“TO issue “the denial” in 2006, do the following:
Step 1: State emphatically what it is you are not.
Step 2: Scoff at the rumor with good humor.
Step 3: Note, for the record, your true feelings about the rumor: not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Or, skip steps 1 through 3 and opt for evasion with the nondenial denial: “I don’t want to talk about my private life.”
We are talking, of course, about denying the Gay Rumor, that surreptitious creature that attacks scores of entertainment, political and athletic personalities and that most recently has prompted disclaimers from Oprah Winfrey, the “Superman Returns” star Brandon Routh and Michael Strahan, the New York Giants defensive end.”
That’s quite a number of defensive ends. And where’s Anderson Cooper? He’s the one who’s been saying “I don’t want to talk about my private life,” even while hawking a memoir about his brother’s suicide and what it’slike to be the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. That isn’t private apparently. Only HOT MAN-ON-MAN ACTION!
“Ms. Winfrey, who has denied in the past that she is a lesbian, said in the August “friendship’’ issue of her magazine, O, that her close bond with her best friend of 30 years, Gayle King, defies definition, but added: “People think I’d be so ashamed of being gay that I wouldn’t admit it? Oh, please.”
“In the case of Mr. Routh, the denial came during a July 2 interview on “Larry King Live,” when Mr. King asked whether Superman’s appeal among gays, the subject of an earlier article in the gay publication “The Advocate,” could lead people to assume the actor was gay.
“I’m very confident in who I am and my relationship with my lovely girlfriend,” Mr. Routh responded.”
Doncha just love the “lovely”?
“The list of suspected lesbians and gay men is ever growing: In addition to the perennial suspect Tom Cruise, actors like Jake Gyllenhaal and Marcia Cross of “Desperate Housewives” have had to assert their heterosexuality. Mr. Strahan’s run-in with it was brief, prompted by a comment his wife made during their tumultuous divorce proceeding but that she later retracted.”
Did Mimi Rogers ever retract that coment she made about Tom being comparable to a celebate monk?
“For every one coming out, we have five denials,” said Michelangelo Signorile, the gay author and Sirius Satellite Radio talk show host famous for pioneering the outing of prominent people as homosexuals in the late 1980’s. As for how gay rumors begin in the first place, they can be triggered by just about anything — a certain look, too many gay friends, being older and still romantically unattached. And more public figures are being put on the spot about their sexual orientation, something that was once considered in bad taste.
“The media is more willing to ask the question, because being gay has become a more publicly acknowledged fact of life,” said Larry Gross, director of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and author of “Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men and the Media in America” (2001, Columbia University Press).”
And more importantly the author of Contested Closets:The Politics and Ethics of Outing
“But while that may speak well of the achievements of the gay rights movement, some sociologists and gay advocates say that all the fuss over the Denial is one more indication of the stigma still attached to being gay.
“At least there’s no longer the presumption that everyone is straight,” said Laura Grindstaff, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis, who teaches on gender and sexuality. “But this intense interest in knowing, and the need to deny, are problematic. Why does the difference matter? Because there are all these consequences.”
What “consequences”? Everyone falls silent over that, presumption of invariable disaster being so widely regarded as Absolute Truth, despite any number of examples to the contrary.
With blogs and celebrity magazines always at the ready to dissect every rumor and its corresponding response, how to handle the denial is tricky terrain for those who feel one is in order. Protest too much and it may seem too defensive, and therefore suspect. Ignore it and the rumors can take on a life of their own.
Gay media watchers regard Mr. Gyllenhaal, who fielded questions about his sexual orientation after his starring role as a gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain,” as a model for the right approach.
“I can honestly say I’ve never been attracted to a man sexually,” he said, “but I don’t think I’d be afraid of it if it happened.”
Jake’s so adorable.
“Contrast that balanced response to sharp-tongued quotes attributed to Mel Gibson. After his drunken-driving arrest and anti-Semitic outburst in Malibu last week, entertainment journalists dredged up other controversial remarks of his, including the following quote from a 1992 interview with the Spanish newspaper “El Pais.”
“Do I sound like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them? I think not.”
Wrong approach, said Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or Glaad. “Building ourselves up by putting another class of people down is never a good thing.”
