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HARRINGTON: Spacey outing creates bad optics for LGBTQ community

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I am not a fan of Kevin Spacey. His roles in film and TV always unsettle me, and his personality has an odd quality that makes my skin crawl.

This past week, my dislike of the noted actor was forever cemented in my mind. In the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct from actor Anthony Rapp, Kevin Spacey issued a formal statement apologizing for the alleged actions while confirming longstanding rumors that he is gay.

While the act of coming out is a momentous and emotional moment for a great deal of LGBTQ people, the manner in which Spacey handled his coming out is irresponsible and does a massive disservice to the LGBTQ community at large.

There are certain stigmas surrounding LGBTQ people, especially those of gay men. These stereotypes, specifically the alleged connections between homosexuality and pedophilia, have been major setbacks in the fight for equality by the gay community.

The stature and celebrity of Spacey as one of Hollywood’s most well-known actors meant the eyes of the world were on him when allegations of Spacey’s inappropriate advances on a 14-year-old Rapp came to light. Spacey could have done many things under this intensified media scrutiny and he chose to shield himself of these horrific allegations by outing himself.

This diversion was not well-received by notable LGBTQ figures on social media, where many condemned Spacey’s chosen manner of coming out as insensitive to the LGBTQ community. Among these condemners were comedians Billy Eichner and Wanda Sykes, who called attention to the fact that Spacey was using his new public identity as a gay man to shield himself from the controversy of his alleged pedophilic behavior. This kind of deflection leads to the conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia, which is already an existing and troubling issue for the LGBTQ community.

It takes an immense level of bravery to publicly discuss something as troubling as sexual harassment, especially when that traumatic experience happened at such a vulnerable age as 14. More credit is due to Rapp and the many others who have shared their stories regarding Spacey’s unforgivable behavior. This form of bravery has been increasingly apparent and speaks volumes of the cowardice that Spacey exhibited by attempting to create a media smokescreen using his own sexual orientation as a distraction.

Although backlash to Spacey’s actions was prevalent, one can only worry about the damage his behavior has caused. This incorrect conflation of pedophilia and homosexuality on such a public and large platform could potentially give ammunition to opponents of the LGBTQ community in regards to their negative perception of gay men, especially those in the so-called “Hollywood elite.”

Organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation have publicly condemned Spacey’s actions as well as praised Rapp for his decision to speak out. However there is only so much these organizations can do for those who are uninformed. We can only hope that the awful decision-making exhibited by Spacey this past week was an anomaly and that this type of deflection will not happen again.

Spacey should be ashamed of selling out his identity and the sexual identity of millions of others. The positive side of this story is that the media and many noted celebrities had the decency to call Spacey’s behavior out, and there has been an outpouring of allegations from many other people. This has been a landmark year for the public discussion of the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry and the repercussions of Spacey’s misconduct have been a shining example of how this kind of behavior should no longer be tolerated in Hollywood.

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