Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Who Knew? And Why Am I So Pissed Off About It?

By now there are only two people who don't know that Sean Hayes, aka Jack MacFarland from TV's Will & Grace, has officially come out of the closet. And those two people probably live in South Carolina; just sayin'.

Is it a surprise that Hayes is now "officially" out? Not really. He's long been "suspected" of being a Friend Of Dorothy, though he has never publicly uttered the words. And therein lies the rub.

See, for the run of W&G Hayes refused to answer that question. He played the "I don't talk about my personal life" card; he played the "I don't want to be pigeonholed" card. He played everything but the "Yes, I am" card.

“When I play a gay character I want to be as believable as possible. And when I’m playing a straight character I also want to be as believable as possible. So the less that people know about my personal life, the more believable I can be as a character.”

And that's what has people annoyed. And by people, I mean, me.

I don't care if Sean Hayes is gay. Makes not one bit of difference in my life. But then I am a longstanding out queer, and I don't need a role model who might be able to pave the way for me to be able to utter those two little words: I'm gay.

But there are, or were, lots of people, young and old, who could have used a Sean Hayes example of coming out to make them feel okay to make that first step. And, for me, that is of the utmost importance: coming out. We need people to see us; to know us. How else can we expect anyone to understand our fight for our rights if they don't actually know us?

And Sean Hayes was a part of that problem.

Now, to his credit, he wasn't seen "dating" women, and he made no mention of dating women. You didn't see him at the Emmys with a pretty little thing on his arm. All well and good. But, think; what if he had gone to the Emmys with a male date? Wouldn't that have been great? What might that have done for all those people in the closet, knowing that Sean Hayes was an out actor and it was no big deal?

As the writer of The Advocate interview points out, Hayes was using his personal Don't Ask, Don't Tell--and we all know how well that works. Still, people assumed he was gay because he played gay--though Eric McCormack, who played Will, is a heterosexual, and no one confused that. But then McCormack didn't hide his orientation, because he didn't have to, and Hayes shouldn't have either. But he says he felt pressure to stay closeted.

“This town’ll do that to you. It’ll just keep you in that box until you have no choice but to be the thing that they want you to be.”

But is it the town, or is it the actor, or performer? I know Ellen Degeneres went through the same thing, but she came out before Will & Grace was anything more than an idea. So, if she blazed the trail, why did Sean Hayes stay in hiding? Was it just to get work?

Not really, because Sean Hayes did work during and after W&G. He played Jerry Lewis in a 2003 TV film; he was in an independent film, Pieces Of April, in 2003, and in 2007 he was Jack Nicholson's assistant in The Bucket List.

Would he have gotten those roles as an out gay actor? Who's to say, though Sean Hayes doesn't think so. He again plays the pigeonhole card, talking about how the Hollywood "suits" would have viewed him had been out. But, I wonder, do the suits care about a person's orientation, or about how much money can be made off the project? And does that amount of money vary if an out gay actor is in the piece?

So, Hayes stayed in; and the press worked overtime talking of his reluctance to be open about his personal life. And Hayes grew angry about that, and probably stepped further back into the closet. Even The Advocate, preparing for W&G's final episode wrote a piece about Hayes called “Sean Hayes: The Interview He Never Gave.” It was basically a bunch of quotes he'd used in interviews throughout the years that made him look very foolish for being so coy about his orientation. And since Hayes had refused for years to be interviewed by The Advocate, that last article didn't help matters.

“Really? You’re gonna shoot the gay guy down? I never have had a problem saying who I am. I am who I am. I was never in, as they say. Never."

And there we have it! Why I'm pissed at Sean Hayes.

He was IN. He was way in the closet. See, no matter how many people think you're gay, talk to one another about whether or not you're gay, no one really knows you're gay until you say the words: I'm.Gay. And until now, Sean Hayes has never said them publicly. So why now? I mean, if his arguments for Not Telling were good enough during the run of W&G, then why come out now? Well, Sean Hayes isn't talking about that.

But, is it his responsibility to talk about being a gay man? Yes, it is. Howard Bragman, a public relations expert who specializes in advising high-profile clients who are coming out--he recently advised Meredith Baxter, though not Sean Hayes, says, “The research says if somebody knows a gay person, they’re going to be more in favor of our civil rights. And tens of millions of people know Sean and love him. This is an old friend telling us he’s gay, and it’s going to resonate.”

That's my belief, too. How many people might have different views of the LGBT community if more of us, both public figures, celebrities, and private citizens, spoke up? You cannot be afraid of something that's out in the open. It's the fear of what homosexuality might be, that feeds this hatred of our community, and the more of us that come out, the less afraid people will be of us.

"I believe that nobody owes anything to anybody. Nobody owes anything to anybody. You are your authentic self to whom and when you choose to be, and if you don’t know somebody, then why would you explain to them how you live your life?”

Why, Sean? Because they might see you as an ally; they might feel less afraid of being their authentic self if they knew that you were truly being your authentic self. By staying quiet, or making the innocuous hidden statement, you've done a disservice to the LGBT community, and the hetero community as well. You refused, for years, to let people know what gay looks like and sounds like and acts like; and that gay can be just like anyone else.

“I feel like I’ve contributed monumentally to the success of the gay movement in America, and if anyone wants to argue that, I’m open to it. You’re welcome, Advocate. Why would you go down that path with somebody who’s done so much to contribute to the gay community? That was my beef about it. What more do you want me to do? Do you want me to stand on a float? And then what? It’s never enough."

No, Sean, I don't want you to stand on a float. I only wish that you would have simply stood up, because when one of us stands up, then those still seated just might follow suit.


Michael Rivers said...

I had the exact same reaction. This rubs me the wrong way, for the exact reasons you've discussed. He says he was never in, oh yes he was. For years, I was too. I've just never denied that I was.

Paul Benjamin said...

This story would've made a much bigger impact if he would've come out when it was less popular to do so. Now, he comes out and it's really a non-story. He isn't surprising or shocking anyone here.

I'm not upset at his decision, but it is a little disappointing.

Kyle said...

Bob, amen!

Sean Hayes was/is part of the problem. They more GLBTQ people cling to the closet, for protection, the longer it will take to attain equality. End of story.

Dan said...

i can see both sides of this story. Hollywood is a different beast than any of us understand.

What rubs my ass the wrong way is why is it necessary to ask every damn male celebrity if they suck cock? What does it matter? Why should we care?

I am protected at my job for being fired because of my sexuality, the same thing can not be said about Hollywood.

I think we should just assume everyone is gay and get on with our lives.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

You have to be yourself, including being honest to all.

Miss Ginger Grant said...

I met him at the Bourbon Pub one night and he struck me as a total asshat. And if you're a good actor, whatever you are, you can play anything! Apparently, he can only play a mincing faggot! Did anyone see "Billy's Big Hollywood Screen Kiss?"

mrpeenee said...

The more people who come out, the easier it is on those of us living an out life, that's why everyone says you haven't done enough, jackass.

Plus, one of the reasons being gay is an obstacle in acting is the closet of actors who’ve made it. OK, it’s chicken and egg, gay actors have to hide because there are no roles for gay actors because gay actors are in hiding. So Will on Will and Grace is a straight man; and Heath Ledger plays Ennis and grants detailed interviews about how icky it is to kiss Jake Gyllenhaal (ingrate); and all the other scraps of gay roles go to straight actors in a kind of sexual blackface.

Ray Ray said...

Guess the work dried up, so now he's decided he'll deign to being a gay actor willing to play gay roles. LAME!