April 7, 2017
Why Did Barry Manilow Wait So Long To Come Out Of The Closet?
Barry Manilow came out of the closet yesterday to the (very little) surprise of his adoring fans. At 73 years old, Manilow’s coming out story is a late one, but it’s unsurprising given the reality of homophobia and heterocentric norms in the music business and beyond. Jess shares her thoughts in the video and text commentary below.
Why would Manilow wait until he’s in his 70s to come out of the closet?
We still live with homophobia — and in terms of both policy and attitudes, the US is worse than Canada: while 77% of Canadians show support for same sex relationships, only 60% of Americans say the same.
But let’s not pretend that Canada is a utopia. We may claim that gay people have all the rights of straight people, but that’s just on paper. In real life the data says otherwise:
- Gay men with partners earn 5% less than straight men with partners.
- 64% of LGBTQ students in Canada feel unsafe at school.
- Hate crimes against LGBTQ people in Canada are declining, but they’re also the most violent of all hate crimes.
In this culture of homophobia, it’s not a surprise that he didn’t feel safe to come out. In his own words he explained that the feared “disappointing” fans.
See more resources here.
But it’s getting better, no? Homophobia is on the decline and more people are comfortable coming out of the closet?
Yes. Attitudes and policies are improving.
Young people are less likely to identify as exclusively heterosexual and they recognize that sexuality exists along a continuum — it’s not just a binary of straight versus gay. A new report by J Walter Thompson shows that members of Gen Z (the ones who are even younger than the Millenials) are even less likely to identify as exclusively heterosexual. When presented with a scale similar to the Kinsey scale (Kinsey used a 0-6 rating with 0 being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual), fewer than half (47%) identified as exclusively hetero versus 65% of Millenials. These numbers (alongside other research findings) suggest greater social and individual acceptance of a wider range of sexual identities and orientations.
Even in sports, we’re seeing a decline of homophobia on the court/field/ice and to some degree, in the dressing room.
How can you support someone in their coming out process?
- Know that it’s not your choice. You don’t get to decide when someone else comes out of the closet.
- Let them know your support is unconditional. Period.
- Acknowledge that coming out is a process (one heterosexual folks aren’t burdened with); you can come out to one family member, friend or co-worker and then have to do it all over again with another and another and another…
- Move beyond acceptance to support — and celebration! Straight people celebrate their love in so many spaces (holding hands on the street, announcing engagements online, etc.); if we don’t move beyond “acceptance”, we risk upholding oppressive systems.
How can we reduce homophobia in our communities, schools, workplaces?
- Simple changes like using gender neutral language (e.g. partner instead of wife/husband) help ensure that nobody has to come out unless they want to; if we all use “partner”, the gender of our partners remains unknown/neutral.
- Provide mandatory training; develop LGBTQ employee networks
- Stand up when you hear a homophobic joke. #MakeItAwkward.