Spock is gay – why should we care?

October 19, 2011 in General

Spock is gay.

And no, I haven’t discovered this via reading the odd genre of fan fiction that has him getting off with Kirk (they call it “slash fiction”, a strange term that brings to mind urination and Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th – wouldn’t “fornication fiction” be catchier?)

I am, of course, talking about actor Zachary Quinto, who came out this week in the best manner there is to come out – by not really consciously doing it.

As opposed to the tabloid comings out we’ve seen from actors and pop stars in the past, usually prompted by a combination of blackmail and/or being caught in flagrante delicto, good old Zach just dropped it into the body of an interview answer:

His eight-month role in [a stage production of] Angels [in America] was both “the most challenging thing I’ve ever done as an actor and the most rewarding” he says. Having to inhabit that terrible lost world, if only in his mind, took a toll. “And at the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done, and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed.”

Quinto’s orthodox way of integrating his sexual orientation into questions about his life and work in the same way that any heterosexual person does (and takes for granted that they do so on a daily basis) is still extraordinary, hence the flurry of worldwide headlines where his fourth paragraph answer was elevated to a headline “admission” of gayness.

Why is Quinto’s coming out important?

Only a few weeks back, I wrote about TV3 reporter David Farrier’s frustrated tweet regarding “gays who are on a crusade for closeted gays to come out”, which he subsequently elaborated further on:

“That tweet was basically directed at those who seem BEYOND obsessed with people coming out. Whether they’re gay or not. Of course people who are gay should be comfortable coming out. When they want to. I just don’t understand people who seem to think about nothing but telling specific people to come out. Leave it up to the person. That’s the point I was making.”

Not so long ago, Quinto felt the same way.  When he was interviewed for the New York Times in October last year, here’s how reporter David Rooney summed it up:

“Despite Mr. Quinto’s efforts to keep his private life private, the blogosphere is rife with speculation about his sexuality, no doubt fueled by his support for gay rights and organizations like the Trevor Project. He prefers not to feed that rumor mill with either substantiation or dismissal.”

The neither confirm nor deny approach has always been as transparent as fresh gladwrap, but Quinto obviously didn’t have it in him to lie outright, as he could have done.  There are plenty of heterosexual Hollywood stars who actively support gay rights.

My closing remarks in my blog about the Farrier tweet were that visibility matters in a world where “you’ve still got kids killing themselves because of the stigma attached to homosexuality”, a direct reference to the death by suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, who in a dreadful irony had made an ‘It Gets Better’ video only months before taking his life.

It was this tragic event that moved Quinto to open up about his life, as he describes in a blog typed on a keyboard seemingly missing a caps lock:

“when i found out that jamey rodemeyer killed himself – i felt deeply troubled.  but when i found out that jamey rodemeyer had made an it gets better video only months before taking his own life – i felt indescribable despair.

i also made an it gets better video last year – in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time.

but in light of jamey’s death – it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it – is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality…

i believe in the power of intention to change the landscape of our society – and it is my intention to live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action.”

Living an authentic life.  That’s a great and powerful phrase.

I can understand the need for gay and bisexual men and women to remain closeted where coming out has a visceral impact on their physical safety.

But for those who continue to live life under the radar in big city circles of alleged liberals because they don’t want to “flaunt” their sexuality, or claim that it’s not a big or important part of their lives, you’re not only hindering the transformation of our world into a more accepting place for people like us, you’re actually doing potential harm to yourself.

A new study published in the journal of Sexuality Research and Social Policy concludes that stress and a loss of wellbeing can be prevalent even in LGBT people who “have never experienced major traumatic events such as hate violence, abuse, or discrimination.”

How is this so?  Through the cumulative impact of “microaggressions”:

“Individuals experience microaggressions, day-to-day moments where they feel the need to “worry” or “hide” — any slight occasion when they are unsure about their safety or acceptance because they are LGB. The authors conclude that these microaggressions largely define how people experience their identities in society.”

The study also interviewed participants on the subjects of sexism and racism:

“…participants describe homophobia, racism, and sexism as enduring and pervasive social forces that chronically and systematically exclude them from social institutions. In thinking about life without homophobia, racism, and sexism, participants revealed that, indeed, minorities experience society as anything but harmoniously fitting.”

Of course, it’s a lot more difficult to hide your race or gender.  There are some microaggressions that are unique to LGB people:

“Researchers need to pay greater attention than they have to date to describing these stressors and understanding their effects. Among these stressors are minor events and conditions that are mostly intangible. Prominent among these were experiences such as not being able to walk down the street freely because of the fear of expressing affection to one’s intimate partner.”

The Wikipedia entry for microaggression describes some attitudes that I’m sure we’ve all encountered at some point or another:

Microaggressions can take a number of different forms, for example, questioning the existence of racial-cultural issues, making stereotypic assumptions, and cultural insensitivity.  Some other types of microaggressions that have been identified include Colorblindness (e.g., “I don’t think of you as Black. You are just a normal person”), Denial of personal bias (e.g., “I’m not homophobic; I even have gay friends.”), and Minimization of racial-cultural issues (e.g., “Just because you feel alone in this group doesn’t mean that there’s a racial issue involved.”). “Colorblindness” in particular has been associated with higher levels of racism and lower levels of empathy.

Anecdotally, for what it’s worth, my experience is that “colourblindness” with respect to sexual orientation is also associated with higher levels of homophobia and lower levels of empathy.

“You’re not different, you’re just you” is a statement of rejection.  “You’re you because you are different” is a statement of acceptance.

This week, Zachary Quinto learned the difference between the two.

Spock is gay – why should we care?

2 Comments

    1. craig says:

      Dare one hope that this means that the notoriously homophobic Trek franchise will *finally* get round to (gasp) actually depicting LGBT core characters?!

    2. Hey very nice blog!

Spock is gay – why should we care?

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