Sunday, 12 October 2014

Trending - Coming Out

I’ve noticed a trend over the past 3 years. Since this blog began in 2011 there have been more influential people and celebrities coming out as lgbt each year. Whether this is just because I’m noticing more of them or because more of them are actually coming out is difficult to tell. What it means, though, is that the list of people who have come out since UK National Coming Out Day last year is too long to publish today even if I split it into 2 lists like I did last year. Instead I’ll give an overview of the list and try to find any other trends that are emerging.

As I’ve said before, there’s a difference between coming out publicly and being out personally. I’m both – I’m out personally to everyone who knows me, and I’m out publicly to the world online with this blog. A lot of the people I’ll mention today have also been out personally to people they know and haven’t hid it, but they chose not to mention it publicly to people they don’t know.

I’ve grouped this years newly out people together according to profession – sport, acting, politics, music, and “miscellaneous”. There may be some well-known names I don’t mention today. That doesn’t make them less significant but I want to include as many other names as possible. We’ll start with the largest group, sport.

American collegiate sport has a greater significance in that country than similar academic levels in other countries. I don’t hear of many UK college or university athletes coming out, for instance. The only public sporting event I can think of is the Oxford and Cambridge University boat race. Since last year more US collegiate athletes have come out than before, bumping up the numbers in this group quite significantly.  This may be an indication of the growing acceptance of openly lgbt competing athletes in America. There have been some homophobic responses, but they have not stopped more athletes from coming out.

American football in particular has often appeared to be among the more homophobic sports. This may be changing with the coming out in February of Michael Sam. Cyd Zeigler has followed Michael’s progress in the football league closely on the Outsports website and I recommend you visit it yourself for more information.

The other football, soccer, has also been seen as quite homophobic in the UK. With the coming out of Liam Davis last year it was hoped that more professional footballers would begin to come out. Apart from German league player Thomas Hitzlsperger there has been complete silence.

Perhaps the biggest impact on lgbt sport this year was the Olympic Winter Games in Russia. After the last National Coming Out Day Russia introduced anti-gay legislation, and because the Sochi Olympics were so soon to begin Russia became a focus for protest from lgbt groups around the world. The politics and human rights issues are best dealt with at another time, but it was the anti-gay laws that led to several people coming out officially. Most significantly, Brian Boitano, former Olympic figure skating champion, came out after he was appointed to the US delegation to Sochi. He was joined on the delegation by sport legend Billie Jean King and by Caitlin Cahow, a Team USA ice hockey Olympian who came out in mid-November.

The biggest sporting coming out story was Ian Thorpe’s. Ever since his competing days as a swimmer his sexuality was subject to gossip, and Ian turned his coming out into a media event.

Staying with the Olympics we move to Tom Daley. I’m never sure how well known he is internationally but in the UK he makes more headlines than the legalisation of same-sex marriage. He came out in December.

In total 9 Olympians have come since last year, including those already mentioned.

A more unexpected outing this year came in the world of boxing, not with the Argentine couple Ana Laura Esteche and Johanna “Yoki” Giménez, but with the boxing manager Kellie Maloney who came out as transgender in August and almost immediately found herself in the “Celebrity Big Brother” house.

Moving onto the next largest group by profession, acting, we saw a handful of actors in popular television series coming out, including Andrew Scott (“Sherlock”), Monica Raymond (“The Good Wife”) and Kristian Nairn (“Games of Thrones”).

Of the singers and musicians who came out this year the most unexpected was that of Debbie Harry of Blondie. One singer trying to make a comeback was the UK’s Kavana. He came out in February while he was in the reality series “The Big Reunion”.

Reality tv and talent shows saw a large group of performers coming out, some of whom as mentioned in my recent article on singers in talent contests. Other reality tv personalities to come out include Bob Harper, a personal trainer on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”, and Mark McAdam, a Sky Sports presenter.

Politics had a smaller number of coming out stories this year. In the UK we saw the first transgender European MP with Nikki Sinclaire. Two US Senators came out – Steve Gallarde and Jim Ferlo – and one former Senator from Puerto Rico, Roberto Arango. Germany’s Employment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, came out in December, one month after Scottish Minister for Local Government, Derek Mackay.

The last group can only be described as “miscellaneous”. They include the newly appointed head of the World Psychiatric Association, Dinesh Bhugra (how fitting to have an openly lgbt head of a profession which for many decades classed homosexuality as a mental illness). Kenyan author Binyavanga Wianaina came out on his birthday in January, the only writer on this year’s list. Less than 2 weeks ago I mentioned the 3 beauty pageant queens to come out, to which I can also add the model Andreja Pejic.

The international range of those who came out is larger than before. The bulk have been from the USA or UK, but other nationalities which appear include those from Brazil, Canada, Finland, Peru, Sweden and Uruguay.

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