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How to Come Out, or Not

I’m not exactly the world’s biggest Rebel Wilson fan, and neither do I think that all gay experiences are monolithic, or even comparable. But when news broke this weekend that The Sydney Morning Herald had asked Wilson to comment on her new relationship with a woman or they would run their story about it anyway—essentially outing her against her will—many of us felt that familiar feeling of dread. That feeling that you have no control: Over your own narrative, over your own privacy, over a hugely definitive moment in your life as a queer person.

I’m 30. I’ve been out for 16 years, with only about half of those years spent being really, truly happy about it. But my coming out was much like Wilson’s. That is to say, I was outed at high school by someone with whom I’d shared the secret of my sexuality. Naturally, the news spread like wildfire, and while the relative consequences for me were much smaller than for Wilson, high school was my whole world, and that news made me famous—or, rather, infamous. I gained detractors and enemies overnight, and was exposed to new kinds of violence at such a rapid rate I had to do a Wilson and own it. So I came out. Proudly, sure. Bravely, possibly. But against my will? Absolutely.

First things first: It is unacceptable to out somebody. Totally and utterly cruel. Not simply because it instantly removes any agency a queer person has over their own story, but also because you have no idea what kind of harm their outing could lead to; at home, at school, at church, online. For someone like Wilson, this news will likely—and sadly—have an effect on her career because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but out queer people very rarely get to play the lead in projects they didn’t create themselves. (Go on, think of one.) The future is apparently here, and it’s… inclusive-ish?

Second, we must divest from the obsession with needing to know every detail of a celebrity’s sexuality. Harry Styles springs to mind, along with any person ever who has been perceived to exist even an inch outside the expected lines of the gender binary. The internet puts so much pressure on celebrities to come out, to name themselves as something, or they will be decried for queer-baiting or lying. Yet the moment someone is publicly outed, the same people call for a person’s right to privacy, or at least to experience their journey on their own terms. The culture that surrounds celebrity and queerness is confused—confused between liberation and ownership.

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