Gay or not?: Chris Colfer does the hokey pokey in and out of the closet

Posted by Dan November 12th, 2009 at 02:36pm In American Idol Glee How I Met Your Mother The Gays

Chris ColferYesterday, Glee co-star Chris Colfer gave an interview to USA Today wherein he half-heartedly took a step back into the closet. All at once, Colfer’s comments were confusing, inconsistent and, to me, maddening.

Let me backtrack.

For those unfamiliar, on Glee Colfer plays the designer label-wearing, “Single Ladies”-choreographing, gayer-than-Christmas character Kurt. Kurt is one of the funniest characters on the show — lovingly and sensitively written — and Colfer does a great job playing him. He’s totally flamboyant, but the character doesn’t come across as minstrel-y. All in all, Kurt is a great role model for flamboyant young kids.

So, being that Kurt is the gayest character on the gayest show on network television, one would be tempted to make assumptions about whether the actor playing the role is gay himself. Colfer has been asked about it before and publications like After Elton and The Advocate have matter-of-factly discussed him as being out. He’s said a couple times that he wasn’t out in high school because people are “killed” for it in his hometown.

So, it seemed bizarre and inconsistent that in the USA Today interview he decided to play coy. From the article:

Playing an openly gay kid means fielding questions about his own sexuality, which Colfer doesn’t address.

“I try to keep up a mystery. As much as I give away of my personal life, the less people will believe me as other characters. I try to be private about it. It is what it is,” Colfer says with a shrug.

This drives me nuts.

I don’t want to be too hard on Colfer. Even today, coming out is always hard and you have to remember that he’s basically just a kid (born in 1990, for the love of God). And I certainly can’t imagine coming out to the entire country when I was 19.

Still, this is the latest in a troubling pattern of behavior by gay celebrities. Whether you’re Michelle Rodriguez or Ricky Martin or Sean Hayes or Anderson Cooper, dodging the gay question has been a time-honored tradition. However, the idea of not only dodging the gay question, but actively aspiring to achieve a sort of glass closet mystique strikes me as willfully and actively dishonest.

The most recent high-profile case of this phenomenon was American Idol’s Adam Lambert, who danced around the gay question for ages despite the fact that he was pretty much openly gay before the show. There were photos of him, essentially, shitting glitter and neon glowsticks. No one was fooled, but it kept people talking. And then he had his big Rolling Stone article and the beaten dead horse of Lambert’s sexuality was finally buried.

Now, Colfer’s decision to intentionally obfuscate (and self-contradict) his sexual orientation is both disappointing and aggravating. It’s aggravating because it reinforces the idea that being gay is something that should be hidden. “It’s none of your business” is something you say when you’re caught cheating on your wife or if you’re trying to cover up a blemish with the law. “Yeah, I’m gay. What’s so interesting about that?” is the attitude that Lambert and Colfer should be expressing. No one would ever play coy about their national origin or religion (unless, maybe, you’re a creepy Scientologist).

As for his concern about getting roles — I can understand why actors in particular would be hesitant to discuss their homosexuality. Getting roles is a cut-throat business and casting directors are fickle. But, let’s face it, actors like Chris Colfer and Sean Hayes are never going to be the leads in heterosexual romantic comedies (Other actors like, say, T.R. Knight might be able to get away with it. It’s just a fact). No one is ever going to say “Well, we can’t get Gyllenhaal, somebody get Chris Colfer’s people on the phone.”

It may not feel good to be limited to certain roles and put in a specific box, but that’s all Hollywood is — boxes.  Actors are typecast all the time based on their race, their age or their level of attractiveness. Steve Buscemi might want to get the same roles as George Clooney, but it’s never going to happen. (It’s not the end of the world, though. The rules are definitely bendable. Neil Patrick Harris’ role as Barney on How I Met Your Mother works so well because he isn’t traditionally masculine.) Colfer happens to be baby-faced, wirey and fey. Confirming or denying his sexual orientation isn’t going to change a thing.

I’m not advocating a witch hunt to “out” anyone in Hollywood (politicians, however, are a different story). Beating down an actor’s door to force them out of the closet doesn’t do anything but imply that they’ve been “exposed” as being gay. But as long as there people in Maine voting to strip away the rights of committed couples and a complete ban on gay people in the military, it’s important to for everyone to be out and unashamed.

This coy business isn’t cute. It’s counterproductive.

16 Comments

  • 1. Amarillys  |  November 12th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Hmm, I can see how Chris’ comment to USA Today could be confusing, but I didn’t take it to mean he was tip-toeing in and out of the closet or that it somehow contradicted his earlier statement. He certainly didn’t deny the Advocate’s reporting, which was hard to miss. It seems to me like he was just saying how he’d rather not talk about romance, not because he is ashamed, but because he’d prefer that privacy. Some people feel that celebrities sign away all right to privacy by virtue of their chosen career and success, but I don’t.

    Ironically, I feel like he is expressing the sentiment of “yeah I’m gay, what’s so interesting about that?” but in his own way. The thing about that though, is that it can so easily be taken as playing coy. Sometimes we want so badly for certain things to not matter, it’s a bit of a catch-22. I think it says more about us that we can’t seem to handle a gay actor’s coming out NOT being a big deal. The fact that he is handling this new-found fame and scrutiny so well at 19 is impressive.

