Cheyenne Jackson: Cheyenne Stands Tall

Most leading men are afraid to be out and proud. Cheyenne Jackson is bigger than that.

BY Brandon Voss

March 25 2008 11:00 PM ET

Perhaps sooner than later: “Buzz and movement,” he says, have already begun following a recent Variety.com interview in which he expressed interest in portraying famously closeted icon Rock Hudson on the big screen. “My Xanadu costar Tony Roberts knew Rock Hudson, and he said, ‘You remind me of him in so many ways; not just physically, but your spirit and sense of humor.’ ” But Jackson’s quick to note his fundamental difference with Hudson: “Just think of all the people back then who couldn’t be themselves and all the wonderful things they could’ve created. When you live in fear, it’s got to weigh on you.”

The only weight that’s been placed on Jackson’s broad shoulders the last few years has been one of responsibility to the LGBT community, though he seems neither frustrated nor resentful to be carrying the sequined torch while so many of his queer peers remain in the closet. “I’ve had conversations with famous people who aren’t out, and more than anything it just makes me sad. But everybody has their own journey, and I hate the whole witch-hunt aspect of outing people—a lot of which comes from the gay media,” he states firmly, specifically referring to former blog target Neil Patrick Harris. “I mean, he’s been out forever, and everybody knew that, but I guess Middle America isn’t going to believe you’re out until they see you on People magazine saying, ‘I’m gay!’ ”

Jackson points to his own recent profile in People as a positive example of how out celebrities should be treated in the media. “It didn’t mention my sexuality because it wasn’t relevant,” Jackson explains. “Then I got all this feedback, like, ‘Oh, is Cheyenne going back in the closet?’ It’s like, Fuck off. I don’t have time for that. ‘Openly gay Cheyenne Jackson’ is weird to me. They never say ‘openly straight Patti Lupone.’ It’s so reductive, but then when I say that the militant gays are, like, ‘Well, you’re a role model, so you should just deal with it!’ For the militant gays, you can never be out enough. I get flak because there aren’t pictures of me kissing my partner, or I don’t always say ‘my partner and I.’ I have a partner. A gay partner. We’re gay. How much gayer do you want me to be?” For the record, those who don’t think Jackson’s gay enough need only visit his dressing room — where someone has scrawled “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” on the door — or hear him relive locking eyes with audience member Ricky Martin during a recent Xanadu performance.

Jackson still has a beef with an item that Village Voice columnist Michael Musto ran following an interview the actor had done to promote Paul Greengrass’s 2006 docudrama United 93, which was nominated for a best-directing Oscar. In United 93, Jackson made his feature-film debut as heroic gay rugby player Mark Bingham. “I said something along the lines of, ‘If my mom or wife or baby had been on the plane…’ Well, Musto heard ‘wife’ and wrote in his column, ‘Nobody asked about [Jackson’s] sexuality after that.’ It was bitchy, obnoxious, and really kind of harmful.” He pauses, then laughs, catching himself getting, well, all shook up. “That stuff clearly gets on my nerves.”

At this point I admit that I too had feared his closet retreat when another Advocate cover story aimed for Xanadu’s summer ’07 opening abruptly fell through. “That was all my old publicist that I gave the heave-ho,” he explains, blaming a strained professional relationship that began “as a blind date that someone else was paying for.” After the Advocate snub, he continues, “I fired her right away. Several people who had worked with her on other things said, ‘I think she has issues with gays,’ but it wasn’t something I knew when I first starting working with her. She’d make blanket statements like, ‘No, we’re not doing any gay press.’ ”

As he polishes off a club sandwich with mayo and a side of fries — yes, fries (having just seen him onstage in short-shorts and a tank top, I poke at a salad) — Jackson sums up his own love-hate relationship with the gay media and their high expectations: “Look, I’m not somebody that marches in the front of a gay pride parade, but if I wanted to, I would. I’m not a self-loathing gay; I just feel like being gay is the least interesting thing about me. But I also understand that people want to be represented, and I’m happy to be that for them — to a point.”

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