Coming out is an extraordinary affirmation of self. For me, it was the moment when I was unshackled from the expectations of others. It wasn’t an easy process; yet even during the lowest ebb, I never regretted making the decision. To continue living outside my own truth really wasn’t living at all.
For Kevin Spacey, coming out was a sickening attempt to divert attention from a 31-year-old allegation that he made a sexual advance on an underage boy.
Sexual orientation has nothing to do with sexual predation. Spacey knows this. Yet in fusing these two issues in a single statement responding to fellow actor Anthony Rapp’s accusation, Spacey evoked the destructive lie that equates gay men with pedophilia and sexual coercion.
In a Buzzfeed interview, Rapp, who appears on the show “Star Trek: Discovery,” recalled a disturbing 1986 incident when Spacey, after a party, “tried to get with me sexually.”
Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.
Though he now claims to have no memory of the assault, Spacey offered his “sincerest apology,” then made a pivot more akin to skidding off a cliff. “This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life,” Spacey tweeted. He then acknowledged, “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”
Spacey used the life-altering act of coming out, something he has steadfastly avoided for decades, as a shiny spinning object. His statement amounts to, “Sorry about that thing I did to a minor — did I ever tell you I’m gay?” If there’s an egregiously wrong way to come out, this is it.
“Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, the LGBTQ advocacy organization. “This is not a coming-out story about Kevin Spacey, but a story about survivorship by Anthony Rapp and all those who bravely speak out against unwanted sexual advances. The media and the public should not gloss over that.”
Of course, some headlines did exactly that, burying the allegation behind Spacey’s sudden coming out. That’s exactly what he wanted, and it re-victimizes Rapp by treating his accusation as an afterthought.
Besides, Spacey being gay is no surprise. He had already reached that public plateau where, even without a declaration, he had gained general acceptance. In recent years, he’s even toyed with the rumors. While hosting this year’s Tony Awards, he belted out the line “I’m coming out,” then quickly added, “No, wait, no.” On the political drama “House of Cards,” the gay dalliances of his character, Frank Underwood, have been a recurring subplot. (Production on the Netflix series’ sixth and final season has been suspended indefinitely.)
More darkly, Seth MacFarlane, who made a telling joke about Harvey Weinstein at the 2013 Academy Awards, also took a jab at Spacey. In a 2005 episode of his animated series “Family Guy,” a naked character runs through a mall screaming, “Help! I’ve escaped from Kevin Spacey’s basement. Help me!”
Stewie is a baby boy. No one is laughing now.
Time will tell if Spacey’s career has been as damaged as Weinstein’s or Bill Cosby’s, and whether, like those two serial predators, there will be other victims coming forward with their own harrowing stories to tell.
Once, the LGBTQ community would have welcomed Spacey’s coming out, but certainly not like this. Rightfully, he will be shunned for his indefensible acts — first, for preying on a 14-year-old boy and then, more than 30 years later, indicting a community he only saw fit to claim when it became a convenient prop to drag down into the muck with him.Renée Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.