Coming Out in Fashion & Style

“Celebrities Come Out, Without Fanfare” was the title of a recent article in The New York Times by Jeremy Peters about the “trend” of celebrities coming out without much reaction from the general public.

The article focuses on the aftermath of the coming out stories this year of Latino singer Ricky Martin, “Will & Grace” actor Sean Hayes and country singer Chely Wright.

I put quotes around “trend” because, well, the Times is particularly known for cobbling together the magic number of three instances (which, to be fair to the Times, is a common device) to draw broad conclusions.

That said, the article does draw some conclusions that I happen to agree with, such as:

While few experts on gay issues would dispute the powerful impact that coming out has on a personal, one-on-one level, there is a growing sense that a celebrity coming out sways few hearts and minds and does relatively little to alter negative perceptions about gay people.

And such as:

Howard Bragman — the publicist who represents Ms. Wright and has advised other celebrities on coming out, including Meredith Baxter, the “Family Ties” actress, and Sheryl Swoopes, the pro basketball star — does not dispute that many of his clients have been motivated by profit. But he said that to confuse their desire to make money with a lack of earnestness about living openly would be unfair and a double standard.

“That doesn’t make someone’s coming out less sincere,” he said. “Celebrities profit all the time from getting married and selling their pictures to magazines and telling their love stories in song and in book. Yeah, we’d like a little piece of the pie, too.”

Mr. Bragman and others who have looked at the response to celebrities’ coming out say that many people who are quick to dismiss these celebrities as opportunists fail to see the impact that they are having in the socially conservative communities they come from — in Ms. Wright’s case, the country music world; and in Mr. Martin’s, Latin America.

I have few complaints about the article itself, which included great sources like Eric Marcus, Dan Savage and Mike Rogers. My bone to pick was actually handed to me by a friend who happens to be transgender.

She emailed me a link to this story with these comments (which she allowed me to use):

I never can understand why articles like this, or anything having to do with TG/TS, are invariably banished to the “Fashion” or “Style” sections. I like to believe that, in some cases, gender and sexuality have more profundity than that. Or, I should say, I like to believe that other people (read: major news source editors) would deem some aspects of gender and sexuality more profound than Fashion or “lifestyle choice.”

She and I both concede that this story in particular is arguably appropriate in the Fashion & Style section since it does focus on celebrities.

However, I do agree with her larger point, which is that these kind of stories seem to only live in the Fashion & Style ghetto. Why?

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