    Chris seems really comfortable with who he is, and I think he is an excellent role model not only for gay youth but for all young people, both in his portrayal of Kurt and in reality.

  • 2. Morgan  |  November 25th, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Amen, Dan. I’m tired of this “I don’t need to talk about my romantic life because it’s private” bullshit. Your a celebrity, get over yourself. And yes, commenter “Amarillys” (I have two of you in my basement!), it WOULD be great to be able to treat celebrity comings-out as no big deal, but until we can meet the basic civil rights of the LGBT community, eliminate the discrimination that persists in our federal, state and local laws, and make it safe for gay people to act in accordance with their sexual identities, it IS a big deal to come out, and it should be celebrated as such. The more we allow ourselves to be invisible, the less anyone feels they have to pay attention to the injustices we face. DON’T BE A GAY UNCLE TOM!

  • 3. Craig  |  January 14th, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Whats it matter if he comes out or not? It shouldn’t matter if he is gay or not and I suspect he gets rather annoyed when every interview ends up about his sexuality.

    It really does my nut when the Gay population feels they have the right to tell someone to come out, Chris is an actor so his career is the most important thing to him and im sure he would rather talk about acting then his sexualtiy.

    It seems that today if your Gay every other Gay man thinks you should proclaim it to the world and march in the next pride singing about how great it is to be Gay. Guess what we arent all like that, in fact I find the scene and pride rather disturbing and I dont feel the need to act different just because im Gay.

    Leave the lad alone if he wants to come out to the world thats up to him and if he doesn’t then its no one elses buisness.

  • 4. annonymous  |  March 26th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    this is an amazing piece of journalism! you have talent! but i do think he is gay…

  • 5. someone you dont know  |  April 23rd, 2010 at 7:01 am

    it actually is important to know wether he is gay, because i can see him from a different manner.

  • 6. someone you dont know  |  April 23rd, 2010 at 7:04 am

    it actually does matter, it helps me see him from a different manner. and i cand decide if he is not gay wether he plays a good role as a gay person in glee. he just so gay that i actually shouldn’t even be trying to find out wethere he is because i know he is it has to be a fact._xx

  • 7. Wilbur Muck  |  December 1st, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Amazing story! Going to take a bit of time to absorb your website:D

  • 8. Victoria Huit  |  December 22nd, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Let people do what they want. If they want the be out and proud, no one will protest. In my opinion, what’s more aggravating than Lambert and Colfer dancing around the gay question is people like you trying to make people let their whole personal life be told to the World Wide Web and the rest of media.

    Give people a break. Yes, that’s what I said. PEOPLE. It’s not as if every Latina in hollywood has to tell the press once they start acting, “I’m from…..” and state their nationality. OR as if all singers have to say “I like vanilla ice cream more than chocolate ice cream.” Trust me, some reporters as the question.

    If this is so counter-productive, explain why Chris Colfer is having the time of his life on Glee and you’re sitting behind a computer, writing articles about other people’s lives while you ignore your own problems.

  • 9. lisa  |  January 21st, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    maybe he’s bisexual. that’d throw a wrench for everyone, aye?

  • 10. Tam  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 5:31 am

    It may be frustrating, but Chris is only young. It’s hard at 19 years of age to always feel comfortable in your own skin, let alone being someone who is in the public eye and under constant scrutiny.

    Regardless, of Chris’s sexual orientation, what his situation reflects is the difficulties young people go through in trying to understand themselves (not just in regards to their sexuality) and people need to be sensitive to that.

  • 11. alice  |  May 24th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    that’s so mean! it’s none of anybody’s business other than his whether he’s gay or not. also, if you watched a few more of his interviews, you’d see that he’s admitted that he’s gay about a hundred times. before you go around putting other people down, you might want to check the facts.

  • 12. Elisabeth  |  September 1st, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Yes, Chris Colfer is most definitely gay and there is nothing wrong with the fact that he is. I think that it makes him even more of an inspiration to all people facing any kind of discrimination or bullying of any kind. Chris expresses himself as a humble, honest, intelligent, caring, compassionate person which are all great characteristics that any one should strive to have.
    People should look at Chris with respect not with rumour hungry eyes, and should give him his space when needed. Instead of debating upon his sexuality admire his love for his disabled sister or the charming way he has saved many people from certain depression.
    Now I hope you all understand that he is indeed gay, and he has helped many homosexual people struggling with their self to be proud of who they are… But, not only has he helped homosexuals, he has helped people of all ages and sizes discover their importance as well.

  • 13. Natisha Manson  |  September 12th, 2011 at 12:05 am

    LOL, I have to say the on the internet dating or electronic dating has come a very long way since the days of easy chat rooms. Far more and far more individuals are turning to online dating internet sites to display prospective dates.

  • 14. Hannah  |  September 27th, 2011 at 10:27 am

    biiiitch

  • 15. Sabrina  |  October 22nd, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    @ morgan ur bull shit if someone doesn’t want to share their sexuality with the entire world, so be it. It’s a free country u know. That’s personal and so what if he’s a celebrity, he has some privacy. So back off!

  • 16. Lena  |  May 23rd, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Please, please do your souls a favor. Convert to Catholic Church and stop messing around with God… study, get informed. This is not a game. Convert, pray that the Lord sets you free from these devils who only want to lose your soul… you’re all too precious to go to hell, and it’s a real place. Don’t fool yourselves, I beg you. May Our Lady pray for you.


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