Coming out of the closet is never an easy process. Equal parts stressful, terrifying and exhilarating, it's also a process that should never be forced upon someone, which is exactly what television producer Bryan Fuller did to former Heroes actor Thomas Dekker, who came out publicly on Instagram today.
Related | The Many Shades of Thomas Dekker
Before we get to that, though, we have to go back a week to the speech Bryan Fuller gave while accepting the Outfest Achievement Award for his LGBTQ advocacy in television. Fresh off the success of his very gay Starz series American Gods, Fuller had this to say about having would-be characters in his past work “hetwashed,” or changed from homosexual to heterosexual:
"I had a brief stint on Heroes where the gay character was 'hetwashed' after the actor's management threatened to pull him from the show if he—the character, not the actor—were gay," Fuller said. "The character became straight and the actor came out as gay." The actor he carelessly talked about is Thomas Dekker, who had never publicly come out as gay.
Dekker has talked openly about sexuality in the past, but never explicitly claimed he was gay. In 2007, he rebuked the story that his management refused to let his Heroes character, Zach, come out because it would damage his career, stating, “I, nor my management have ever had any kind of problem with creating a gay character.” Four years later, in 2011, he told OUT that he’s open in his sexuality. “I've only really had relationships with women, but I'm certainly not closed to it,” he explained. “If there are possibilities of being able to do anything in life, why would you say you would never take any up?”
Now, a week after Fuller’s thinly veiled outing during his speech, Dekker has taken to Instagram to come out as a happily married gay man. "My sexual orientation once again came into question this week when a prominent gay man used an awards acceptance speech to 'out' me," he conceded. "While he did not mention me by name, the explicit details of his reference made it easy for the public and media to connect the dots. While it is an odd situation, I thank him because it presents a prime opportunity for me to publicly say that I am indeed a man who proudly loves other men. In fact, this April, I married my husband and I could not be happier."
Later, Dekker goes on to say that, when it comes to sexual orientation, “it takes time to cultivate, discover and conclude.” While it’s great that Dekker has taken Fuller’s comments relatively lightly, it’s still essential that we all remember that coming out is an individual process that nobody should be made to feel forced into.
My sexual orientation once again came into question this week when a prominent gay man used an awards acceptance speech to "out" me. While he did not mention me by name, the explicit details of his reference made it easy for the public and media to connect the dots. While it is an odd situation, I thank him because it presents a prime opportunity for me to publicly say that I am indeed a man who proudly loves other men. In fact, this April, I married my husband and I could not be happier. I have never lied to the press about the fluidity of my sexuality but this man claiming that I came out is not true. Because I have not "officially" until this moment. I simply refuse to be robbed of the glorious joy that belongs to me. To say the words myself. "I'm gay". Those words are a badge of honor that no one can steal. Sexuality and who you love is a deeply personal and complicated thing. For some of us, it takes time to cultivate, discover and conclude. It is not something anyone should ever be ashamed of and certainly not something anyone should be rushed into. I agree with many who believe it is an important responsibility for LGBTQ persons with a platform to come out. It has the power to change minds, challenge beliefs and make others feel understood and supported. It can strengthen the progression of our community and help disarm those who discriminate against us. It is a brave, powerful and important thing to do but it is also a deeply personal decision. One that should only be made when you are ready. If we are to stand strong in the gay community, our mission should be support, not exclusion; love, not shame. I choose not to look back on the past with a regretful heart but rather focus on the future with a hopeful one. A future where myself and all others can feel free to express their true selves with honor and dignity. I embrace you, any of you, with open arms, kindness, faith and patience. For all of you who have supported me, before and now, I thank you from the bottom of my fledgling heart. Be proud of who you are. No matter how long it takes.