And contrast the reception afforded Mel’s homophobia with the raging firestorm thats erupted over his out-of-the-closet anti-semitism. Mel finessed the former with a trip to GLAAD and an invite to a few specially selected gays and lesbians to visit him on the set of one of his films. This was purely an inter-industry manuver as the general public barely raised an eyebrow over that particular hissy-fit — which only goes to show how low we continue to rank socio-politically.
Mr. Gross, of the Annenberg School, said that filing a lawsuit or taking full-page ads to disavow gayness was not uncommon in Hollywood at one time, but today that would smack of overkill and send the wrong message.
“A lawsuit says, ‘This is a terrible thing you’re saying,’ ” he said. “Now it becomes a balancing act for people.”
Does this mean that Mr. Mapother will now seek “balance”?
“The New York publicist Ken Sunshine said that among his celebrity clients, being an attractive 20-something man is almost a guarantee that gaydars will go off.
“It comes up all the time,” Mr. Sunshine said. “The gay rumors are based on nothing and then they have to make the decision to comment on their sexuality.”
Mr. Sunshine said his media strategy varies depending on the circumstances and the wishes of his clients, most of whom he said choose not to comment.”
Despite the fact it’s “based on nothing.” Hilarious!
“Sometimes I yell and scream, sometimes we threaten to sue, sometimes we try to charm,” Mr. Sunshine said of how he deals with prodding from the news media. “It’s very difficult to combat with the celebrity obsession that we’re going through.”
Well Boo Fucking Hoo! If you don’t like “celebrity obsession,” what are doing working as a publicist?
Even a cartoon sea sponge became a target last year when a conservative Christian leader deemed a children’s video starring SpongeBob SquarePants pro-homosexual. Dan Martinsen, a spokesman for Nickelodeon, said the characterization was so absurd the company did not have a media strategy other than to state the obvious.
“He’s a sponge, for crying out loud,” Mr. Martinsen said.
Maybe Anderson Cooper shouldadopt him as a role model.
But dispelling gay rumors is harder for humans, as Dr. Daniel Mongiardo found out. Barely two weeks before the 2004 election, Dr. Mongiardo, 46, a Kentucky Democratic state senator who was running for a seat in the United States Senate, said the Republican camp went after him by insinuating that he might be gay.
“They said things like ‘he’s limp-wristed’ and there’s no ‘man’ in ‘gentleman’ when it comes to him,” said Dr. Mongiardo, a co-sponsor of Kentucky’s amendment banning gay marriage who is single. Dr. Mongiardo, an ear, nose and throat specialist who said he has been in a fairly serious relationship with a woman for over a year, uttered the ubiquitous “I’m not gay” denial but he said there was no way to deflect the damage. He narrowly lost to the incumbent, Senator Jim Bunning, and blames the gay label. “It cost me and my party a seat in the Senate, ” Dr. Mongiardo said.
Gee whiz, being gay didn’t cost Barney Frank a damn thing. Even in the wake of a fling with male hooker.
Of course Dubbya LOVES male hookers — so I guess it “balances out.”
But if rumors are used as a weapon, they can also be the product of wishful thinking.
“Gay people propagate these rumors, too, because they’re looking for affirmation in the public arena by identifying positive cultural icons as part of their own community,” said Verta Taylor, the chairwoman of the sociology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is a lesbian and writes about gender and sexuality.
Outside the entertainment industry, lawsuits by heterosexual plaintiffs alleging discriminatory treatment or sexual harassment because they were mistakenly perceived to be gay are becoming increasingly common, and in some cases victorious, lawyers say. In some cases those affirming their heterosexuality are being represented by gay organizations like Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“It’s just as bad either way,” Jon Davidson, Lambda’s legal director, said of the discriminatory treatment of people assumed to be gay, whether gay or straight.
Not everyone reaches for the Denial. In some cases, there’s the Declaration. Lance Bass, a member of the 1990’s boy band ’N Sync, came out publicly in an article in the Aug. 7 issue of People magazine, which splashed his picture on the cover with the headline, “I’m Gay.” Mr. Bass, 27, said that while the people closest to him knew he was gay, he had kept his sexual orientation out of the public domain because, “I knew I was in this popular band and I had four other guys’ careers in my hand.”
Hand-jobs can be so nice!