As long as there are celebrities, and people are curious about their lives, there will always be celebrity gossip.  The media has recently been a flutter with the rumour that Raven Symoné may potentially be in a same sex relationship with America’s Next Top Model beauty AzMarie Livingston.  Ms. Symoné took to Twitter recently to respond to the speculation.

 

 

Raven is not the only celebrity whose private life has been speculated about like this.  Will Smith, Queen Latifah, and Anderson Cooper all face ongoing questions about their sexuality and all have refused to comment, preferring instead to keep their private life private.  A refusal to answer in the minds of many constitutes affirmation that one is indeed a member of the LGBTQ community.

These inquires arise because we live in a heterosexist world, which assumes everyone is straight, thus turning homosexuality into something that must be divulged.  If a celebrity plays a role in which they are a LGBTQ character, or sits too close to someone of the same sex, the rumors are off and flying. Will Smith didn’t even actually kiss his co-actor in Six Degrees of Separation and has been married to Jada for many years, yet still people continue to question his sexuality.

There can be no doubt that out celebrities serve as positive reminders that LGBTQ people are present in our society.  In the case of LGBTQ youth, this can be especially helpful because it shows them that they are not alone, and that they are not deviant.  The pressure for an individual celebrity to come out, however, normally has very little to do with affirming the life of LGBTQ people and very much to do with marking them as “other.”

One never has to disclose being heterosexual, or having an affair with a person of the opposite sex. This of course aligns with the fact that no one ever has to come out as straight because heterosexuality is assumed.  The speculation about sexuality goes above and beyond the typical curiosity that the public has about celebrities.  There are several celebrities who are out now, though coming out can have extreme consequences to one’s career.  The attention is not focused on them to the degree that it is focused on those who might potentially be gay.  Instead, out celebrities must deal with the doubt that they are capable of playing straight characters –  as Sean Hayes discovered –  though the process of acting means taking on a different persona.  Actor Rupert Everett claims to be happier than actors who are closeted, but he asserted in 2009, “It’s not that advisable to be honest. It’s not very easy. And, honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out …”

For LGBTQ people, coming out can be a powerful experience. Coming out means the end of the closet; however, it is worth noting that once out, many still have to struggle to stay out, due to homophobia.  In an ideal world, the process of coming out wouldn’t even exist, or it would be a process that all people have to deal with.  This conversation began with the rumours circulating around Raven Symoné’s sexuality, but the truth is, speculation about sexuality is an everyday phenomenon.  One need not be a celebrity for people to begin gossiping about your sexuality, as though this is anyone’s business in the first place.

The fact that we don’t gossip that someone might be straight, evidences exactly how deviant a queer sexuality is understood to be socially.  No matter how far we think we have come, the demand that someone must come out, or the suggestion that they are being dishonest by their refusal to address something that is no one’s business in the first place is highly problematic. The way the conversation is framed positions a LGBTQ identity as something that must be defended against, rather than a simple occurrence in nature.  As long as this is the dominate attitude about sexuality, then LGBTQ people will forever be positioned as “other.”

I completely support the way that Raven Symoné has handled questions about her sexuality.  She is one hundred percent right, this is indeed a matter that concerns only her and the person she is involved with.  Being a celebrity does not give the world the right to have access to the intimate details of one’s life. It shouldn’t matter whether she is gay, bisexual, or straight.  With all of the consequences that come with being gay in a heterosexist world, no one should be pressured to declare for the purposes of the public’s curiosity.

  • Lakyn

    But why is that okay? Why is it okay to get in someone else’s private business just because they’ve been in a few movies? Why can’t we treat their job as a job and ignore their lives when they’re off the clock?

  • Casey B

    @Jalen. Seriously? Pedophilia is not something that both parties involved can consent to. Neither is bestiality. Get a grip.

    And it is okay for gay people to be themselves, but not okay for people who have “traditional views on marriage” to espouse those views because usually the espousing involves verbally assaulting an entire group of people. That’s on the occasions that it doesn’t involve bullying a few children at a time until they become suicidal.

    And HIV/AIDS affects far more straight people than gay people. And if you are so concerned about the health of gay black men, maybe you could stop shaming people for being gay. (People with low self-esteems or not much education about how to safely have sex with someone of the same sex tend to not use protection as much.) If people could be with who they wanted to without worrying about their actions “destroying our country!”, maybe they wouldn’t be on the down-low and sleep with straight women too.

    Seriously? Stop being so scared. Put on your big girl panties and don’t worry so much about who other people take theirs off for.

  • DivaD

    I agree and cosign with everything you said. i also want to point out to the world that hello, CELEBRITIES BECOME and or CONTINUE on the celeb/fame/entertainment path because they WANT to. Raven could have decided to do like Keisha Knight Pulliam, go to school, get out of the limelight, MAYBE do a few commercials or really small roles (the mag or two) but generally just really live her life, but she chose not to. This issue is NOT whether she is gay or bi or not but that celebs ALWAYS take this approach when they dont mind sharing all other aspects of their lives.

    This could hurt her career if she “outs” herself because of the nature of her career. If she chooses a change in career path catering to the more adult audience maybe doing some Tyler Perry movies and using some of that massive cleavage she’s got for some photoshoots (and I AM jealous the girl is gorgeous) it would actually HELP her career; but in light of the fact that she is still in the tween and teen market she can’t come “out” without probably getting dropped by Disney.

    If she is gay or bi, that’s her business, but celebs need to stop with the canned PR responses. Instead, be very very selective where and when you are photographed. I remember Alicia keys did an interview saying when you see pics fluttering around TV and the net or hear people talking about who’s been seen with who its because those people WANT to be seen. In NYC for example there are so many hundreds of restaurants, night clubs and hotels, but why do celebs always seem to get “caught” at a few of them with someone they “aren’t supposed to”? BECAUSE IT’s publicity! Maybe Raven does have a career move in the works, and thats why these pics are surfacing. If she didnt really want to be seen or better yet, didnt want to talk about it, she just wouldn’t and thats it.

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