Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Spectacle of Coming Out

Nothing pisses me off more than sensationalism. Well, that's not true. Passive-aggression and denial of agency (among several other things) piss me off more than sensationalism does, but for the purpose of this blog post, I'm going with sensationalism as the centerpiece at which my ire is focused. And now that I've used that word three times, I'm not allowed to do it for the rest of this thing. Hold me to that, okay?

Back in May of this year, Lauren Morelli wrote a very moving coming out story that actually brought tears to my eyes. If you aren't familiar with what I'm referencing, Morelli is a writer for the Netflix show, Orange Is the New Black, and as she began to pen scenes between Piper Chapman, the main character, and Alex Vause, Piper's on-again-off-again lover, she came to the realization that she, a woman married to a man, was indeed a lesbian. Her husband was incredibly understanding, and after amicably splitting up with him, Morelli recently filed for divorce. Oh, and she's also dating Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey on Orange, something that has been going on for a while but only now is being reported by the media. But I'll get back to that in a minute.
Back in high school, I realized that I was bisexual, but I wasn't really ready to acknowledge it until I graduated from college. Raised in a conservative Christian environment, I was taught to believe that such behavior was evil and unnatural, so any time a woman entered into my sexual fantasies, I'd quickly wipe that image from my brain. More often than not, I'd start crying, wondering what was wrong with me and why God would create me in a way that was so contrary to what I was "supposed" to be. Of course, this tale is common among my fellow non-straight people, one that doesn't always have a happy ending. I am very lucky to have an incredibly supportive partner in Three, who, yes, is a man, and he has helped me in more ways than one to learn how to accept myself just as I am. Like Kamala's Muslim status from yesterday's Pull List post, my bisexuality is only an aspect of me, not the entirety of my person.

It's fitting that Orange Is the New Black is a show* that has helped me even further along my path, seeing as it played such a huge role in Lauren Morelli's life changing realization. Had I discovered my sexual orientation in a manner similar to her, I am not sure my transition into acceptance would have occurred as smoothly as it did, even if there were definitely some very turbulent times. Despite being in tabloid hell, both Morelli and Samira Wiley appear to be blissfully happy together in every single photo that I've seen. I'm not going to lie and say that I am not filled with joy whenever I spy another picture of them on my Facebook or Twitter feed. When anyone goes through a period like that, it's always nice to know that they've come through it, stronger and more at peace with who they are.

But I despise how this whole thing is being covered. Click bait. Shock reporting. Yellow journalism. I mean, it's not as if I expect tabloids to respectfully cover anything, let alone a fledgling lesbian romance, but titillating headlines like Vulture's "OINTNB Writer Divorced Husband to Date Poussey" (there are no facts to support this) or ledes like Perez Hilton's "We bet her husband didn't see that coming!" (um, she didn't spring this on him yesterday) just make me want to scream. Yes, Morelli did publicly out herself, but I see her decision to do so more as encouragement for anyone else who might be going through the same thing. She was using her celebrity to promote something healthy, while stripping herself bare for the world to see. And her victory, both personal and professional, has been turned into fodder for page views (hence, why I didn't link to the Vulture article or to Perez Hilton's blog).

However, I do want her relationship covered. I do want more high-profile lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, [fill in the blank with other non-hetero terms] relationships paraded indiscriminately on the front pages of magazines with no real differentiation between them and those between people of the opposite sex. But not in a predatory way that turns one woman's reality into a scandal, where we just watch a real-life version of when Carol left Ross for Susan but ultimately are meant to feel sorry for the man. Because LESBIANS, AMIRITE? It doesn't seem that Morelli's story is headed in that direction, but public opinion is such a fickle thing. When Anne Heche started dating Ellen Degeneres back in the late nineties, it was a shocking development, nearly the only thing people could talk about, but when the relationship deteriorated, both Heche and Degeneres were mocked, with Heche receiving more negative press, if I recall correctly. Lindsay Lohan dating Samantha Ronson was also the talk of the town, but it was only to point fingers at Lohan's waning public persona, fraught with substance abuse and mental illness. And yes, hetero relationships have similar scrutiny, but it never has that caustic, judgmental aftertaste whenever things start to go sour. It's like, "Hey, you can behave in the way that you want, but we're going to make your life hell if and when you screw up."

Without going all "Leave Britney Alone" on you, I will just say this: I hope that everyone continues to respectfully let Morelli learn more about herself in peace. If my experience is anything like hers, I suspect that there are still plenty of issues through which she will have to persevere. And if Samira Wiley is as awesome as she seems, then Lauren stands a good chance of coming out (pun not intended, actually) on the other side a complete, whole person who can proudly stand in the public eye and not apologize for who she is. I truly do wish her the absolute best. 

* Another is Orphan Black. While Helena is my favorite clone on the show, Cosima's a close second. When she quips to Rachel that her sexuality is far from the most interesting thing about her, I high-fived my husband. 
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