Rachel Maddow Says Closets Are For Clothes, Not Anchors

Happy Discount Easter Candy Day, dear readers! Today, I come bearing a Moral Dilemma for you to mull over while you nurse that Cadbury Creme Egg hangover. As you may have heard from every other queer news site/blog across this crazy virtual land, Rachel Maddow wants you to come out of the closet. Like, now. Seriously. She knows you’re in there; she can hear you breathing.

In an interview with those wacky Brits over at The Guardian, Maddow – helpfully identified here as “one of the very few gay news anchors in America – well, one of the very few openly gay news anchors” (zing!) – drops this fat nugget of truth on us all:

“I’m sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I do think that if you’re gay you have a responsibility to come out.”

Predictably, this quote has ignited quite the e-shitstorm across the queer community. It seems that everyone assumes she was alluding to Anderson Cooper, America’s favorite poster boy for the glass closet. Maddow, however, posted a “hold your rainbow-colored horses, pardner”-type response on her blog this evening:

“I wasn’t asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn’t say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all — even implicitly.”

Well, that settles that! Looks like Rach will be invited to Coop’s annual Ugly Sweater and Pink Martini holiday party again this year after all. She went on to clarify that whole coming-out-is-a-civic-duty thing too, carving her Three Gay Commandments into a fresh stone slab from Home Depot (‘cuz she’s a lesbian, natch):

  1. Gay people — generally speaking — have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can.
  2. We should all get to decide for ourselves the “if and when we feel that we can” part of that.
  3. Closeted people should reasonably expect to be outed by other gay people if (and only if) they prey on the gay community in public, but are secretly gay themselves.

I’ll give my fellow (if a gazillion times more rich, famous and worldly) butch credit here; she worded this very well. It was more of a gentle prodding than a condemnation of all those still hiding in that darkest of places. Thank goodness for that, because, having spent my share of years crouched amongst the moth balls, I can say that the last thing a closeted person needs to hear is: “Come out now or you’re a coward and a failure and a Bad Gay.”

I think the sentiment expressed in numero dos on that list should be sewn onto a million throw pillows and distributed at every Gay Pride parade, GSA meeting and women’s rugby match in the world – only you can decide when the right time to come out is, because only you know everything there is to know about your situation. It’s ok if you want to come out to your friends, but not your family, or your roommates, but not your coworkers, or your dog, but not your cat (I know cats can be kind of judge-y); nobody can tell you when and where and how to make that step, and if someone tries to, screw ’em (not literally, unless you think that would make everyone involved happier).

Now as far as having a “responsibility” to future generations go, I understand what she’s saying here and agree to an extent. We Queers of Today do owe something to the Queers of Tomorrow, but I think it’s on a much broader scale than individual decisions regarding coming out. It’s true that visibility is extremely important and the more here-I-am queers out there, the more “normal” (or at least numerous) mainstream society will see us as. However, I bristle a little at the suggestion that coming out is the only way to Make It Better for the future. For every People Magazine cover, there are thousands of people volunteering or donating to organizations that combat bullying, hate crimes, and political injustice. There is bravery and sacrifice in those actions, just as there is bravery and sacrifice in every coming out story, public and private.

Maddow’s third commandment? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Sorry, All Those Gay Sex Scandal Republicans That I’m Too Lazy to Name; you can’t hide in the closet while sniping those outside of it.

Enough from me. I bet you are feelings all sorts of feelings about this whole thing, dear readers (queers love feelings), so tell us about them. Sharing is caring.

This entry was posted in Newsy Stuff and tagged by Bren. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bren

I'm a self-identified butch lesbian geek Masshole with a passion for comic books, action figures, queer issues, flannel, and pretty ladies. Oh, and comments. I love me some comments (hint, hint).

4 thoughts on “Rachel Maddow Says Closets Are For Clothes, Not Anchors

  1. This is one of those hugely complicated issues that I get into way too many arguments about. Simply put, coming out isn’t always a personal decision. It can have a huge ripple effect on partners present and past. I get that it’s a Catch-22–that we won’t have a society in which it will be no big whoop to be queer unless we reach a tipping point of visibility–but at the same time, we don’t live in that society yet. People who haven’t come out are not necessarily cowards. They may be protecting the ones they love; they may be dealing with situations those of us in relatively anonymous circumstances can’t even begin to comprehend.

    Mothballs still smell terrible, though.

    • That’s an excellent point. Our actions don’t exist in a vacuum, so coming out changes not only our own lives, but the lives of those closest to us. It makes me think of ally organizations such as PFLAG, which in many ways acts as a support group for people who are “coming out” as the family and friends of LGBT individuals. We queers should take care not to forget that our loved ones may also need someone to talk to during and after the coming out process.

  2. I do think this whole thing has an element of visibility privilege, too. If you are confident that you are read as gay whether or not you announce it, you’re less likely to wonder what terrible consequences you may suffer by officially outing yourself. If, on the other hand, you are fairly certain that nobody has guessed you’re a ‘mo, the revelation of that fact becomes this Big Huge Deal, and the moment just never seems quite right.

    My solution to this problem has been to adopt a self-outing policy of EARLY AND OFTEN. I want people to know what they’re dealing with before they get a chance to like me for something I’m not. It’s a major privilege, though, that I can do that without compromising my safety, social connections or family ties.

    • All this, yes, times infinity. Way to bring it back to something vaguely butch-femme related too, Maddie! Those of us that look super-gay (or at least what society considers to be “super-gay”) have to come out far less often than those of us whose appearance is more closely in line with heteronormative gender presentation standards. As I’ve been told by more than one femme, some people have to come out everyday for their entire lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s