Kevin Spacey was always one of those guys who just pinged on the gaydar, even before the rumors became commonplace. Now, the ol’ gaydar isn’t a perfectly reliable tool, can sometimes produce a false positive, and some people can totally fool even the most state-of-the-art system. People always just let Spacey’s closeted life slide though, because they liked the guy — he seemed perfectly friendly, quick-witted, and charming in his interviews.
After Anthony Rapp finally came forward about Spacey coming on to him aggressively when Rapp was 14, Spacey said it was due to inappropriate drunken behavior and then proceeded to out himself. This produced no small amount of outcry from the LGBTQ community, who viewed it as an attempt to distract from the accusation of sexual assault, and justifiably so. Using your sexual or gender identity as a shield or outing yourself as a defense doesn’t absolve you.
When talking about LGBTQ issues, we all use the word “community” to describe ourselves as a whole. Sometimes calling it a community can be a rather generous way of describing a group as diverse as us. We are constantly bickering, backbiting, and tearing at each other over issues like politics and race, to tastes in pop culture and fashion. Hell, there are people that think that the LGBTQ should split up and go their separate ways, with some believing transgender people should never have been included in the first place. At best, we’re a very dysfunctional family who fight during the holidays, rather than a “community.”
Yet we do seem to have a tendency for most of us to come together when it counts to support, defend, and celebrate one another. As in any community, though, you have to earn your place in it, and abide by its rules, written or unwritten.
Spacey, by coming out as a way to hand-wave away his ever-more revealed history of sexual assault and harassment, has violated quite a few of the values and mores of the LGBTQ community. For much of our history, we have been seen as sexual deviants and predators, with children often presented as our target of choice. The stereotype and scare-mongering continues even now with transgender women and the bathroom issue, and the conflation of pedophilia with homosexuality; it is one of the most dangerous — and effective — attacks used against us. By trying to hide behind his sexuality to defend his actions, Spacey has given ammunition to moral crusaders who will use that to rally their base and push for restrictions on our rights.
Spacey’s horrible coming-out goes beyond being a Log Cabin Republican having regressive political views — it reinforces stereotypes that have actually resulted in us being the victims of not just systemic discrimination but physical violence and even murder. While one can make a defense of a gay person having conservative values as an act of privilege or naïveté, one cannot defend a person whose actions can cause violence. Especially when they are transparently self-serving.
Just because everyone in the LGBT community is, in a way, a sexual and gender outlaw, it doesn’t mean that all are necessarily welcome in it. The one thing that we can universally agree on above all is the sentiment of “Don’t bring harm to the community from the outside with your actions.” What that means and entails is often a source of heated debate that varies by values. Some say being overly flamboyant brings harm; some say that not being intersectional and inclusive brings harm; to some, supporting capitalism damages the community; and some say that wealthy and powerful gays who remain in the closet are doing us harm. All of this can be rightfully debated and argued over. However, saying that being gay is why you chose to drunkenly attempt a sexual assault on a minor is beyond debate.
I am always for bringing the community closer together, being more accepting of our diversity, more understanding of our differences, and more forgiving of our individual failures. However, some things are far too divisive, harmful, or deserving of an easy forgiveness. They warrant a punishment. Sometimes it’s a loss of prestige or opportunity. Sometimes it’s a loss of place among the group. Kevin Spacey’s actions warrant that punishment.
Spacey doesn’t deserve to be considered any sort of example of who we are or to have a voice in our community. His actions have harmed us, yes — but his victims have experienced much greater harm. Until he has earned the forgiveness of his victims, he does not deserve ours. We protect our own, even if that means sometimes punishing our own.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.