So, whoever would have guessed that Ricky Martin was gay? OK, all of us really. But it matters. And it shouldn't matter - that's the trouble.
I can remember years ago as a scared gay teen desperately looking for any sign of gayness in singers, actors, public figures: I just wanted to know there were others out there like me, and they'd been successful. But of course, so many successful queers have had to hide who they are in a way that straights don't. And that's not right.
There have been some really nasty homophobic comments on message boards and youtube since Ricky made the announcement.
The saddest thing for me is that it still seems necessary for success in the entertainment industry to pretend to be someone you aren't. The general public are the problem more than the industry itself, yet it's a vicious cycle: if people in the public eye are warned that coming out will kill their career, they won't, and so the hypocrisy continues, and instead of queers seeing that being gay is normal, and in every part of society, they arre left without the songs, the films, the general culture, that reflects us and who we are.
Imagine if Ricky sang "He Bangs" or used "He" instead of "She" in La Vida Loca? Why hasn't Elton done a strong song that is about two men loving each other? It just seems ridiculous and sad that these things just aren't possible. The Pet Shop Boys are the first group I can think of that unambiguously sang about gay ife, but even they were tentative at times. I want to hear songs that talk about my life, not straights.
When are we going to have the first openly gay All Black in this country? And don't pretend there's never been one - there has. But the NZ Rugby Union would rather stop playing than admit it.
Why? What is so threatening about us? Why are we seen as such a profit-killer (cause that's what it's about - money) and a curse for popular entertainers? Even Ellen took her time in being public about it loving women instead of men.
If queers of every stripe are ever going to have real acceptance, real success and happiness in this world we need to be seen as part of it, not something to be denied. We need more visibility, not less. Gay Pride was about exactly what its name said - taking pride in who we are, not apologising for it, not accepting discrimination, not accepting being second-best.
There is nothing wrong, unnatural or sinful about same-sex attraction, or any form of being gender or sexually different. Yet the fact that ricky Martin thought he had to hide it for so long shows the power of social conformity, the way we are told to present ourselves instead of who we really are.
You only get one go around in this world, why should so many of us feel the need to pretend to be who we aren't, and how can we change it? No, who we are attracted to isn't everything about us, but it is an important part of it.
I live in the hope that more and more people in the public eye will be able to pursue their careers without fear and homophobia stopping them being who they are, and that those of us in the general public can do the same, but I wonder how long it will take, or if it will ever really be that way. We need to stop accepting soceity's opinion that we're second best - we're not.
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