It seems like almost everyone famous is out these days—but not Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott. The two rapper/singer/everythings have long floated through the changing landscape while clinging to their closet with a sort of half-hearted determination. It’s almost like they want to come out, but just can’t seem to get there. I admire them both a lot and would love for us to be able to more openly celebrate them as part of the community. But I’ve heard lots of reasons defending their reticence through the years, and I’m here to take issue with them. For example:
THE HIPHOP WORLD IS HOMOPHOBIC
Well, a lot of worlds are homophobic. The whole world is homophobic. But you can fight that by being honest. You can educate rather than pander. Why would you want to continue appealing to homophobes anyway? If a fan wouldn’t like you anymore if you said you’re a lesbian or bisexual, do you really want to court that fan? A lot of celebrities have found freedom in the openness, and would never turn back.
THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE TO TELL WHO THEY SLEEP WITH
They still wouldn’t have to. Coming out simply involves saying “I’m queer.” You don’t need to go into detail about what you do with whom—unless you want to, of course, in which case I’m all ears.
IT’S THEIR OWN BUSINESS
Yeah, but they are public figures who are examined and talked about and who reveal things about themselves all the time. Missy has spoken about her Graves’ disease, while Latifah discusses how her brother’s death led to her (then-) depression and drug use. But queerness? No, too personal. To make same-sex love the cutting off point of revelations strikes me as downright creepy. And if a straight celeb is asked about something straight—or chooses to tell about it (which they always do)—no one finds it any kind of transgression. Years ago, I interviewed Missy and was warned in advance by the publicist that questions about her personal life were off limits. I knew what that meant—and I had never heard it from anyone else, by the way.
THEY’VE ALREADY COME OUT
No, they haven’t. Coming out means saying it on the record, not just showing up at queer events and supporting causes or sitting with a woman. The support is nice, but I feel all that is invalidated if you act as if the words “I’m queer” are unspeakable.
EVERYONE KNOWS THEY’RE OUT
That’s not true—some people even still think the Village People were all straight—but let’s say it’s true and everyone knows Latifah and Missy are out. Then what the hell is the problem with saying it???
BUT LATIFAH ALREADY DID A PRIDE EVENT
Yeah, it was a paid gig. A lot of performers do Pride events. That is not a coming out any more than me appearing at a Hamptons synagogue this past summer made me Jewish.
IT’LL HURT THEIR CAREERS
Well, I grew up in a more idealistic time when career and money weren’t everything—ethics and doing the right thing actually counted, even for celebrities. Especially from celebrities. Aside from that, Latifah and Missy have been around so long that it would probably help their careers if they came out. There would be a bump of big publicity and they could stop dancing around the issue, while also emboldening LGBTQ youth who look to them for signals. Besides, didn’t the openly gay Lil Nas X have the record of the year? Thank u, next. And by the way, yes, I do write a LOT about white celebrities too, having outed people starting in the ‘80s and ‘90s, including Rosie O’Donnell, Boy George, Ellen Degeneres, George Michael, Jodie Foster, and moving on to Anderson Cooper, Shepard Smith, and many more. Those folks all came out, as did some black celebs, though the late, great Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston—whom I also wrote about—never did, and I think that was because of a still lingering wrongheaded sense that the black market can’t handle it. (Not that white celebs don’t still cower, and believe me, I will keep covering them.)
IT’S SALACIOUS, PRURIENT, AND IN BAD TASTE
No, it isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with being queer. Why is it always the gay stuff that gossip lovers suddenly feel crosses a line? And besides, I didn’t make these people queer—I’m just saying they are.
THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT
So true. And I can do whatever I want. Which is say, “Come out already! This is tiresome!”
EVERYONE COMES OUT IN THEIR OWN TIME
Yeah, but in my lifetime would be great. In their lifetimes would be good too. And then they can get the inevitable GLAAD award for their courage.