Why Do Publications Still Think It’s OK to Out LGBTQ Celebrities?
Before Rebel Wilson announced she is dating a woman, an Australian newspaper planned to break the story
Last week, actress Rebel Wilson revealed she’s currently dating a woman, posting a picture of herself with her girlfriend Ramona Agruma on Instagram.
“I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince… but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” Wilson wrote in the photo’s caption.
But now, The Sydney Morning Herald is under fire after it was revealed that the decision to come out wasn’t entirely Wilson’s own. Herald columnist Andrew Hornery wrote in a since-deleted piece for the newspaper that he had emailed Wilson’s representatives two days before his column was to be published asking for comment on her new relationship.
Naturally, many people on the internet took this to mean that Hornery threatened to “out” Wilson if she didn’t respond to him within two days, and she eventually came out on her own in order to get ahead of the story. Wilson herself seemed to acknowledge this on Twitter over the weekend, writing, “It was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace.”
It should go without saying in the year 2022, but it seems as though we need a reminder: Outing LGBTQ+ people is wrong and, in many cases, dangerous. The decision to come out — publicly or privately — is an extremely personal one. Sexuality is fluid, and every person’s experience is different; to attempt to slap a label on someone when they may still be figuring out themselves is harmful — especially when doing so has the potential to impact their personal and professional lives.
However, Herald editor Bevan Shields denied that the paper planned to “out” Wilson, pointing out that Hornery’s column is a celebrity gossip column, “not a standard news story.”
“We would have asked the same questions had Wilson’s new partner been a man,” Shields wrote in a statement defending the column. “To say that the Herald ‘outed’ Wilson is wrong.”
“I had made no decision about whether or what to publish, and the Herald’s decision about what to do would have been informed by any response Wilson supplied,” he continued.
Hornery, to his credit, has at least admitted that his email may have come off as threatening, noting that “the framing of it was a mistake.”
“I genuinely regret that Rebel has found this hard,” he wrote. “That was never my intention. … As a gay man I’m well aware of how deeply discrimination hurts.
If anything, maybe this whole debacle is proof that it’s time to retire the celebrity gossip column once and for all. Famous people are still people, and their private lives are none of our business. No one should feel pressured to divulge a relationship with someone before they’re ready to, regardless of whether it’s a same-sex one or a heterosexual one, and publications should stop exploiting celebrities’ personal lives for their own profits.
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