I love the TV show Empire. Not only is it the awesome family soap opera I’ve been hoping for in prime time, but right from the beginning, there was nothing coy about Jamal’s sexuality and it being shown on the screen. Over the past week, there’s been discussion about whether or not Jussie Smollett, who is awesome as Jamal, is publicly out or not. As of this morning, he’s out.
Towelroad had an interesting article before then.
Coming out is an endless process, unless you are going to surround yourself with a limited number of people for the rest of your life. Every time we do it, we are doing something that is both powerful and (at least for me in some situations) a little scary. When I, who presents as very feminine, say my wife in a casual way to a server in a restaurant, a clerk at a store, a doctor, a nurse, a colleague, a friend, I open myself up to a real risk. There are people who want to be able to refuse to give me the same service as someone not gay, and even without open hostility, there are plenty of ways for people to exhibit their disgust at “my lifestyle choices.”
At the same time, the more of us who are openly gay, the less scary we become. We don’t look like the carefully selected images/stories that are used to demonize us. They see it’s just our life, not the lifestyle they’ve been taught to fear.
There’s a reason why my brain particularly fixed on this particular coming out story. One of the main characters in the book I’m writing at the moment is an actor. He had amazing success as a child star, from the age of 10-17 he was on what I’ve termed the most popular show in America. As an adult, things haven’t been going so well for Jax’s career. He’s never hidden being gay from friends or his agent. But it’s not public knowledge. He sticks to the “I don’t discuss my personal life” line.
I applaud and celebrate the decisions of celebrities and sports figures to come out. But I hear and see why it’s limiting for them. I was witness to online discussions that Matt Bomer playing the lead in that famous book’s movie adaptation wouldn’t work because women couldn’t enjoy their fantasies because the actor–not the character–is gay. I’ve never understood how knowing someone’s orientation affects your ability to have an imaginary celebrity boyfriend or girlfriend. Do people live in a world where they believe tomorrow is the day the celebrity comes knocking to sweep them off their feet?
For my Jax, I know it’s going to be a struggle to get from where he is now to where he needs to be to have his HEA. And with that and Jussie Smollett’s courageous decision in mind, I wanted to share an unedited excerpt of where his thoughts are now. He’s sitting and talking with his best friend. (Full disclosure: Dane is NOT Jax’s love interest.)
“So they’ll think the truth, how horrible. Maybe you could help destigmatize—oh dear. You’d have to admit you’re gay first.”
“Sarcasm is really shitty on you, Dane.”
“Lying is really shitty, period. You know I don’t care if you fuck a hundred guys a month. But deliberately avoiding any kind of connection because you’re afraid of being outed—”
“I don’t lie. I don’t discuss my personal life. Not everyone feels the need to overshare every fucking detail of…fucking.”
Dane gave him some side-eye.
Jax squared his shoulders and held Dane’s eyes. It was an old argument but there was always a chance he’d get Dane to see it his way just one time. “I know it wouldn’t end my career, but there’d be limits. Gay in LA is not gay in New York.”
“So move back to New York.” Dane put a hand behind Jax’s neck, pulling him down until their foreheads touched. Nothing sexual about it, but since it was Dane and he was seduction on legs, a tingle spread out from where their skin touched. “Baby, I know what your mom said, and that your career is about honoring that for her, but don’t you think you can do something great as a so-what-he’s-gay actor?”
Jax had confided his mom’s last words in a moment of weakness, offering that connection in consolation when cancer took Dane’s mom too. He didn’t regret it, but Dane still didn’t understand.
Before the tingle could get any lower, Jax pulled Dane’s hand away and held it on his knee. “That’s it exactly. If I do build my resume up enough to get the part in The Flash reboot, then me coming out would matter. Some kid in Arkansas could see that, see me being a superhero and gay and happy, and think maybe I don’t have to kill myself because my parents say I’m going to hell.”
Dane shook his head, then kissed him before pulling back. “It’s your choice. Always. But you and I both know your rationalization adds up to a steaming pile from the wrong end of a bull.”
©K.A. Mitchell 2015
I think we all understand the power of the weapon. I’m looking forward to writing the moment when Jax comes to the realization that it’s time to fully deploy it.
Thanks for listening.