Life&Style writer Ellie Jeffery discusses whether the increasing amount of celebrities sharing their sexuality is an unnecessary trend
June. Pride flags adorn the poles and windows of the world, and LGBTQ+ news floods the newspapers and magazines. Every year, for a month, the world seems to stop still and pause for the rainbow to take over for a moment or two. Though this year other issues have taken precedence in the world, it is still as important as ever to celebrate our rich and vibrant community and culture, as well as how far we have come in the fight for equal rights. But there is still a lot work to be done.
As Donald Trump takes away rights from transgender members of society, and the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric appears as relentless as ever, many are turning to celebrities’ ‘coming outs’ and the subsequent support from their fanbases as a beacon of hope and reassurance for the community. But how much do these actually help the fight?
Perhaps one of the most prolific ‘coming outs’ of 2020 so far has been that of the British singer, actress, model and writer Cara Delevigne. Having previously come out as bisexual and described herself as genderfluid back in May 2018 , in recent weeks the star has labelled herself as pansexual. Such vocal change in her self-definition is commendable- especially in light of the accepted narrative in our society, that one’s sexuality is for life. Cara Delevigne has shown just how fluid both gender and sexuality really are, and she’s proudly speaking out in the public eye about her experiences.
More surprising, perhaps, is Jacqueline Wilson coming out as gay in April 2020 . So many of us in the UK grew up reading and loving her books, never having given a second thought to her sexuality. No doubt this news will have been extremely inspiring for her young LGBTQ+ readers who will resonate with her as a role model even more so. Together with revealing this, Wilson also explained that she has been living with her partner Trish for an amazing eighteen years- again likely another heart-warming detail for many of her followers.
Alongside these two public figures, scores of other celebrities have come out in 2020. Notably Lili Reinhart of the ‘Riverdale’ franchise recently unveiled her bisexuality, whilst earlier this year Jameela Jamil announced that she is queer. Likewise Justice Smith, an actor known for ‘Detective Pikachu’, came out as queer in recent weeks and is currently dating fellow actor Nicholas L. Ashe.
Another notable LGBTQ+ announcement to have been made this year was by popular makeup YouTuber Nikkie de Jager, or NikkieTutorials, who in January revealed that she was a transgender woman. This is less of a triumphant story, however, as her coming out was forced upon her by blackmail, but the outpourings of support she subsequently received from the online community are extremely encouraging.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of everyone who has revealed their sexuality in 2020. But considering events in the USA, with the White House actively and publicly not supporting Pride Month, surely LGBTQ+ celebrities are indispensable for young people struggling with their sexuality?
What we need to remember is that celebrities are people, and that people have feelings. When we see someone on stage or on a screen it is far too easy to reduce them to the character or persona that they play. They can appear detached from the sorts of people we interact with daily, often seeming a lot less real than a local bloke in the pub or your next door neighbour.
When celebrities share their sexuality or gender with the world, they share a part of themselves that isn’t necessary to their brand or image. Most of the time it’s bourne out of a wish to inspire their fans, to show them that their gender or sexuality should not be seen as an obstacle and should not deter them from dreaming big. But with so many people coming out as each year passes, it has a danger of appearing gimmicky rather than sincere.
Celebrity coming out may also, and has previously, been dismissed as a mere marketing ploy to enhance one’s social media image or presence online. For example, NikkieTutorials’ coming out video, although sincere in tone, has over 35 million views on YouTube. These numbers could, especially to people who view the LGBTQ+ community with spite or little understanding, certainly hint that such videos and posts are made with money and clicks in mind.
Just as NikkieTutorials kept her identity hidden from her audience for so long, Jacqueline Wilson shares a similar story. Her sexuality was known solely by her friends and family for many years- only to be announced publicly as she began to promote her new book ‘Love Frankie’: a gay love story. Such timing may lead one to question why the writer did not come out sooner however Wilson explains this in an interview with The Guardian: ‘I don’t think that girls would ever want a grey-haired, wrinkly writer as a role model if they were wanting to feel good about maybe being gay.’
Should people ever feel pressured to ‘come out’ publicly as a responsibility to those who follow them? Certainly not. Celebrities are not and should not be the only role models in our lives.
But for those people who truly struggle with their identities and look upwards for encouragement, admirable LGBTQ+ figures such as Cara Delevigne and Jameela Jamil can be invaluable. Role models such as Justice Smith are extremely beneficial for gay black people in particular who may find it even harder to see themselves represented in the mainstream.
So although news of another celebrity coming out might bore or frustrate people who do not resonate with the LGBTQ+ community, they are little short of a blessing to those who have struggled to come to terms with themselves and their identity. What’s more, openly queer celebrities help to bring much needed gay and trans representation into the mainstream. So whilst it is easy to dismiss celebrity comings out as ploys for money or fame, overall these do far more good than harm.
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