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KINGS, QUEENS AND KNAVES

Another celebrity has come out as gay and this time it’s a really big fish, a genuine member of Hollywood royalty. Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey recently stepped out of the closet, a move that in 2017 should have been celebrated by the gay community and calmly accepted by everybody else. Instead, the public reaction was vicious and the fallout was severe. The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences even withdrew the 2017 International Emmy Founders Award they were going to give Spacey, explaining the decision in an insulting statement of only one sentence.

The trouble for Spacey is that he came out as part of his response to allegations of sexual abuse by actor Anthony Rapp. According to Rapp he was only 14 when he was drunkenly groped at a party in 1986 by Spacey, who was 26 at the time. It certainly didn’t help that Rapp’s story fit neatly into the ever-widening scandal regarding sexual misconduct by Hollywood power brokers such as Harvey Weinstein, but worst of all was that Spacey’s poorly-written statement sounded like he was using his homosexuality as an excuse for the abuse. Spacey said he didn’t remember the incident, but if it was true he deeply apologised. He then went on to say, “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behaviour.”

Let’s ignore the terrible use of the word “choose” – it’s taken decades of campaigning and debate to finally gain widespread acceptance that sexuality is not a choice – and instead examine the statement’s general motive. Most people saw Spacey’s coming out as a cynical attempt to distract from the abuse allegation and they responded with fury. Gay actor Zachary Quinto, who co-starred with Spacey in the 2011 film Margin Call, epitomised the reaction with his widely-shared tweet: “It is deeply sad and troubling that this is how Kevin Spacey has chosen to come out. Not by standing up as a point of pride – in the light of all his many awards and accomplishments – thus inspiring tens of thousands of struggling LGBTQ kids around the world. But as a calculated manipulation to deflect attention from a very serious accusation that he attempted to molest one.”

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