North Texas Daily

Forcing celebrities out of the closet benefits no one

Forcing celebrities out of the closet benefits no one

Forcing celebrities out of the closet benefits no one
December 09
12:00 2022

18-year-old actor Kit Connor, who starred in the Netflix series Heartstopper, was forced to reveal his sexuality after being accused of queerbaiting through his bisexual character on Oct. 31. While he avoided Twitter, fans continued harassing him to reveal his identity. Celebrities do not owe an explanation – like everyone else, they deserve the privilege to decide when to disclose their identities.

Accurate representation is always refreshing to see portrayed in popular media, and while it’s pleasant to witness, fans often fail to remember that celebrities who play their favorite characters are human too.

Unfortunately, this occurs more often than people believe. Another example is Rebel Wilson, who introduced her girlfriend to Instagram in June, but not in honor of pride month – she was forced by fans. They threatened her, saying “they would take care of it” if she did not reveal her identity.

Furthermore, fans itch to fulfill their speculations, belittling LGBTQ celebrities in the process. In Connor’s case, the second they began the queerbaiting accusations, he socially depreciated when photos of him holding hands with Maia Reficco went viral online. Ironically, most of his fans are members of the queer community because of his queer representation in Heartstopper.

While being paranoid about queer-baiting is understandable because of the history behind straight people playing queer characters, presuming the worst in those who play LGBTQ characters discourages fans and celebrities alike from coming out. Concurrent with Connor’s character in Heartstopper, he said he is bisexual, and the incident highlighted bisexual erasure illustrated in Heartstopper. “I think some of you missed the point of the show,” Connor said, emphasizing the lack of respect he received before coming out.

Obligating celebrities to unveil their sexuality to audiences is inarguably problematic – it sets an unnecessary expectation. From these devastating instances, LGBTQ youth are burdened with the deceiving responsibility to out themselves the moment they believe they are queer, even in an unsafe environment.

Encountering unsafe environments for LGBTQ people is more common than not, and while there are groups like Gay-Straight Alliances available, more than 68 percent of LGBTQ students said they felt unsafe at school because of hostility. Additionally, 76 percent of LGBTQ students were verbally harassed, 31 percent were physically harassed and 12 percent were physically assaulted.

Television shows and movies are drastically different compared to reality, where hardships are bound to occur. As LGBTQ youth witness repetitive instances where LGBTQ celebrities out themselves to satisfy their fans, they will either suppress their feelings or buckle to pressure because it happens so often.

As social media has become more accepting of LGBTQ people, fans — perhaps unknowingly — negatively impact LGBTQ youth. By feeling entitled to knowing every intimate detail about beloved celebrities, including their sexuality, they set a horrible example for younger members of the queer community. When fans coerce celebrities into outing themselves, whether through accusations of queerbaiting or threats of violence, this sets the precedent of LGBTQ youth anticipating disrespect because of their sexuality.

Considering this, celebrities should not be obligated to disclose their sexuality. Like any individual, they deserve the right to disclose their identity when or if they feel mentally ready. 

The difference between celebrities and other LGBTQ people is the attention received from their appearance or talents, meaning coercion occurs because their fans want satisfaction. Most celebrities become famous by accident and unintentionally gain a fan base as an outcome. It can be just as uplifting as it is burdensome.

While he has a mostly supportive fan base, Harry Styles, formerly a member of “One Direction,” became a solo artist and accumulated a massive audience through his music and charisma. However, another aspect his audiences are intrigued by is his gender-nonconforming fashion, which resulted in queerbaiting accusations. Styles has combatted this, stating his opinion against the necessity for labels, but fans continue to speculate whether he is experimenting with his identity or simply lack concern about the matter. 

Once again, fans refuse to accept another fact: expression is not equivalent to identity. Fortunately, Styles dismisses the queerbaiting comments by continuing to express himself without restraints. Celebrities can be authentic by disclosing their identity voluntarily and exhibiting accurate representation in the LGBTQ community. In return, fans should respect their wishes by not harassing, making harmful accusations and pressuring potentially closeted celebrities.

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

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Ally Brown

Ally Brown

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