Portmanteau Commentary: The changing landscape of coming out


It's always a nice feeling to be proven right.

That's one of the reasons my body floods with endorphins every time somebody whom I suspected of being 'not straight' adds to my 100% accuracy record. This applies to celebrities as much as it applies to people I know in everyday life, strangers I meet in passing at the most heteronormative of events, even people I've known in my childhood. In many cases these people were trying really hard to stay in the closet, so I said nothing to anybody but myself, and perhaps somebody close to me. But then time passes, and they come out, one by one patting my gaydar for its accuracy.

Gaydar is real 

Thus far I have never been wrong. Not once.

I've been wondering what it is that makes my gaydar seem to never go wrong and I think I've figured it out. It's in the how, not the what. It's in the when, the reactions, the details of body language, not in gender expression or context of words said. I have so many receipts on each one of the women on the list and many more off the list, I wouldn't know where to begin. It's the lgbtqia+ version of "Lie to me" detection of micro-expressions.



Who?

In this post I'm going to talk about instances of when my gaydar, or as I sometimes like to call it, lgbtqia+ detector, started to function. I will do so in chronological order. It started to detect, think and suggest thoughts around the time I was a pre-teen, even before I was fully aware of the concept of bisexuality or being gay itself. The chronological order is not of when the people came out, but when my gaydar went off initially.

I am not including anybody who I think is gay or bi but who has not officially come out (yet), even when they've been very public with their relationship with somebody of the same gender. I deleted at least two people off the list because it transpired they had refused to come out officially. I may add them in the future, as the world becomes a place in which they feel comfortable and understood enough to do so. I'm also focusing on celebrities because I can share sources and facts, unlike with personal anecdotes where you'd have to simply take my word for it - perhaps another time. 

Jodie Foster

When I read that Jodie Foster had come out, I was confused because I thought that she had already been out. I just was so certain that she wasn't straight that I didn't even think about it that much. I certainly thought this in "Panic Room" with Kristen Stewart, and I thought it even more in "Contact". Bear in mind that I was a child myself when these films came out and yet it was so clear to me.


Portia de Rossi

I have to admit, I didn't recognise her. When I saw her being Ellen Degeneres' wife, I thought "Oh, she's pretty. Who's that?" I didn't think about it much at first but then eventually looked her up and to my shock, realised that she was the character in Ally McBeal who I thought was gay... before I even knew the word. It was strange, I still find it difficult to connect her with the person she was back then - they look like different people. But that's not the point.
I only watched Ally McBeal a handful of times - secretly, it showed past my bedtime. I watched it for the legal humour (back when I was going to be a lawyer when I grew up) and for Lucy Liu, one of my first ever celebrity crushes (alongside Natalie Portman). As I watched her character in Ally McBeal I kept thinking "Of course she doesn't like that lawyer guy. Why would you like a guy if you can like actually pretty women" despite the fact that her character showed no indication and I was clearly completely mixing up the character and the person and actress behind the character. But I did think it, very explicitly, even as a pre-teen who only had a very vague concept of what that even meant. 


Kristen Stewart

Ah, Kristen. I remember you in Panic Room with Jodie Foster like it's yesterday. I remember wondering whether Kristen Stewart and Jodie Foster had bonded over something personal, like she was her fairy godmother somehow, but for reasons of shared understanding, shared experiences. I didn't have the word yet, but I remember thinking it. I remember being irritated at people who insisted Kristen must be a lesbian as if the concept of being bi was not possible. Her coming out was subtle, not a statement but a reality that trickled through. First her mum mentioned her girlfriend in an interview, and later, Kristen herself.
Kristen Stewart talks about being in love with her girlfriend in Elle UK


Ellen Page

I was more aware of the fact that Ellen Page was NOT out along with others and kept saying "You don't know until she says it, leave her alone. But come on." And then I would point at a myriad of micro expressions and body languages in every film I had seen her in. I feel bad saying this about actors whose job is make us believe they are in love, but I'm sorry. I can and could and did see the difference in how the reactions to "assigned male love interest" was interpreted by the actress, and how much more intense the connection was with the female characters. This applies to Jodie Foster, too, an actress coined one of the best of our age. [Reference 



This picture was taken while Ellen Page was still in the closet. There's also one of them kissing, but I find this one to be much more telling. Look at Ellen Page's hands and the position of her head. Drew Barrymore is open and fun and secure, had been out and was hiding nothing. Ellen's body language is completely different. I could go on, but that may be a bit awkward and trail off my point.

So, her coming out officially was a cause for me to feel happy, very smug and excited. But I've had straight friends say to me "wasn't she already out?" in confusion, similar to how I reacted to Jodie Foster's coming out.

Ellen Page comes out in speech at the Human Rights Campaign inaugural Time to Thrive conference

Cynthia Nixon

This was quite similar to Jodie Foster in that I thought she had been out all along. In her case more so than with the others on this list, I judged on appearance and the character she was playing more so than on body language and expressions. Regardless, I was less than not surprised when I saw in passing that she has a wife. I like how she words it in this article with the Telegraph: "I'm just a woman in love with a woman" but she does explicitly use the label bisexual in another article.

Cynthia Nixon for Telegraph

Amandla Stenberg

I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have a pretty sizeable crush on Amandla Stenberg. She's so intelligent, creative, talented, and beautiful, and she gives me hope for the generation to come. Every video I've seen her talk in made me wonder if she was bi, and then soon after, this video appeared and made me happy. The past few years more and more young well known women have been coming out in a very nonchalant way, which makes me happy every time. But Amandla was on my (gay) radar for a while before she did so, which is what this list is about.


Lauren Jauregui

Billboard: I am a bisexual Cuban-American

This morning, Fifth Harmony's Lauren Jauregui came out as bi in an open letter aimed at voters of somebody whose name I don't want to exist on my blog. I don't know much about the girl group other than the occasional reference by Lilly Singh iiSuperwomanii vlog: The Time Fifth Harmony Slayed Everything (Day 603) and the Roses (RoseEllenDix: Drunk Fifth Harmony 7/27 Reaction). While they mostly focused on other band members, I couldn't take my eyes off Lauren and wondered, with my absolutely personal preference projected, how anybody could focus on anybody other than Lauren. From the very little I'd seen of my several hours social media stalking, she seemed to be the most... relevant to me, which I couldn't quite pinpoint other than that she is gorgeous. But so are the others, especially Normani. Alas, it became pretty clear what that detail was.

The changing landscape of the coming out process

This post started out as something entirely different. I wanted to put together a presentation of receipts and details to show how a specific somebody who I am, with that gaydar of mine, quite sure is bi. I have so many receipts. But unfortunately, I don't have the time to put together such a presentation, and more importantly, it is not my place to do so.

Instead, this post became both a celebration of bisexual and gay women coming out more and more often, in many different ways. Due to the chronology one can see a clear shifting trend in the way the coming out takes place, and I am certain it will continue in that direction.

And that in itself is a flicker of wonderfulness in all the darkness that has been happening this year, and worthy of its own post. That, and also the stroking of the ego of my excellent detection skills. Obviously.