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NPH as the 'gay' hero? - alyburns' (aka sideburns & alyjude) Hiding Place
If you spoke faster than David Hewlett you’d travel back in time: Michael Shanks
NPH as the 'gay' hero?

I don't know who to lay the praise at the feet of with this issue. Would it be Ellen? *thinks back* I don't think so. She came out in '97 (although, let's face it, the closet door had always been open - she just finally walked out), and Neil Patrick Harris came out in '06, but when he came out, his career didn't skip a beat in spite of playing a VERY heterosexual man on his sitcom. Ellen, otoh, lost her show and found life a bit difficult after her coming out - until her talk show. 

It's really difficult to try and figure out who really made it all right to come out today, but the number of 'actors' who have done so since NPH could be a good indication? The key being the fact that NPH was and is an AC-TOR. Not a comedian, not a singer, not only on Broadway (where it's far easier to be openly gay), but a bona-fide actor playing straight roles. Sure, Lance Bass also came out in '06, but that really surprised no one and he was a singer. T.R. Knight came out in '06, just not by choice (thanks to Isaiah Washington and that whole Grey's Anatomy kerfuffle) and he's not found much work since - although that could be the fault of the Grey's Anatomy producers (I suspect some blackballing for both he and Isaiah Washington).

And it's not like others hadn't come out prior to 2006, there were. Actors like Rupert Everett, who, even though he came out in the 80's, it wasn't well known over here until much later - and he says it hurt his career once it did become common knowledge over here (like stating that he wanted to do a gay James Bond). But of all those who came before, I think NPH kind of became the example for succeeding now. It could even be said that since his coming out, NPH has had a bigger career than before, which must have really given hope to other gay actors still in the closet.

I think it was '06 when John Barrowman came out but I'm not sure - anyone out there who can tell me for sure? - and he's certainly made a huge impact, but overall, NPH is probably better known? And if we look at the number of major 'celebrities/actors/media' men - and women - who've come out since '06, well, WOW. So I find myself thinking that Ellen proved you could be successful, but NPH proved you could play a straight character on mainstream television and the show would continue its success. So I'm thinking, yeah, he might be the one to receive extra credit.

And why am I posting about this?

Because it struck me that since last October, two of my favorite 'actors' have come out and, so far, have not had their careers affected. And yeah, I'm talking about Zachary Quinto and Matt Bomer. Oh, and very recently, Anderson Cooper (although for many of us, he wasn't a big surprise but he made it *official*). I think Anderson is pretty safe as he's not an actor, and only time will tell if either Zachary or Matt survive beyond a tv series and movie franchise. But at least there appears to be more hope than in the past?

I can't think of any from before '06; meaning OUT actors who continued to play straight characters and have love scenes with the opposite sex. Although, some would say that Cynthia Nixon might be an exception, I don't because she herself has stated that she's "...just a woman who fell in love with another woman" and whom had previously been quite happy with her relationships with men (of course, that does make her perfect for us slash writers who like to write, for example, Jim and Blair as previously straight, but who fall for each other *G*). 

Maybe at this point, some credit to President Obama for his switched position on gay marriage (whether sincere or political or a bit of both, it still had a huge impact) should be given? Maybe his switch could be as much responsible as NPH for those who finally felt comfortable enough to come out so recently? Heck, when your President gives gay marriage a thumbs up - well, it's hard not to act. :) I did a quick survey of celebs who have come out since NPH - and in no particular order of 'outing' in each year's category (and if I've left anyone out, let me know):

Matt Bomer
Anderson Cooper

Frank Ocean

Zachary Quinto

Ricky Martin
Sean Hayes (official, but again, insiders and savvy audiences knew/suspected)
Anna Paquin (bi)
Jane Lynch (official)

Meredith Baxter
Adam Lambert
(official, but really, only for form, we all knew)

Wanda Sykes
Clay Aiken
(officially, but again, insiders and savvy audiences knew/suspected)
Kelly McGillis

Jodie Foster
David Hyde Pierce
Albus Dumbledore

Lance Bass


My mind is a weird place. No one should go there. I'm gonna go eat now because I have no idea why I wrote this....

17 comments or Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 14th, 2012 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yeah, that's how I found out!!

Don't know where I was last October when he came out officially, but man, I was surprised - he never 'bleeped' on my gaydar!!! :)
(Deleted comment)
alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 15th, 2012 04:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yeah, that's how I found out!!

Oh, how I wish I could believe that. *wishes hard*
laurie_ky From: laurie_ky Date: September 14th, 2012 05:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Matt Bomer, hadn't heard that. I kind of love that you stuck Albus in this list.

alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 14th, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Can't leave out

our favorite wizard. :) And yeah, Matt came out - he has a partner of 11 years and they have not one, but THREE kids. Earlier in my LJ are photos of him with one of his boys, and then after that, another post with with the kids and his partner. Man, totally awesome family. :)
laurie_ky From: laurie_ky Date: September 14th, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Can't leave out

Okay, so I'm nosy. I did see your post, but I didn't realize the other guy with him was his partner and not just a friend. Darling kids, the two of them have.

So, did they adopt? Surrogates? I like to know these things for story resources.

alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 15th, 2012 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Can't leave out

The answer to that seems to be cloaked in mystery/misinformation, but the most often repeated 'version' is that the twins were from a surrogate to Halls (Matt's partner) and the eldest, Kit, also a surrogate to Halls, but before Matt and Halls became a couple. Matt came out officially (insiders have always known but it was shut down when he got White Collar) this February after receiving a huge humanitarian award for his work on behalf of Aids victims - he thanked his partner, Simon Halls (a publicist who looks remarkably like Tim DeKay) and their kids - which kind of broke the glass closet the show's producers tried to put him in. *G*

Today, I happened to catch something that makes me think we're not as enlightened as I'd hoped. Matt's coming out may have cost him after all; seems he was the number one choice to star in the movie version of 50 Shades, but he's no longer even on the list. :( *growls*
nialla42 From: nialla42 Date: September 14th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Seah Maher (Simon Tam, Firefly) also came out in 2011. I think with him and Bomer, at least part of the reason they came out is they have children with their partner. It's difficult enough to deny you have a significant other, but with kids it's even more difficult.

