This ‘apol­ogy’ rep­re­sents an ap­palling be­trayal of the gay com­mu­nity

Irish Independent - - News - Matt Cain Matt Cain is ed­i­tor-in-chief of ‘At­ti­tude’ mag­a­zine

THE closet can be a dark, lonely place. At some time or other most gay men have spent time fes­ter­ing in it. We all know it can be a place ruled by con­fu­sion, shame and fear.

There are all kinds of rea­sons a gay man might not want to come out and openly em­brace his sex­u­al­ity – from prob­lems he en­vis­ages due to his so­cial or cul­tural back­ground to a worry about up­set­ting his fam­ily, or a fear of dam­ag­ing his ca­reer.

It’s the lat­ter that has of­ten been cited by gay ac­tors as the prin­ci­pal rea­son they have cho­sen to stay in the closet in Hol­ly­wood. This fear has been un­doubt­edly war­ranted over the decades, not least dur­ing the 1980s, when ho­mo­pho­bia in Hol­ly­wood was be­ing stoked by the hys­te­ria around the Aids cri­sis. So I would hes­i­tate to judge Kevin Spacey for the de­ci­sion he made in the 1980s to hide away in the closet at the start of his ca­reer. And I have deep sym­pa­thy for his de­ci­sion since then to con­tinue cow­er­ing away in there.

But to fi­nally come out to­day, in an­swer to an al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual mis­con­duct against an un­der­age ac­tor dat­ing back to 1986, rep­re­sents an ap­palling be­trayal of the gay com­mu­nity. In a Buz­zfeed re­port, ac­tor An­thony Rapp claimed that the ac­tor had tried to se­duce him while at a party when Rapp was just 14 years old.

Spacey re­sponded with a state­ment on Twit­ter in which he said he did not re­mem­ber the en­counter “but if I did be­have then as he de­scribes, I owe him the sin­cer­est apol­ogy for what would have been deeply in­ap­pro­pri­ate drunken be­hav­iour”. But he did not leave it there: in­stead he went on to ex­plain how “this story has en­cour­aged to me to ad­dress other

things about my life” and de­clare that “I choose now to live as a gay man... I want to deal with this hon­estly and openly and that starts with ex­am­in­ing my own be­hav­iour.”

First of all, I take is­sue with his sug­ges­tion that be­ing gay is a choice, a be­lief which can only foster mis­un­der­stand­ing and in­tol­er­ance of the gay ex­pe­ri­ence. But that aside, I’m old enough to re­mem­ber a time when many peo­ple in the UK thought of gay men as sex­ual preda­tors who couldn’t be trusted around chil­dren. In the 1980s this prej­u­dice formed the ba­sis of Sec­tion 28 of the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act, which pro­hib­ited lo­cal au­thor­i­ties from do­ing any­thing to ‘pro­mote’ ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, in par­tic­u­lar to im­pres­sion­able school­child­ren.

But in many parts of the world to­day this prej­u­dice still ex­ists. I’ve just re­turned from a trip to Rus­sia, where Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s no­to­ri­ous anti-gay pro­pa­ganda law plays on the same fear that gay men are sex­ual preda­tors try­ing to ‘re­cruit’ chil­dren and ‘turn them gay’ – and is caus­ing un­told dam­age to our com­mu­nity. By equat­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity with a de­sire to se­duce mi­nors, what Spacey has said can only fuel this fear. And as a gay man who’s fa­mous around the world, he should know bet­ter.

While ru­mours about Spacey’s sex­u­al­ity have swirled all th­ese years, he has stayed silent on the mat­ter. He stayed silent while Ian McKellen’s ca­reer flour­ished as an openly gay ac­tor, and oth­ers, like Ezra Miller and Ben Whishaw fol­lowed. He stayed silent while Sam Smith re­leased one of the big­gest-sell­ing al­bums of the last decade with ‘In The Lonely Hour’, which was about his un­re­quited love for another man. And he stayed silent when the gay-themed ‘Moon­light’ won the Academy Award for Best Pic­ture ear­lier this year. In short, he stayed silent as the world changed around him, and op­po­si­tion to gay men slowly started to fade.

That is his choice, of course. But now he has come out at the most cyn­i­cally timed mo­ment, seem­ingly in a bid to both de­flect at­ten­tion from and ex­cuse an of­fence he doesn’t deny but says he can’t re­mem­ber if he com­mit­ted or not; ei­ther way, it is to­tally un­re­lated to his sex­u­al­ity as a gay man. Is it any won­der there’s been a back­lash from the gay com­mu­nity?

Af­ter this hugely mis­judged so-called ‘apol­ogy’, I for one will be in­ter­ested to see what he says next. In the mean­time, the state­ment he re­leased to­day will con­tinue to rep­re­sent one of the worst ex­am­ples of com­ing out ever recorded. (© Daily Tele­graph, Lon­don)

In short, he stayed silent as the world changed around him , and op­po­si­tion to gay men slowly started to fade

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