roxane Gay posits that, in terms of sexual orientation, access to privacy is a privilege that only heterosexual are afforded. She says that heterosexual people “can date, marry, and love whom they choose without needing to disclose much of anything. If they do choose to disclose, they are rarely negative consequences” (163). Their life choices are rarely scrutinized in the public eye because they fit into what is deemed as the social norm. The backlash that homosexual people face when they come out makes it all the more difficult (hate crimes, loss of rights and privileges from the government, and alienation from the public). Although the common norm among members of society dictate that homosexuals are subjected to these shortcomings, Gay elucidates the more ethically favorable option to allow equal rights despite peoples’ sexual orientations.
By Zahra Morgan and Yooseob Jung
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 Out Stories”, Roxane Gay speaks about privacy and the privileges that public figures are not afforded in terms of their privacy. Humans often view the right to privacy as an unalienable human right. However this is all thrown out of the window once someone ascends to fame. This dismissal of people’s right to privacy is made especially clear when public figures who identify as lgbtq+ are expected to come out and publicly declare how they identify.
I agree with the sentiment expressed in this piece. However I walked away from reading this with a sense of hopelessness. If I understood her correctly, Gay expressed that the burden of sacrificing one’s privacy for the greater good of society shouldn’t be placed on public figures, it should be placed on all of us. We should all be willing to sacrifice our privacy for the greater good too. We should speak up when small offenses are made against marginalized people. But why would it be okay in situations like congressmen Edward Schrock’s where he sabotaged his own self interest and worked against the greater good of the people? Is it justified because he’s protecting his unalienable right while simultaneously barring millions of people from being able to exercise their unalienable rights? Isn’t he one of “us”? He didn’t need to sacrifice his privacy in order to do the right thing, so why are his actions justified? Although I don’t agree with him being publicly outed, why should we sympathize with him when he is failing to hold himself accountable for his actions as one of “us”?
My greatest take away from this piece is how much complacency can be a detriment to the cause we are advocating for. When we relinquish our responsibility of advocacy and let public figures (sometimes involuntarily) assume that role, we are being complacent. While we should praise them for their courage to come out and be “counted”, we should also make sure to “ask ourselves what sacrifices we will make for the greater good”(169).
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.