Friday, June 6, 2008

Perez Hilton and Selective Outing

Bass originally approached People about coming out as Anne Murray.

In a vlog entry posted on his website yesterday, gossip guru Perez Hilton made some observations about the way the media treats the practice of outing queer celebrities that I thought bore repeating. If you want to watch the video yourself, the topic comes up around the 1:52 mark. If you'd rather read his remarks, I've transcribed them below:
"The last thing I wanted to talk about today was something that I've really been thinking about recently. You know, a couple years ago I got so much crap, and I still get so much crap from people and the media for quote-unquote 'outing' celebrities. Two years ago, I reported about Lance Bass's secret relationship with his then-boyfriend, douchebag Reichen. I reported on the trips they would take together, I reported on the dates they would go on, I reported on the fights they would get into. All of this before Lance Bass officially came out of the closet -- and helped his career by coming out, because he had no career before he came out. Anywho, I got criticized so much for that, for reporting what I knew to be true. Well, I find it really interesting that the same thing is happening now, only it's the mainstream media doing the outing. The mainstream media nowadays is reporting about Samantha Ronson's alleged, reported lesbian relationship with Lindsay Lohan. And no one is calling them out on the outing. They're not even using the word outing, they're using the word reporting.
"I don't know if that makes me upset or it makes me happy, because I think actually it makes me happy that they're treating them the same, and it's to me a sign of equality. But also maybe it's not. Maybe it's a sign of inequality. Maybe gay men and lesbians or bisexual women or Lindsay Lohan is held to different standards. Maybe it's okay for Lindsay to be experimenting but for a guy, it could potentially be damaging to his career. Like everybody still freaks out when I say Wentworth Miller is gay. Well, Wentworth Miller, star of Prison Break, is a homosexual. Yes, Wentworth Miller likes to suck cock. And there's nothing wrong with that. Lindsay Lohan reportedly loves to eat pussy, and there's nothing wrong with that, either. What's so interesting is even a 'safe' media outlet like People magazine who loves to play it safe reported in their most recent issue that Samantha Ronson and Lindsay Lohan are, quote, 'definitely together.' People magazine is saying that Lindsay and Samantha are 'definitely together.' It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that 'definitely together' means they're in a relationship, they're dating. People magazine outed Lindsay Lohan. How come nobody is calling them out on it? I don't know. Or should they, should they not? Is the fact that no one is calling them out on it a good thing? I don't know."
I'm not going to write a treatise on the ethics of outing, or what constitutes an outing, or anything like that. For one thing, I need to conserve my energy since I have a long day of tennis-viewing ahead of me. (It really wears you out watching other people run around like that.) For another, I'm lazy even when not in energy conservation mode. But I will suggest that celebrities like Bass and Lohan effectively out themselves when they don't attempt to hide their same-sex relationships, which is why I take exception to the argument favored by Hilton's critics that his so-called outing campaigns are tantamount to some kind of a gay witch hunt.

And to briefly touch on Hilton's question of whether there's a gender-driven double standard at work in how the media goes about outing celebrities, I think he's right to a certain (possibly large) extent. However, it's reductive to simply call it a discomfort-with-male-sexuality issue. In reality, there are all kinds of gender politics at work, from the way society has a tendency to be utterly dismissive of lesbianism and female bisexuality to the way celebrity-obsessed magazines and tabloid TV shows so aggressively exploit women in general and young women like Lohan in particular.

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