By Neal Broverman
Originally published on Advocate.com January 24 2005 12:00 AM ET
As a teen who was coming of age in the mid ’90s, I had no reason to believe that being a gay male was a reasonable, normal way to live your life. I just had no frame of reference; no adult I knew was doing it. I felt like an alien, and I didn’t tell a soul about the turmoil raging inside my head. What a difference it would have made if someone I identified with started telling the truth about their sexuality. Now it’s 10 years later, and many things have changed for the GLBT community. But having a universal gay male hero is not one of them.In the game of “Our Team Has More Out Celebrities,” the lesbians are kicking the gay guys’ collective butts. With the hardships of Melissa, the days of Ellen’s life, and Rosie’s other world covered by the media and all those who consume their magazines, books, and newspapers, it’s easy for a gay man to develop a complex. Where are the faces making us more human? We love our out gals, but where are the guys?As of late, the most famous lesbians broke the pink ceiling, finding their breakups and diagnoses reported alongside straight counterparts’ with nary an eyelash batted. It’s their struggles and triumphs, not necessarily their homosexuality, that makes headlines. These women are now covered as people, folks with foibles and problems that any human can relate to. Famous lesbians have been partly welcomed into the club of acceptance by mainstream America. Gay men, on the other hand, have yet to find the secret password for entry, or anyone who will even knock on the door.Sure, there are Elton, George Michael, and Rupert Everett. But they’re all British. Excluding our amazing but less visible writers, including Augusten Burroughs, J.T. LeRoy, and David Sedaris, American gays have no high-profile showbiz boy-heroes. No doubt there are gay men in the ranks of all the movie and TV stars, musicians and singers. The fact that not one of these people will come out of the closet is not only embarrassing, it confirms the fact that being a gay male in America is so terrible it remains the malady that dare not speak its name.Being gay certainly seemed to be a liability, rather than a character trait, for poor ol’ Jim McGreevey. He was certainly not the out celebrity the gay community was searching for. After he comes out as a “gay American,” the former New Jersey governor resigns from his post and, soon after, exits his position in shame. Mr. McG didn’t come out because he was sick of lying and hiding; he was being blackmailed and run out of office. And he cheated on his wife. This is not the proud coming-out tale I envisioned our cause relishing. Coming out is always hard. The notion that doing it on the world stage is monumentally difficult is not lost on us. Most of us who manage to escape the closet have battle scars from the journey. It is staggering to imagine this endeavor being broadcast around the globe at the possible expense of career and family; that’s why the act is so incredibly courageous and elevating. Melissa, Ellen, Rosie, Martina, and k.d. made the biggest of all gambles. They’re better off now because they’re free to live truthfully, and we as a community are uplifted because we have larger-than-life examples of how it’s done.But the disparity between the sexes persists. Is our society more comfortable with gay women than gay men? I, at least, believe the thought is pervasive that an out gay female celeb could survive but her male equivalent would not. We have no evidence either way. Maybe it seems easier for celebrity lesbians because they’re the only ones who have pushed open the closet door en masse. The silence of visible gay males is a serpent eating its tail--it continues the fear, homophobia, and self-hatred without end.The lack of visible gay men in our culture is a devastating blow to our morale. It isn’t just a pissing match in some stupid Us Weekly battle of dominance. By having high-profile people who are unquestionably on our team, we are given someone to identify with, to admire--someone to hang our hopes and struggles on. For a confused, scared 16-year-old, that means the world.