It amuses me that Bomer is playing a sort of ladies man character in White Collar, which has a lesbian character in the cast. His character has expressed interest in her love life, though more recently it seems to be a "None of my business, because she'd probably kill me" attitude.

It used to be that gay actors were forced to be straight not only onscreen but off. The studio would set up fictional dates, usually another actress who knew the score, all to stop rumors of the actor being gay. The thinking was that not only did he need to be a manly man for the male audience, but the female audience had to maintain the illusion they "had a chance".

Nowadays, it seems like women don't care about their crush object's orientation. It's about admiring the pretty and what they do in their private life is no big. Now I'm probably biased because I tend to stay in slash friendly places, but it seems like a lot of the women in the "general audience" also don't care. I wonder if they would have really cared in the past? Possibly not, though the overall social stigma of being gay made it nearly impossible to know if an actor was gay.
alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 14th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm thinking we women never would have cared

my mom always knew that her favorite crushes were gay (Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Fred Astaire, Randolph Scott, etc) and it never dampened her 'ardor', so to speak. :) I think the only male actor that surprised her was Raymond Burr - maybe because the fantasy life they created for him on paper was so...detailed? *shrugs*

As for us women not caring today, well, I think the show, Queer as Folks showed Hollywood a few things. Remember how surprised the producers and writers of the US version were to discover their huge audience was made up of mostly straight women? :)

We slashers have finally made a difference too, me thinks?
kaynyne From: kaynyne Date: September 14th, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
>I think it was '06 when John Barrowman came out but I'm not sure - anyone out there who can tell me for sure?>

Was John Barrowman ever 'in'?? :)
alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 14th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Probably not in the UK, but over here?

*nods* You know we Yanks are so far behind the curve, it's ridiculous. *g*
carodee From: carodee Date: September 14th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's someone from waaaay earlier. Dan Butler who played Bulldog on Frasier. He wasn't as personally popular as NPH but Frasier was the most popular show of its era, so het horndog in comedy is the same.

From imdb:

Butler disclosed his homosexuality on "Entertainment Tonight" (1981) in 1994 during his run as a swaggering heterosexual on "Frasier" (1993).

In 1995, he and Candace Gingrich served as spokespersons for the National Coming Out Day Project. Butler appeared in public service announcements that included the gently humorous statement, "I'm not a straight man, but I play one on television".

alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 14th, 2012 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, there are many who came out earlier

but I think my idea was that NPH made it safe for leading men to do it? As you said, Butler wasn't exactly 'mainstream' like NPH, nor a leading man, but a character actor, so coming out really didn't mean anything to the show or his character. OTOH, insiders knew David Hyde Pierce was gay, but he didn't come out during the run of the show - he waited until 2007.

And speaking of Frasier...I think part of Kelsey Grammar's issues with all his marriages? Yeah...maybe he needs to come out too? But that's just my spidey-sense tingling. *BG*
carodee From: carodee Date: September 14th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, there are many who came out earlier

See, I'd say that NPH didn't make it safe so much as benefit from all the people to do it before him. That NPH felt comfortable doing so just means the culture has shifted enough for it to be okay. Not to take away from his courage in coming out, but I think if he hadn't done it someone else would have and had the same results. When so many gay people are out and fighting/winning gay marriage and adoption and other legal rights, I think younger actors don't see why they shouldn't have what everyone has. I can see where it might be iffy for actors who aren't established because they're more vulnerable to typecasting or being overlooked.
alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 15th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Oh, there are many who came out earlier

*nods* Good point. And the fact that he was able to continue successfully in a straight role kind of cemented the feeling of safety now. And yeah, very iffy for those up and comers :(
fabrisse From: fabrisse Date: September 14th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
You forgot Chris Colfer (2009).

Seriously. Fox tried to "protect" his career by essentially denying an interview he'd given to USA Today over the summer between the sneak preview of Glee and the beginning of the first season. Then, in December 2009, he came out on Chelsea Handler's show.

What I think is important about Colfer is that at age 19 he decided not to stay in the closet. Not one minute of his career will have been closeted. He actually defied the corporate bosses to do it.

Will Colfer ever have the opportunity to play straight? I hope so. I think he'll do well in any case based on the movie Struck by Lightning.

John Barrowman is an important figure, too. Captain Jack is bi and he's popular with kids. It gives me real pleasure to think that the next generation will grow up without that prejudice -- and for many of them it's because they admired a character on Doctor Who.

Edited at 2012-09-14 09:08 pm (UTC)
alyburns From: alyburns Date: September 14th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

No, I didn't forget Coffer

because as you said, he's young, and has never been a leading man. The real test will be: Can he be allowed to play a straight man when Glee is over? Will he even have a career?
angelskuuipo From: angelskuuipo Date: September 17th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
According to John Barrowman's first memoir he was never actually "in". He did have a girlfriend in the states at one point, but they never got beyond kissing before he headed to London and he kinda cheated on her with his male co-star in one of his West End plays (the name of which escapes me at the moment. It's been awhile since I read the book.). He and Scott have been together since '93 or '94 (the first time Scott saw him he was naked on stage in a production of Hair :)).

I find it hilarious that he lost out on the role of Will in Will & Grace for being "too straight" even though the producers knew he was gay.

I think we Americans found out officially in 2006 with all the hubbub of Captain Jack.
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