THE BLOG
05/10/2013 12:13 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Coming Out in the Public Eye

Comedian Margaret Cho recently wrote a Huffington Post blog titled, "Outing (And Why Gay Celebrities Need to Leave the Closet)," in defense of the criticism she received for jokes where she "outed" a couple movie stars.

Cho makes a great point in addressing the importance of having role models in the public eye for LGBT youth to look up to. It not only gives young people confidence to be themselves, but it also inspires them to pursue big dreams without letting discrimination get in the way.

Thanks to openly gay public figures, the sky is the limit for LGBT youth. If you want to become a successful broadcast journalist, Anderson Cooper's career is a perfect example to look up to. If you want to be a basketball player in the NBA, you can follow in the footsteps of Jason Collins. If acting is your passion, names like Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer and Neil Patrick Harris can inspire you.

I'm not necessarily going to oppose Cho's argument about the importance of celebrities coming out. As I've already mentioned, lots of positivity can result from a celebrity making that decision. Instead, I'm going to look at the issue from a slightly different perspective.

I pose this question to anyone reading: Can you separate your personal life from your professional life?

For those of us who aren't famous, that answer is easy. We're not in a position where our personal lives are gossiped about by strangers or publicized in the media. We can control how much the public knows about us from simply adjusting our privacy settings on social media.

Celebrities who come out of the closet not only open themselves to public scrutiny, they also make their careers vulnerable. The general public is their audience of consumers who buy their music or watch their films. Therefore, maintaining an image that appeals to the masses is crucial for career longevity.

NSYNC's Lance Bass knows this all too well. The former boy-bander made the decision to come out after his group disbanded because he selflessly didn't want to sabotage his fellow members' careers.

In an recent interview for The Rubin Report, Bass confessed, "I felt like I had four of my best friends' careers in my hands ... I felt that if anyone found out that it would be the end of the group, everyone would completely make fun of us, and we would no longer make music anymore."

Speaking of boy bands, British-Irish phenomenon One Direction are constantly plagued with gay
rumours because of the group members' boundless public displays of affection towards each other. The bromances in the group are so prominent that each pair has their own nicknames.

Perhaps it's just our culture that's not open to the idea of straight males showing affection towards their male companions. The idea of straight male friends being affectionate towards each other is alien or forbidden to those who grew up believing in traditional gender roles.

As someone who attended an all boys high school, I'm all too familiar with young males' constant need to flaunt their masculinity to their peers. Any behaviour that is remotely affectionate or feminine is automatically met with a gay joke.

According to Bass, "The market is 100 percent young women and they fantasize about these [One Direction] guys. Then you have the record labels and everyone kind of grooming you to make sure that you don't even mention that you have a girlfriend."

If rumours that Harry Styles' brief fling with Taylor Swift was simply publicity and a cover-up for his relationship with Louis Tomlinson have any truth, there's no denying it could affect the group's career.

Boy bands have to maintain a marketable image of being attainable to their young female fans. However, that doesn't mean they can't succeed if a member is openly gay. Jaymi Hensley of fellow X Factor UK boy band Union J, came out publicly last year.

In an interview with Sugarscape, Hensley revealed: "The main reason I did it was I was at a stage when I was younger that I didn't have anyone to look up to. I always wished there was someone honest and open about it, and I thought, 'who am I to sit here and not give that to these kids?'"

Sadly, as much progress as there has been towards respectfully representing the LGBT community in the media, there is still a long way to go in the battle against ignorance and negative stereotypes.

Unfortunately, we are not in a world that is completely indifferent to a public figure's sexuality. We also live in a world where some people are so fascinated with gossiping about celebrities' personal lives because they're bored with their own.

Can you really blame those like Rock Hudson who kept their personal lives as private from the public eye as possible? They want to be known for their talent and the work they produce, not their personal lives.

In contrast, entertainers like Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Lynch and Frank Ocean have proven that you can succeed after coming out. Their personal lives aren't plastered all over the tabloids and they are the top of their fields.

With all these factors in mind, the decision to come out will always be a gamble with unknown consequences.