Editor's Letter: What It Means to Be Out
BY Matthew Breen
September 12 2011 3:00 AM ET
I first encountered Jane Lynch in 2000 when I saw her in Best in Show playing a tough-as-nails lesbian dog trainer, and then in a variety stage show in a tiny Los Angeles theater where she played an obnoxiously hilarious lesbian self-help guru. I was instantly a fan. In the dozens and dozens of film and TV roles since (she may be the hardest-working woman in show business), she’s played sweet and shocking, gay and straight, and characters whose noxious qualities make orientation irrelevant. Lynch says she never did an official coming-out interview because she’d never been in — and to my knowledge she was active in LGBT organizations long before finding fame, and she’s never been shy about saying to the media that she’s a lesbian.
Her understanding of being out is far different from the “I’ve never been closeted” line I read so often from celebrities (sometimes in this publication) insisting that telling their parents and friends that they’re gay equals being out. Lynch was out. Those others most often were not.
You’ll forgive me if I descend into a professional gripe over this point. Being out is the most fundamental thing we can do to improve the lives of future generations, and for most of us, it’s as basic (though not to say easy) as telling the people in our lives. But if you’re a person in the public eye and you refuse to say you’re LGBT in a public forum, you’re unequivocally not out. Yes, you have a different standard than the nonfamous. While telling someone how and when to come out is pushing the point further than I care to do, who among us — more than the wealthy and famous — has the luxury of coming out and doing a ton of good in the process? Entertainers, come out. The water’s fine.
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