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Paper Trail: Big Sister Knows Best

Paper Trail: Big Sister Knows Best


In this excerpt from his new book, Life With My Sister Madonna, Christopher Ciccone discusses the interview Madonna gave with The Advocate in 1991 in which she outed him to the entire world.

Madonna ends the year by releasing "Justify My Love," which on December 3, 1990, premieres on Nightline. Rolling Stone crowns her "Image of the Eighties." The Immaculate Collection is released and stays at number one in the UK for nine weeks. In the United States it is certified two times platinum, and Forbes names Madonna the top-earning female entertainer of 1990, citing her income as $39 million. The magazine also votes her "America's Smartest Business Woman."

I realize that Forbes was right when, on May 7, 1991, just as Truth or Dare is about to be released, the Advocate publishes an interview with Madonna in which she outs me.

In an apparent ploy to garner support for the movie by ingratiating herself with her gay fans, she says, "My brother Christopher's gay, and he and I have always been the closest members of our family.

"It's funny. When he was really young, he was so beautiful and had girls all over him, more than any of my other brothers. I knew something was different but it was not clear to me. I just thought, I know there are a lot of girls around, but I don't get that he has a girlfriend. He was like a girl-magnet. They all seemed incredibly fond of him and close to him in a way I hadn't seen men with women.

"I'll tell you when I knew. After I met Christopher [Flynn, Madonna and Christopher's first dance teacher], I brought my brother to ballet class because he wanted to start studying dance. I just saw something between them. I can't even tell you exactly what, but then I thought, Oh, I get it. Oh, okay. He likes men too. It was an incredible revelation, but I didn't say anything to my brother yet. I'm not even sure he knew. He's two years younger than me. He was still a baby. I could feel something."

I was incensed. From my point of view, my sister evidently decided that outing me to the readers of the Advocate is the perfect promotional tool for the movie. Let's face it, Truth or Dare deals directly or indirectly--with sadomasochism, lesbianism, rape, a hint of incest, a dead mother, so why not a gay brother as well?

After all, Madonna used my mother's grave as a movie location, so why not use my sexuality as a publicity opportunity? I realize another reason. The gay community had been her original fan base in the eighties. Now, though, some gay fans were starting to feel that she had become too mainstream, too hetero. Her answer? Her way of winning them back? "My brother Christopher is gay."

At the time, though, I don't ruminate over her motives for outing me. I just know how outraged I am. Without asking me, without giving me a say in the decision, she has taken it upon herself to out me. I know that she hasn't for a moment considered whether my homosexuality is public knowledge, the reality that our grandmother doesn't know about it, and neither does our extended family nor anyone outside our circle of friends. Besides, it has always been my choice whether, when, or where to come out, not Madonna's. But why should I be surprised? She didn't stop at exploiting our grief at our mother's death, so why should she stop at exploiting me?

"How could you possibly have done that to me, Madonna!"

A moment's silence, during which she chews her gum.

Don't' see why you're upset, Chrissy."

She knows I hate being called Chrissy. She knows my name is Christopher. If the subject weren't so serious I'd call her Mud, just to piss her off.

"I mean, everyone knows your gay. I don't see why you give a fuck." She goes on.

Half an hour of trying to explain, trying to make her understand that it should be my decision to go public or not, not hers, but to not avail.

"What's the big deal? You are gay aren't you?"

I try not to make as big a deal of it as I'd like. She quite plainly doesn't understand what she's done. How can you fight with someone who doesn't understand?

A week after the Advocate appears, I get a call on my unlisted phone number from the Enquirer, telling me they are about to publish a story that I have AIDS. I'm monogamous. And so is Danny. Although I have been tested before and I know I am not positive, I get tested again and send theEnquirer the results. I am negative. They drop the story.

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Christopher Ciccone