Actress and singer-songwriter Queen Latifah caused quite a stir by officiating over the marriage of 33 (or so) couples, many of them gay, during the Grammys Sunday night.
And while many on the religious right were upset with CBS and the Grammys for sanctioning “the gay,” a lot of gays were none-too-happy with Latifah for celebrating gay unions while refusing to (they say) come out of the closet herself.
The number of prominent gay people who have claimed Latifah’s lesbianism include writer, radio host and activist Mike Signorile, blogger JoeMyGod, former head of GLAAD Herndon Graddick, and the editor of the Washington Blade Kevin Naff. Hillary Crosley at Jezebel and June Thomas at Slate came awfully close to outing Latifah as well (you don’t do an article on someone being “hypothetically” gay unless you’re pretty sure they’re gay).
But Latifah won’t budge, and continues to play the coy little game of staying in the closet while embracing the gay. For example, here’s what she had to say to the Hollywood Reporter about her sexual orientation last August when her new daytime talk show was announced:
Queen Latifah tells the Hollywood Reporter she is not prepared to talk about her sexuality on “The Queen Latifah Show,” which is currently set for a Sept. 16 debut.
“I don’t feel the need to discuss my private life on this show or any other show,” the 43-year-old star told the magazine’s Marisa Guthrie. “There’s the part of my life that the public and I share together. And there’s the part that’s mine to keep for myself. And that’s mine. For me.”
Naff at the Blade weighs in further:
Why do we keep rewarding closet cases when there are so many other openly LGBT people deserving of attention and praise? Bring out Wanda Sykes, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Ellen DeGeneres or Neil Patrick Harris to do the honors. The irony of that Grammy moment was glaring: a beautiful hit song celebrating same-sex love and the unions of gay and lesbian couples introduced and presided over by a closeted lesbian….
How can we expect average LGBT Americans to come out when some of the wealthiest and most successful among us — like Latifah — continue to cower in the closet?
One big problem with Latifah’s position is that she’s sending a message that there is a problem. She’s signaling that there’s something wrong with being gay.
People can defend Latifah’s choice, claiming that she has a right to privacy. And Latifah can talk all she wants about her desire to protect her “private life.” But straight Americans – and particularly celebrities – don’t invoke the right to privacy when you simply inquire about the well-being of their spouse. And they don’t rail about their “private life” when you ask, “how goes the girlfriend?”
And in fact, celebrities are usually accompanied to events like the Grammys by their significant other in the first place, making clear that their heterosexual orientation isn’t a private matter at all.
The only time celebrities try to hide who they’re dating is when it’s someone else’s spouse, an underage child, an animal, a corpse, or a gay.