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