WHY VISIBILITY MATTERS
A couple of stories we wrote in the past month — and the comments they
elicited from readers — really got me thinking about our motto here at AfterElton.com which is Do I Really Have to Watch Anymore of [INSERT NAME OF SHOW HERE]? Oops, that’s my motto. Our motto is Because Visibility Matters. But what does that mean exactly? And how does that translate to action? And who is responsible for doing it?
Why let’s take a look, Abby Cadabby!
Our article on Sean Hayes vs Ricky Martin‘s coming out had some folks criticizing us for saying gay celebrities "owe" us their coming out and details about their private lives. Um, for starters we didn’t say that and that has never been our policy. We have said that we think it’s great when celebrities come out and we think that it’s the right thing to, but we’ve never said they "owe" us that or anything else (except I do think Nathan Lane owes me $8 for Mousehunt).
But I’d like to add something to that. While neither Sean Hayes nor Ricky Martin nor anyone else gay, bisexual or queer in the media spotlight personally owes me or you anything, I would argue that they do owe the movement that made it possible for them to live with the freedoms that so many of us do enjoy in 2010.
For example, if you’re under the age of, say, fifty then you owe a hell of a lot to the men and women of The Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, Bayard Rustin and the drag queens, street youths and everyone else who fought back during the Stonewall Riots for getting things started back in the 50s and 60s.
And if you’re under the age of forty, then you owe a hell of a lot to the folks who fought battles against Anita Bryant and the other religious bigots that first started legislating against our rights, not to mention those gay and bisexual men and women who took care of our own during the worst of the AIDS crisis when the rest of the country abandoned us.
And if you’re under thirty and think of same-sex marriage as something that is your right and is inevitable, then you owe a hell of a lot to the queer community who back in the 90s started making the case for gay marriage and did the grunt work that has carried us to the point where we are today.
And if you’re, say, a gay celebrity, then you owe a hell of a lot to Sir Ian McKellen, Martina Navratilova, Simon Callow, Sir Elton John, Harvey Fierstein and Ellen DeGeneres who all came out long before it was as easy to do as it now.
Ian McKellen, Martain Navratilova, Harvey Fierstein
These things didn’t happen by accident. All along the way throughout history, queer people had to make the choice to be brave and put their own immediate self-interest and well-being aside in order to improve things for all of us. They are the reason we are here today.
So, no, Hayes and other famous gay people don’t owe "us" anything. But I’d argue those celebrities do owe those who made past sacrifices their willingness to do their part going forward. And if not that, then to at least not bitch about how tough they have it now.
Next page! Spring is in the air!