Thursday, December 30, 2010

Richard Chamberlain's Advice

Richard Chamberlain
In his recent interview in the Advocate, Richard Chamberlain is quoted as saying "It’s complicated. There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is. For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, 'Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay' — especially if you’re a leading man. Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out... Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture. Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted."

The bloggers have weighed in, criticizing him for this advice. Some of the blogs have been pretty insulting, too.

While I also disagree with his conclusions and the advice he offers, I can't say that he is factually wrong. Our society is changing, but it still has quite a way to go.

When Ellen came out (and it wasn't that long ago) her series was cancelled. She has repeatedly talked in interviews about how it seemed that her career was over. Rupert Everett came out, and today expresses some regret over the roles that decision has cost him. There is a price to pay for coming out.

The advice to stay in the closet is understandable, but it is essentially selfish, placing one's career above all other concerns. And it is short-sighted. Only by coming out does someone contribute to that change in our culture.

But I have to question why so many are willing to pile on Richard Chamberlain? 

When Judge Phillips ruled that DADT was unconstitutional, the leading advocacy groups (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United, OUTServe) fighting for the rights of lesbian and gay soldiers advised their members to remain in the closet. 

I'll admit it: At first, I didn't question the wisdom of the advice the servicemembers organizations were giving. The court's ruling was going to be appealed, and if it were to be reversed by a higher court, anyone who had come out would be subject to discharge.

But then I listened to Dan Choi. He was calling for the opposite response. He asked our servicemembers to show their courage, to come out now and show how many lesbians and gays we already had serving our country with honor. His position was that only by coming out would they contribute to the final death of this discriminatory policy. And as soon as I heard him say this, I knew he was right.

Where were the blogs then? Heck, where are they now, when servicemembers are still being urged to use caution when considering whether or not to come out?

Coming out is never the wrong decision to make. Living in the closet, living a lie, exacts a toll that no one should have to pay. But in the end, coming out is a decision we all have to make for ourselves when we are ready. 

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