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In the age of social media, confessional culture and high-profile sex abuse allegations, the delicate art of coming out – or not – just became even trickier. Kevin Spacey played his hand badly and was punished for it. Others have done it better. In this feature, Nick Cook asserts that there are three essential questions around coming out that the LGBTI community must grapple with and own – no matter how uncomfortable.

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.”

Countless others joined the cacophony of outrage, such as gay comedian Billy Eicher who tweeted, “Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out. If I ever commit a crime, I’m going to come out as straight.”

“Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out. If I ever commit a crime, I’m going to come out as straight.” – Billy Eicher”

It’s easy to see exactly what Spacey – or at least his media team – were aiming for. The entire situation has some clear parallels with the coming out of British music star George Michael almost 20 years ago and they were no doubt hoping for a similar result. Unfortunately for Spacey, there were a few key differences that made it much harder for anybody to support him.

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About DNA Magazine

What will we be watching, dancing to, wearing, eating and slipping our fingers into in 2018? Our trend spotters preview all that’s new and exciting for the coming year. Speaking of big things… meet Luke Pearce, our cover model. The New York-based model/personal trainer loves sport, the outdoors and helping others achieve their best in the gym. We have 8 stunning pages of Luke in this issue by photographer Rick Stockwell. What’s it like being a webcam performer with thousands of fans around the world who regularly log-in to watch you, er, log off? We meet one of the web’s most popular “sexhibitionists” who claims he’s really very shy. You be the judge. Some people might say Star Trek has always had a queer-ish bent but now it has a gay male couple as leading characters. We find out what changed in the Trek universe after all these years that has allowed some long-overdue LGBTI content. Hector De Silva – you may know that name from several of the world’s leading adult websites, but away from the bump and grind of his “day job”, Hector is a humble Spanish farmer and fire-fighter. We visit him on his family farm and find out how his family and neighbours feel about living with an internationally famous gay porn star. Coming out – if you’re a celebrity there’s a right way and a wrong way to come out. Kevin Spacey did it wrong, but there are plenty of better examples. We look at some of them and face some awkward questions head on. Plus, win a gay honeymoon in Vienna, Austria. Find out what Courtney Act thinks of some of her Drag Race co-stars, check out Gay Chef, Jordan Bruno’s avocado smash, meet International Mr Leather’s first Muslim contestant and more!