The applause properly given to newly out gay celebrities isn’t meant for them. It isn’t meant for you. It’s a message to a third party. It’s a message to the bigots. And more importantly it’s a message to the closeted.
Let me paint a picture.
See the innocent sixteen year old who loves the boy in trig class, who sits and draws their initials in his book even though he knows somewhere in the back of his head that if he ever acted on his longing he’d be beaten up by the very person he has a crush on. See that kid go home after school and pretend to whistle at the girls on TV so his parents don’t ship him off for electric shock therapy or black both his eyes. See that kid who is innocent of anything but wanting to be loved and of feeling what his body (or psychology) demands. He has no one to speak to, no one to ask questions of, all kinds of self doubt.
Now imagine him being called “c*cksucker” by his own father, or brother, or grandma. See him sitting in a McDonalds, smiling along as his supposed friends make fun of some “sissy” they know, laughing to each other, lisping elaborately. Watch him flip the channels, trying to find someone like himself on television. Watch him sit in church, as his mother nods along to some preacher’s “God Hates Fags” speech. Watch him suppress and repress and hate his own sexuality, just as his body is sending powerful signals to act act act on it. Watch him break down, try to kiss the wrong person, and end up in the morgue.
To my mind, such a boy — who often turns out to be one of the kindest and most productive members of society– IS a hero when he comes out. When the desire to live authentically conflicts with every other value he holds — life, limb, security, family– when integrity demands he speak up and name himself to the world– yes, I think that’s heroism. It’s an act of integrity beyond anything most people ever have to do in their lives. It is an “I Am Spartacus” moment. It is Jean Valjean confessing to being 24601 rather than see an innocent man swing. Unless you’ve had to do it yourself, I doubt you’d see the heroism in the act. But believe me, when you have to do it in the face of decades of hiding and with the real possibility of losing everything, it’s worthy of “Mister Smith goes to Washington”.
So I’m really sorry if the comings-out bore you, my friends. They’re not for you, and the applause we send to the gay celebrity is really directed as encouragement to those boys (and girls) out there who need to know it’s safe to join the human race.