They do and they are, and the act of coming out embodies this paradox like no other. And yet anyone who would shut us up and shove us back into the closet ultimately self-injures more than they harm others, if only because any kind of intimacy made public is next to impossible to “forget” much less obliterate without a great deal of violence.
Intriguing then to consider last week’s Aaron Sorkin dramedy, featuring an androgynous character who heads the Rutgers GSA attempting not only to come out on-air through his peripheral relationship to Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi, but ending up a bad guy mouthing off misogynistically at one of the show’s protagonists, Mac McHale.
Mac corners him for tweeting about hijacking his upcoming segment with anchor Will McAvoy after he soapboxes about turning “the most intimate moment in life into entertainment.” It’s a crucial moment not only for the episode, but the character and series as well, given that the show began with Will’s impartiality taking a huge self-inflicted hit for his own “coming out” as anti-tea party. The series on one level then is about Will’s struggle to find his “objective” yet knowledgable voice again, all the while remaining as “info-taining” as possible.
The Rutger’s character’s flaw isn’t his self-serving nature, it’s delusionally exploiting a straight white male with power, in revenge over what Dharun Ravi and his friends did to Tyler Clementi, and credibly believing he can prevail. The “comedy” of male homophobia, demeaning another guy by psychologically painting him as weak, vulnerable and “feminine” (tapping into the a great social underground river of misogyny), is still reprehensible and leaves victims. That Clementi didn’t have the right social skills, and likely had psychiatric impediments, both prevented him from rising above Ravi’s harassment resulting in his suicide.
I wouldn’ve done what the Rutgers character did because I came out in my teens, in a time so innocent that the gay and lesbian rights movement then thought that if everyone simply came out, we’d all live happily ever after. Sorkin’s nuanced handling of what’s seemingly a pat situation with rigid solutions is terrific television, turning a knee-jerk hero into a snarky arriviste.