• Colton Haynes at New York Fashion Week in 2015. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Lachlan Beaton asks whether our actors and sport stars owe it to the LGBTI community to come out?
By
Lachlan Beaton

21 Jan 2016 - 11:09 AM  UPDATED 21 Jan 2016 - 11:09 AM

Breaking down the stigmas that gay and lesbian people have to deal with every day is a vexed and tricky issue, especially when it comes to celebrities and sports stars. Do they owe it to us to come out to help break down barriers or do they deserve to portray themselves in whatever manner they wish?

The answer isn’t simple.

My view was always that their personal life is their personal life, that we should let them be who they want to be even if that means hiding their sexuality. But that view changed after I revealed my own sexuality to the world last year. The response to my "viral video" was overwhelmingly positive.

I realised that being honest with the world helps to break down social stigmas. I realised that so many young people gain strength from seeing a positive example; someone who had been through what they are going through and is now happy. I also learned how much I had suffered, mentally, from hiding my sexuality for so long.

Sports stars are the closest thing to gods in this country. What they do, we invariably follow. It's why clubs come down so hard on stars who take drugs or abuse alcohol - it's about setting an example. The same should apply for positive role modelling. Seeing openly gay sport stars would make young people feel more comfortable being themselves.

I consider celebrities in the world of entertainment a completely different kettle of fish. Sports stars are paid to kick goals, swim strong or run like the wind. Fans won’t stop them from achieving this, even if they reveal themselves to be gay.

Do entertainment stars have an obligation to come out? I don’t think so. The industry is cruel. Most actors receive more knock backs than offers and they are employed based not only on their looks but their public face. It’s a sad reflection on society, but a young gay actor may just not be as accepted as his or her straight counterpart.

There's been plenty of debate on this topic in the past few weeks. A number of young celebrities have been “outed” and those who dodge questions have been berated by the media.

Colton Haynes, who starred in Arrow and Teen Wolf, was slammed in a recent article in the Advocate, which claimed “it’s a huge problem when a rising star like Haynes is more comfortable publicly talking about his struggles with anxiety than he is about his sexuality".

I think this is thoroughly unfair. Haynes kicked some huge goals when he opened up about his anxiety on Twitter. He offered up over half a dozen tweets that let us delve into his personal life. A celebrity openly talking about mental health sets a wonderful example and helps to break that stigma.

Alternatively, just last week Teen Wolf and Desperate Housewives star Charlie Carver came out as gay. He said that by omitting his sexuality he believed himself "complicit in perpetuating the suffering, fear, and shame cast upon so many in the world”. He's right, and he's very brave. 

He continued: “In my silence, I’ve helped decide for you too that to be gay is to be, as a young man (or young woman, young anyone), inappropriate for a professional career in the arts.”

Carver is on the money, but we shouldn’t expect everyone to be like him.

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