Speculation on John Travolta's sexual orientation has dogged the actor for years. Is he or isn't he gay? He has been married to actress Kelly Preston since 1991. Publicly, they have always maintained that their marriage is completely traditional. So why do these rumors persist? Is it mere speculation? Is he living a secret homosexual life? Is he an easy target because of the roles that he has played? I have a somewhat vested interest in this story, because nearly three years ago I left my husband when I discovered he was gay. I have a particular disdain for the "closet" and for anyone perpetuating secrets and lies about their sexual orientation.
John Travolta is far from the only high-profile personality who has dealt with these types of accusations. Others have included Tom Cruise, Ryan Seacrest, George Clooney, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, and even Oprah Winfrey. In the case of Travolta, most of the allegations have been from men seeking monetary gain, although not all of them have sought money, as one man simply went to the press with his story. Then there is Vikki Lizzi, the longtime girlfriend of the now-deceased actor Jeff Conaway. She now claims that years ago Travolta sexually assaulted her partner while he was sleeping. It is difficult to ascertain her reasoning for revealing this accusation now, as her deceased partner cannot corroborate the story. But at the same time, what does she have to gain from telling it? Was she paid for her story, or does she feel it is simply the time to be upfront and set the record straight (or in this case, set the record "gay") now that multiple accusers have surfaced?
Ultimately, someone's sexual orientation is his or her own business. Travolta should be free to love and have sex with whomever he wants and not need to broadcast it to the world. However, if he is hiding his true nature and living in the closet, he is setting a horrible example for young gay men and women. Moreover, if he is using a straight spouse as cover, he is sending the message that to survive, you must hide and take others down with you.
If he is using his wife as a sort of prop and she doesn't know it, then she has my deepest sympathies, although if she entered this marriage with full knowledge that her husband was gay or bisexual and that occasional sexual affairs were part of the bargain, then none of this is our business. Travolta's religion, Scientology, has had a somewhat uneven history on the subject of homosexuality. The church officially states that it is one of tolerance toward gay people, but the original teachings of L. Ron Hubbard read as very homophobic. But it is not as if John Travolta is condemning the lives of gay people or working to suppress gay rights, like the hypocritical Ted Haggard, who was condemning gay people from the pulpit, only to later acknowledge having had gay affairs.
However, if Travolta is gay and feels the need to hide is sexual orientation in order to have a successful acting career, then that is a tragedy, for his family and for him. The "closet" is a suffocating place to be; it forces a person to constantly lie and live in fear. They must lie to their loved ones, themselves, and their partners. If these accusations about Travolta are true, then I suspect that some of his gay partners might be coming out now due to resentment toward him for getting to have his cake and eat it, too -- that is, living the life of a straight man, free of the societal stigma, harassment, bullying, and discrimination that gay people face, while secretly seeking gay sexual encounters. Having personally dealt with a closeted gay husband, this cuts me to the bone. Most people in my position didn't know the truth until we'd invested years, sometimes decades, into a marriage, and we don't have multimillion-dollar estates to soften the blow.
With changing attitudes toward homosexuality and greater acceptance of gay people, no one should have to live like this. Other openly gay or bisexual actors like Zachary Quinto, Rupert Everett, Ian McKellen, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Jane Lynch, and Alan Cumming haven't hurt their careers by coming out. After all, an actor's job is to play roles. We all know that Travolta is not the same man who was an assassin for hire in Pulp Fiction, nor is he Edna Turnblad from Hairspray. Plenty of women were swooning when Zachary Quinto portrayed Spock in the last Star Trek movie, even though we suspected he was gay. Travolta's sex life is his own personal business, but if his marriage is a fraud, then I wish he would come clean. If more gay men were open and proud, we would have much less suffering, and no misled spouses like me. I would never want anyone else to go through what I have gone through. Living life as one half of someone else's lie is a torture I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Follow Juliet Jeske on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JulietJeske