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.

98 Comments

  1. Misty’s comment exemplify exactly why women like Latifah remain in the closet, and exactly why they should come out of their glass closets – just to spite the haters like Misty, if nothing else. @ Miss Thing (aka Misty): anti-gay, biphobic, homophobic attitudes speak more about you than it does about those whom you for one reason or another have a problem with.

    As for Raven, well I’ve never been sure whether I like her. But if she is bi or lesbian, I hope for the sake of millions of young queer black girls in this country (who are surrounded by folks like Misty) that she doesn’t take the Latifah route and remain closeted. There’s nothing wrong with answering a question with a yes or no and moving on – it doesn’t mean you’ve divulged anything overly personal just by admitting that you are a woman who’s dating a woman. We constantly question straight celebrities about who they’re dating and many of them giving a vague yes/no answer. Why can’t we question bi and gay/lesbian celebrities as well? Anyway, I admit it’s not my business who anyone’s dating, but I do think her openness would add visibility to black queer girls (who are all but invisible politically and culturally in our media) and give black queer girls someone they can see themselves in. I know I would have appreciated seeing someone similar to me as a young girl. Just saying.

  2. Do you go around telling people youare heterosexual? Here is no reason she should feel compelled to say anything about her sexuality. Anyone who is gay or lesbian or anything in between can keep it to themselves. I would be appalled if someone asked me with whom I shared mybed with. Just because they are gay doesn’t mean that they are required to tell us straight people. Next thing you know all Jewish people will have to go back to wearing a Star of David symbol on their clothing. Religion, sexual preference and political sway is nobody’s business. I applaud Raven for maintaining her privacy. Just because she is a celebrity doesn’t mean every aspect of her life is for public consumption. I prefer not knowing every detail about her, a lesson her peers such as Brittney, Lindsey, and Rihanna could do well to learn.

    • OMG I WANT TO GIVE YOU A VIRTUAL HIGH-FIVE!!!! Thank you…said everything I wanted to say. Very well spoken & you make great points! I wish everyone felt the same :-)

  3. libby

    Why do people keep saying Latifah is in the closet? She not. She just doesn’t go on the front of People magazine with the caption ” I am gay”. Why should she? She knows what she is and their is no need for an announcement. I hate to say it, but that’s what white people do. I have seen Latifah in pics with her ex, so how is she in the closet. Maybe she believes it’s none of other people’s business. The same goes with Bratt.There are straight celebs who refuse to talk about their love lives. Latifah is not in the closet.

  4. apple

    when someone doesn’t answer the question then they are basically saying yes.. but hmm i would have never pegged her for a lesbian/bi.. oh well, laissez faire

  5. LemonNLime

    Quite frankly, I LOVE Raven. Her TV show on Disney was hysterical and I like her method of comedy. While I don’t follow her 24/7 and I don’t believe celebrities should be role models for children, I think she is a positive, poised person and a fitness/ health inspiration. Whether she is bi, gay, or straight, is less than important because 1. it’s her business and her life and 2. she seems like a nice human being above all else.

    Some people are so quick to condemn people based solely on their preferences. I will NEVER understand how a group of people who 1) have and continue to experience the effects of discrimination and 2) many of which claim to be apart of a religion that teaches you to “love your neighbor” and “judge not least ye be judged” are so quick to deny rights and in some cases, person-hood to another group of people.

    And let’s cut the crap about the Bible saying it is wrong. People used the Bible to justify the enslavement, denial of rights, and 2nd class treatment of your ancestors. If you are doing the exact same thing to another group of people, how does that make you any different from the Southern plantation owner or Klansman using it to justify their evil ways?

    • I got sense!

      You and I are cut from the same cloth. I don’t get it either. Same goes for gay marriage. How can you deny someone something that you dont even want???? Same goes for white people adopting black kids. Same goes for same sex couples adopting kids. O_o

      The ones who have the lowest marriage rate, highest OOW birth rates, lowest wealth/income, highest high school drop out rate, highest incarceration rate, highest violent crime rates, highest abortion rates, highest unemployment rates consistently for the past 25+ years and the highest obesity rates are spending WAY too much time focusing on who is in bed with who. We got a FULL plate of issues over here.

    • @LemonNLime: Agreed!!!

    • @Work_Bored

      OMG…”People used the Bible to justify the enslavement, denial of rights, and 2nd class treatment of your ancestors. If you are doing the exact same thing to another group of people, how does that make you any different from the Southern plantation owner or Klansman using it to justify their evil ways?”

      This was the reason why I get so upset and defensive when it comes to sexual orientation hatred. some may of questioned my sexuality, but I would get so upset because people would hate/disapprove a person over who they choose to sleep with!! to me it’s just like hating African Americans because their skin is so dark.

    • Preach LemonNLime! I 100% agree with everything you said! How can people get strung up over things that don’t even concern them? I’m tired of all the judging and tired of folks who try to fit folks in one little box in order to make themselves comfortable…I just don’t see how some people live day-to-day like that.

      On a side-note, Raven is a real talent and she seems like a cool person. I LOVED ‘That’s So Raven’…my only gripe is that she’s being SO underused, she should be having her own sitcom on NBC right now…but we know how that ish goes…

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