Monday, October 25, 2010

On the refusal of an actor, Zach something, to Come Out

A Facebook (and other varieties of) friend recently posted an interview from the NYTimes with an actor named Zachary Quinto who is appearing in the Off-Broadway revival of Angels in America. I’d never heard of the guy, evidently well known for TV and film work that I have not seen because, well, I’ve given up TV (no longer have one operational) and I never go to new (post 1970) Hollywood movies. Perhaps I miss a lot. You’d have to work hard to convince me.

Anyway, my friend linked to the interview because he is outraged (I tell you!), outraged that the actor, who is appearing in a gay play with ecstatic comments from the gay playwright, and who strongly supports gay marriage and the repeal of DADT and other blameless causes, refuses to say a word about his own private life. I mean, it’s obvious, but he won’t say so. And my friend heaves a hissy fit on the grounds that kids are killing themselves and need a model of happy gay people (happy actors? There are happy actors?) to distract them.

And I respectfully disagree, but I didn’t want to say so on his Facebook page, which is not the place for lengthy and obstreperous debate, eh? And I didn’t want to shove my disagreement in his face, because … well, because. He may not want to read it. But I do want to have said it, to give him (and you) the option of reading it.

So I’m saying it here:

I’m glad you posted this because I’d never heard of him and he sounds interesting. I’ve always found the role of Leo (is that his name?) the most unconvincing part of the play - well, no, the angels are unconvincing too - because I knew a WHOLE LOT of couples where one guy had AIDS and IN NOT ONE CASE did the lover walk out, though they often said they "would have if they'd known" or "wished they could" or some such utterly human remark, and then they felt guilty for it. I tried to assure them they had NO reason to feel guilty for that feeling, since they hung on despite it. And sure enough NOT ONE OF THEM did walk out. So I think it's a myth, and Kushner is just playing with the idea of it to get us emotionally involved. Cheating.

I simply fail to see why Zach (another Zach! wherefore this monstrous regiment of Zachs? well, at least he's not a Justin or a Jason; I can forgive Zach though I’d prefer Zeke) owes us anything, e.g. coming out. He plays gay guys, which is a social indicator right there - before 1983 or so, actors were afeared to do so - and NO actors were Out, though now lots and lots are - was D. Daniels the first singer? now it's commonplace - so the times they are a-changin' and they do so at their own speed. Zach plays gay guys and he supports gay issues and is unafraid to be seen as a man of liberal conscience. What more does he owe us? He doesn't owe us that. He could keep quiet about all of it. It might be better for his career if he did, or it might not. The point is: It's his choice.

Recollection: Back in high school? I was a loner, but I wasn't bullied. Nobody even mentioned gay in my high school, and it wasn't on TV or in the big glossies either except for the occasional article by Stanley Kaufman or Midge Decter or somebody heartily deploring us. But the reason I wasn't bullied - loner though I was, anti-sports and anti-rock and unpopular and perceptibly a weakling - is that I refused to stand for it when anybody tried it. I fought back. I had the muhfuhs hauled to the principal’s office. And they respected me for that! They let me alone! They continued to bully others, but I didn’t report them for that – they were leaving me alone, that was all I wanted. We used to high-five. I want to scream at these suicidal kids: none of your self-indulgent cries for the world's pity! FIGHT back! Fight dirty. Make trouble for them. So they kick you out of school. (I couldn't have endured that, or so I thought at the time, but the question never came up.) I made so much trouble they let me alone and bullied others who wouldn't fight back. Whom I declined to help. Not my department.

I feel sorry for bullied kids, and yes I agree something ought to be done about it, but I don't glorify the suicides. They thrive on that glory. It suits their romantic fantasies and then they go and live them, die them. If it weren't romantic, maybe they'd fight back instead. Or find the other outcasts and hang out. The pagan community is filled with former high school outcasts; they found the other outcasts. They wore black and listened to ghastly music. They found friendly adults. It can be done. Even, I daresay, in Kansas.

I grew up in a family with no religion at all. I found my own religion, and it was one that traditionally was very pro-gay. Didn't matter. I didn't want to be gay, and I gave myself HELL over it, and flirted with suicide over it (yes; of course I did). But I knew the world had better stuff than that in it. I stuck it out and eventually came out. It wasn't easy. None of my straight friends turned against me over it. None of my family blinked an eye. The only problems I had were with gay guys who thought I wasn't doing it openly or quickly enough. I did it at my own pace, thank you. The only SERIOUS homophobe I ever had to deal with was myself, and I had to fight back against HIS bullying and beat him up a few times before he got it. Which I did. At my own pace. True, I had no public position.

Is this Quinto dude really famous famous? I mean, would it make a difference to anyone if he were Out? (I'd never heard of him before now.) If a kid is the kind who would hang himself because he's 14 and takes things like teasing much too seriously, I don't think just another actor in L.A. coming out would mean a damn thing. Plenty of them are already out. It's his own strength this kid has to find. I passionately support his finding it, and anyone reaching out to help him do so is blessed (in my book). But I don't support condemning an actor who does not choose to come out. I fail to see the relevance.

Homophobic politicians and ministers and generals, yes: out them out them out them with extreme prejudice! (and then don't screw them, even when they beg for it) But why nag the ones who are on our side but want to remain private?

So I can't say "I like" your rantlet.

I shouldn't send this to you, should I? I should put it on my blog. That's what a blog is FOR. Yes.