The issue of coming out versus staying in the closet is one that has the potential to provide a news media organization with a large amount of readership or viewer-ship because of the still novel aspect of the situation. America is quickly becoming a more liberal society, yet the conservatism within the country is still high. While many people have pushed the envelope of conservatism, still a lot struggle with the idea of challenging traditions because of the many consequences that attend such a decision.
The idea of being homosexual (gay or lesbian) within American society still carries with it a stigma that many try to avoid. The main reasons for the avoidance of this stigma are the attention that such a lifestyle will bring to those who live it and the possibility of overt protest against such a lifestyle by activist or religious groups. Therefore, the “coming out” of a homosexual provides news that the public is highly interested in, and the developments that often follow such a declaration are also highly news worthy. Since it is the business of this media house to provide information to the public that it finds interesting and seminal, it is therefore the policy of this organization to aim to be the first at announcing the “coming out” of individual homosexuals.
The information regarding the lifestyles in which people choose to engage is often considered by critics of the media as personal and not as the business of the public. However, the American public has consistently identified what it considers its own business through its attention to the details of the lives of many individuals. In fact, the public has demonstrated its commitment to learning such news through its active awareness of televised news programs, feature stories on the internet, and its paid subscription to print media of varying levels of credibility.
The media as an industry is not just a group of organizations that provide an update or commentary on the things that take place in our society. Rather, its role encompasses that of creating cultural artifacts and historical records of the socio-cultural metamorphosis of a particular society over time (Gauntlett 115-6).
Without this record, anthropologists who study a given era are at a loss when trying to compile an accurate account of the cultural practices within a given society. Homosexuality is an integral part of the social practices of many Americans today, and fear or an inordinate level of concern for privacy often pushes people into a mode of overprotection of such lifestyles. The role of the media is to effectively uncover such practices by aiding these persons in making their lifestyles and sexual preferences known to the public and therefore to posterity.
Statistical considerations also prompt the media to engage in practices that “out” homosexuals who would otherwise remain hidden. Many reasons exist why statistical bodies seek out demographical data that will give the percentage of homosexuals within a given district or in the country itself. Such measures as the creative capital level of a town use data concerning the gay population as integral factors for calculation (Florida, 41).
Such measures help gauge the tolerance level of certain regions, cities, or towns. In fact, it is often in the interest of even the homosexuals themselves to come out, as it increases the confidence level of others like themselves who want to live their lives out in the open and refrain from hiding. Yet, homosexuals who decide to keep their lifestyles in the closet succeed only in skewing the statistical data, resulting in the underestimation of the level of homosexual practice in a given region. This media house is committed to playing a role in this by encouraging, prompting, or otherwise effecting the open acknowledgement of the true level of homosexuality within a given area.
The role of the media as an announcer of the coming out of certain homosexuals is one that succeeds also in helping such persons to liberate themselves from a confining public image that, in effect, adversely affects their lifestyle. Homosexuals who remain in the closet tend to have unnecessary burdens placed upon them, which the media should consider its humanitarian duty to remove. Such persons are unable to proclaim their love in the open.
They are unable publicly to perform simple actions, such as holding hands or kissing, which demonstrate their feelings toward their significant other. It is often the case that such persons want desperately to rid themselves of these confinements and reveal their sexual preferences to the world. However, they lack the courage or the nerve to stand up and make the declaration themselves. The media therefore provides a service to many of these persons by performing the unsavory act of “coming out” for them, so that they may begin their enjoyment of life openly professing and living what they indeed are in private.
The media also plays a role that publicizes the lifestyle of homosexuals far beyond the borders of influence than they themselves would have been able to proclaim it. Public knowledge of the true proportion of the population that desires such a lifestyle provides in turn an impetus for changes in the legal structure of society that would facilitate such lifestyles. In other words, if enough homosexuals step forward and “come out,” they may even get the legal recognition they desire.
The media therefore facilitates not just the open lifestyle of such persons, but also justification and recognition of such a lifestyle so that they may be more able to live fulfilling life that contains all the accessories that make life fulfilling for heterosexuals. The role of the media in helping these persons come out will broadcast the view that such a lifestyle is legitimate. This is likely to prompt legislation that will allow such persons to marry, adopt children, and perform other partnership roles once available only to heterosexuals (Vargo, 114).
Critics of the media are likely to cite the observation that the publicizing of lifestyle practices of homosexual should be left to their discretion. However, it is often the discretion of these persons that lead to the media finding out about their lifestyles in the first place. Furthermore, the media is also involved in publicizing romantic details about the lives of heterosexuals—mainly those persons such as public servants and entertainment personalities who live a large portion of their lives in the limelight.
Since such stories are the domain of the media, then other very similar stories involving the coming out of homosexuals are also considered to lie within the jurisdiction of the media. It is often the case that people are opposed to things only when they affect them personally, and this double standard ought to be avoided. Since a large proportion of Americans show themselves interested enough in this type of material to purchase magazines, then the media should consider it a duty to provide that material.
It should be considered the perpetual policy of the media to continue to provide information to the public regarding the sexual status of the individuals who live within its domain. The efforts made by the media to out these personalities are beneficial not only to the individuals themselves, but to anthropologists and sociologists of posterity who may seek to understand the socio-cultural practices of persons of this era.
The actions of the media concerning the state of homosexuality in a given area are also beneficial to historians, who are likely to consult the media as cultural artifacts that give insight into the synchronic and diachronic development of certain occurrences of note in a given time. The media should be active in publicizing the coming out of homosexuals because of its role in informing the public and in legitimizing the homosexual lifestyle in a manner that is likely to lead up to the legalization of activities that occur in connection with it.
Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class: and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. Cambridge: Basic Books, 2002.
Gauntlett, David. Media, Gender and Identity: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Vargo, Marc E. Acts of Disclosure: The Coming Out Process of Contemporary Gay Men. Birmingham: Haworth Press, 1998.