As many of you may have heard by now, Jussie Smollett, star of Fox’s new hit show, Empire, has come out as gay on Ellen. Or, if we’re going to nitpick, he came out after the Ellen show. During the actual taping of his segment, Ellen asked him about his personal life, which I suppose many figured to be a cue for him to confirm his sexuality, but his answer left many a bit puzzled.
That’s what I’d like to make this post about – not so much the fact that he came out, but more so the language that he used. For a while now, speculation has been rampant that Jussie is, in fact, gay… made all the more pronounced when co-star, Malik Yoba, unwittingly outed him in an interview. Either way, Jussie had always chosen to remain silent on his private life – well, until now.
When his segment on the show was over, Jussie went to find Ellen, and they continued filming while he declared that “there is no closet… never has been a closet”, pretty much confirming that he’s gay. Again, even then, his words were still a bit ambiguous. If you will notice, at no point does he actually say out loud “I am gay.”
Was it a deliberate action? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it were. I think that very many LGBT individuals do find it difficult to say those three words. Even when some of us have been out to our friends and family for years, it is always a really difficult thing to come out to a new person, and we often come up with a plethora of euphemisms for it.
I, myself, have used “I don’t play for your team”, “you’re barking up the wrong tree here”, or quite simply, “I’m not straight.” I think that’s why I understand why Jussie phrased it the way he did. It isn’t that he was necessarily hiding who he is, it’s just sometimes so hard to say “I am gay” – especially to the huge audience that he was in front of.
Considering how homophobic this world is, this isn’t such a surprising or unusual phenomenon. Growing up all your life knowing that people think who you are is so wrong, it’s no surprise at all to find many LGBT individuals who internalize this hatred and therefore find themselves unable to use the very word that they’ve always feared to utter aloud. A lot of heterosexuals won’t understand entirely, but I think more of us LGBT persons should be a bit more empathetic, realizing that just because someone doesn’t necessarily scream, ‘I AM GAY”, at every opportunity, doesn’t make them a closet-case. We all have our demons, and we all face them differently, but fear and shame aren’t the same thing.