Friday, March 31, 2023

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Sapphic Celebrities Who Were Pushed Out of the Closet

Billie Jean King, former world no. 1 tennis player.

Earlier this year, Rebel Wilson came out after the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper located in the city Wilson was born, pressured her to do so. 

Journalist Andrew Hornery, a gay man, admitted that he sent an email where he “gave” the actress two days to comment on her same-sex relationship before the paper published a “single word.” When the internet defended beloved Rebel Wilson, Hornery backpedalled with an apology.

Whoopi Goldberg called bullshit:

“Now, the man who wrote it even apologized, saying it was ‘never his intention to out her’… Well, you know that’s not true,” she said. “If it wasn’t your intention, you wouldn’t have done it. If you didn’t want to do it, you shouldn’t have done it. You knew exactly what you were doing.”

Now that homosexuality is at least a little bit more normalized, there is some support for those forced out of the closet. But what about those who suffered such a situation in the past? 

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart might be engaged to screenwriting sapphic Dylan Meyer now, but the actress kept her love for women under wraps for a while before she was essentially forced to come out. 

You might remember lesbians impatiently awaiting Stewart to turn the closet door – especially after she played Joan Jett in The Runaways – but, ultimately, it was the paparazzi landing shots of PDA with then-girlfriend (and assistant) Alicia Cargile that pressured Stewart to fess up.

Portia de Rossi

Like Kristen Stewart, actress Portia de Rossi and then-girlfriend, Francesca Gregorini, were snapped by paparazzi in shots that went viral in the early 2000s.

Portia still kept her sexual orientation under wraps. Her grandmother was the person she worried about telling the most:

“She was a huge fan of [the sitcom] ‘Ellen,’ wouldn’t miss an episode ― until the episode where she came out,” said de Rossi. “I know I’m gay at this point, I love my gran. The minute that Ellen came out, she refused to watch the show. In fact, if a commercial for the show came on, she would change the channel and say, ‘That disgusting woman.’ That didn’t bode well for me.”

Ironically, it wasn’t until de Rossi began dating now-wife Ellen DeGeneres that she finally came out as a lesbian. Another case of love being a matter of ‘you know when you know’!

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster came out at the 2013 Golden Globes. But was it Ricky Gervais’ speech at the 2012 Golden Globes, where he commented on her rumored interest in women, that pressured her to do so? 

“And I mustn’t mention Mel Gibson this year. Not his private life, his politics, his recent films or especially not Jodie Foster’s Beaver,” Gervais said, referring to the two actors’ film together, The Beaver.

“I haven’t seen it myself,” Gervais continued. “I’ve spoken to a lot of guys — they haven’t seen it either but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.”

Reminiscing on this sexist 2012 speech made me happy: I don’t think it would fly in 2022. Maybe we have made progress.

Carrie Brownstein

Bisexual musician, writer and actor Carrie Brownstein was outed at the age of 21 when Spin magazine reported her relationship with then-bandmate Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney. The article was read by Brownstein’s father before she could have the conversation with him:

“I hadn’t seen the article, and I got a phone call. My dad called me and was like, ‘The Spin article’s out. Um, do you want to let me know what’s going on?’ The ground was pulled out from underneath me… my dad did not know that Corin and I had ever dated, or that I even dated girls.”

Brownstein waited until another publication mentioned her love for women in 2006 before she came out as bisexual.

Billie Jean King

If we think the coming out in the 2020s is scary, what about being outed in the ‘70s?

The former No. 1 US tennis player had been hassled by a known misogynist, Wimbledon men’s champion Bobby Riggs, to a match on live television between the pair. King finally relented. 

“I’ll tell you why I’ll win,” said Bobby Riggs in a press conference. “She’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability. She’ll choke, just like Margaret [Court] did . . . the man is supreme.” 

King defeated Riggs in three straight sets. He later called the match “the most disappointing, disheartening experience of my life.” 

But trouble was brewing for the women’s champion. King knew she was a lesbian and, in the ‘70s, homosexuality was still criminalized in many states. Loved ones discouraged her from coming out – especially now her career was thriving. 

In a 1975 interview with Playboy, she denied being a lesbian:

“My sex life is no one’s business,” she said. “[But] if I don’t answer your question, people will think I have something to hide . . . [so] I’ll give you the answer. No, I’m not a lesbian. That’s not even in the ballpark for me.” 

It was an ex-lover who outed King: Marilyn Barnett. 

The pair met in 1972 and hit it off. Barnett was a hairdresser who knew nothing about tennis but, eventually, she became King’s live-in assistant and road manager. 

By 1973, King reports that Barnett’s behaviour grew possessive. The pair subsequently drifted apart. Barnett lived in King’s house, rent-free, until 1978, which is when King finally gave Barnett notice to leave.

After Barnett threatened to sell letters that King had written to her, the pair seemed to strike a deal. That was until 1981 – when Barnett filed a suit for the house, half of the tennis star’s earnings during the years she said they’d been together and lifetime financial support. “I had been outed,” writes King in her autobiography All In. “My worst nightmare had come true.”

Read the full article here

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