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Shifting Gears

By Eric Hunter · October 5th, 2000 · Gay & Lesbian Issues
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Come on. Admit it. You love gossip.Although we don't always like to acknoweldge it, gossip has the power to jump-start careers, confer coolness and topple markets. Like a pint of Haagen-Dazs calling to you from the freezer after a five-course meal, it's the guilty pleasure we just can't ignore. Why do you think Cincinnati's own Jim Knippenberg is so popular? He has said himself many times that all anyone really wants is his 12 inches.

This month gossip's queen bee Lis Smith -- her synidcated column appears in nearly 70 million newspapers a day -- hits the streets with her much-hyped, tightly guarded new book, Natuural Blonde: A Memoir. AND WHILE SMITH IS MOST WIDELY KNOWN FOR THE JUICY TIDBITS SHE REPORTS ABOUT HER CELEBRITY PALS, THE LYNCHPIN IN HER BOOK'S MARKETING STRATEGY SEEMS TO BE SMITH'S RELUCTANT ADMISSION SHE IS BISEXUAL.

ANYONE FAMILIAR WITH SMITH'S CAREER KNOWS THIS IS A CONFESSION CERTAIN MEMBERS OF THE GAY PRESS HAVE BEEN TRYING TO DRAG OUT OF HER FOR YEARS. DESPITE HER WILLINGNESS TO SUPPORT AND COMMENT ON GAY AND LESBIAN ISSUES IN HER COLUMN, SMITH HAS ALWAYS FOLLOWED HER OWN SELF-IMPOSED POLICY BY WHICH SHE WILL NOT REVEAL THE SEXUAL ORIENTATION OF PUBLIC FIGURES UNTIL THEY COME OUT THEMSELVES.

IN FACT, AS REPORTED IN THE OCTOBER 2000 ISSUE OF BRILL'S CONTENT, SMITH SPENT A GREAT DEAL OF TIME IN THE EARLY 1990S DEALING WITH CRITICISM AND "OUTING" BY MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, THEN A CONTRIBUTOR TO THE NOW DEFUNCT NEW YORK-BASED OUTWEEK MAGAZINE.

IN THE SAME STORY SIGNORILE, WHO NOW WORKS AS AN EDITOR AT BOTH THE GAY WEEKLY THE ADVOCATE AND GAY.COM, SAYS HE ANGRILY ATTACKED SMITH NOT ONLY FOR COLLABORATING WITH LIES BUT, KNOWING OF HER OWN SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIP, FOR HER HYPOCRISY.

ARMED WITH THESE FACTS, ONE MIGHT CONCLUDE THAT SMITH'S LONG-AWAITED ADMISSION WOULD GRAB MAJOR HEADLINES. BUT AFTER GRUDGINGLY READING WHAT PRESS I HAVE SEEN ON NATURAL BLONDE, SMITH'S SEXUALITY SEEMS TO COME ACROSS AS LITTLE MORE THAN A FOOTNOTE TO A LIFE LIVED FLITTING ABOUT WITH HER FANCY FRIENDS. SMITH'S ATTEMPT TO FOLLOW THE LEAD OF CELEBRITIES SUCH AS K.D., ELLEN, GEORGE MICHAEL AND DAVID GEFFEN AND PLAY THE SEXUALITY CARD IS, IN THE END, TRUMPED.

"WE'VE PASSED THE MOMENT WHEN IT WAS HOT TO COME OUT. NOW PEOPLE JUST SIMPLY WANT TO HAVE BEEN OUT," SIGNORILE IS QUOTED IN BRILL'S CONTENT.

DOES SIGNORILE'S OBSERVATION SIGNAL A MAJOR SHIFT IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION? WE CAN'T BE SURE. BUT I SURE HOPE SO.

LOOK AT SOME OF THE OTHER MAJOR GAY AND LESBIAN CELEBRITY STORIES OF THE PAST MONTH OR TWO. ELLEN AND ANNE SPLIT. MELISSA AND JULIE CALL IT QUITS. RICHARD HATCH SURVIVES. THESE STORIES HAVE HIT THE RADAR. BUT THEY CERTAINLY HAVEN'T BEEN THE TOPIC OF PUBLIC PREOCCUPATION THE WAY SAY ELLEN'S COMING-OUT WAS.

I REALLY HOPE WE ARE ON THE CUSP OF NOT ONLY A SHIFT IN PUBLIC OPINION REGARDING GAY AND LESBIAN ISSUES, BUT ALSO AN ATTITUDE SHIFT WITHIN THE GAY AND LESBIAN COMMUNITY ITSELF. SURE, ROLE MODELS ARE IMPORTANT. AND WHO DOESN'T FEEL AT LEAST A LITTLE VALIDATED WHEN THEY SEE PUBLIC FIGURES LIVING OPENLY GAY, PROUD LIVES? BUT HOW CAN WE EXPECT THIS RELATIVELY SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE TO SHOULDER THE WEIGHT OF OUR COLLECTIVE EXPECTATIONS? PERHAPS IT IS TIME TO STOP LOOKING OUTSIDE OURSELVES TO FIND ROLE MODELS. IN OUR OWN WAYS, WE CAN ALL ACT AS ROLE MODELS FOR MORE PEOPLE THAN WE KNOW.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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