The Glass Closet


By Michael Musto

Surprisingly enough, the concept of being semi-sort-of-out has even infiltrated the ranks of the Republicans. Pioneer outing journalist Michelangelo Signorile feels that 'in the Republican Party now, the glass closet is OK. It's like 'just don't talk about it or announce it.' It's progress, but it also still makes being gay something you really shouldn't talk about.' But things got extra sticky when people started asking questions about then Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman's sexuality. At first, Mehlman refused to answer any questions, which only fueled the discussion, until he flatly told a New York Daily News reporter, 'I'm not gay.' The fact that he parried the question for so long, wrote Washington blogger John Aravosis, was in itself unusual. 'I can't recall many, if any, straight men who refuse to acknowledge that they're straight'if anything, most are a bit too obvious about it'and that ultimately leads to speculation, caused by Mehlman's own failure to respond to a direct question posed by a reporter.'

Keeping the glass up is a high-maintenance job, especially since many celebs are left to do it'or, more often, screw it up'alone. Bragman swears there are no meetings between stars and their handlers to strategize whether or not they will stay glassed off. That would explain the various slipups that happen when the luminaries take their own images by the balls. I was wildly amused some years ago when the terminally noncommittal Sean Hayes was asked by a newspaper interviewer what he likes in a partner and he blurted out that he's 'not into that gay ideal of musclemen.' This from the guy who refuses to label his sexuality. Whoopsy! (Though he can always say 'Well, I said I'm not into the gay ideal.') Meanwhile, the more circumspect David Hyde Pierce is quoted on the Internet Movie Database as saying, 'My life is an open book, but don't expect me to read it to you.'

I also loved the blind item in the New York Post a few years ago about how a more calculating star goes into premiere screenings with his female date while his male trainer enters separately and, when the lights go down, switches seats to be next to the star. Good try'but obviously the charade was shabby enough to eventually make it into print.

A popular argument in favor of celebs not going on the record with their gayness is that these people deserve privacy, after all. 'It's nobody's business but theirs,' onlookers counter'usually while devouring a trashy tabloid.

It's true that stars are free to put up whatever walls they want in order to maintain boundaries with the public. But even at their most controlling, straight stars never seem to leave out the fact that they're straight in interviews. Whenever a subject tells me, 'I won't discuss who I'm dating' or 'I resent labels,' I generally know not so much that they're passionate about privacy but that they're gay, gay, gay.

Are the glassy'or ambiguous'stars tortured? Sometimes. It must be weird to be, say, Wanda Sykes and turn up with gal pals at New York City's gay lounge Beige and at Fire Island discos while seeming to exude a hope that no one notices enough to ask whether you are or aren't. But if played right, there are benefits to the high-wire act. As Signorile disdainfully puts it, 'Anderson Cooper has finessed it where straight women who have a crush on him think he's straight and gay men actually think he's out. [The glass closeters] are able to play different niche audiences to whatever sexual orientation those people want, and they believe it!'

Once again, bravo! (said with rolling eyes). When halfheartedness is used as a career move, there's little to cheer about, especially when truthin' could be the road to real relief. As newfound lesbian Cynthia Nixon told New York magazine after coming out, 'If someone is chasing you, stop running. And then they'll stop chasing you.' So come on, people, just say the words. Or just mouth them. At least.