White Collar star Matt Bomer comes out of the closet (sort of)
It's time to add another name to the slowly but steadily growing list of out gay and lesbian actors. Sort of.
In an award-acceptance speech at the 18th annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards at the Palm Springs Convention Center on Saturday (February 11), Matt Bomer, star of the TV series White Collar, received the New Generation Arts and Activism Award for his contributions to efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS.
Bomer thanked his partner Simon Halls and their three children. Halls is a publicist whose clients include Ryan Murphy, creator and co-creator of TV shows such as Nip/Tuck and Glee, and Neil Patrick Harris. However, the dishy 34-year-old actor didn't identify Halls specifically as his partner, merely including his name amongst the names of their children.
The media has been quick to construe it as his coming-out announcement, and some have drawn parallels between this speech and Jodie Foster's 2007 award-acceptance speech in which she thanked her "beautiful Cydney".
Here's a clip of Bomer's speech:
Like Foster, Bomer has been noted as living in a "glass closet"—his sexual orientation was an open secret within the industry but was never confirmed publicly.
When asked by Details magazine in their January 2010 issue if he was concerned about rumours about him being gay, he responded: "I don't care about that at all. I'm completely happy and fulfilled in my personal life."
When the magazine pressed further by observing he didn't want to talk about it, he answered: "I have a network and a show riding on my shoulders. I would say a big difference between my character and me is that I can be too trusting. And I've realized in this business, that's not necessarily the smartest thing to be. I definitely have a thing or two to learn from the con artists."
Bomer will guest star on Glee in April as the older brother of Blaine (Darren Criss). He is also slated to star alongside Julia Roberts in the film adaptation of Larry Kramer's autobiographical play The Normal Heart, about a gay activist trying to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He also will star in the forthcoming movie Magic Mike, loosely based on Channing Tatum's experiences as a male stripper.
Coming out has long been an anxiety-ridden, problematic issue for actors. Concerns about marketability, debates about whether or not audiences would accept gay actors playing straight roles, the withdrawal of advertising by corporations, and more have impeded actors from coming out as openly gay. Consequently, numerous actors have remained in the closet, often coming out after their careers have declined.
Perhaps most telling of the systemic homophobia in Hollywood is that there isn't an openly gay A-list actor. Yet.
The list of gay male actors who are out remains a small list, including Zachary Quinto, Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Colfer, Sean Hayes, Scott Evans, John Barrowman, T.R. Knight, George Takei, B.D. Wong, Alan Cumming, Ian McKellen, and Rupert Everett. Female stars include Jane Lynch, Heather Matarazzo, Wanda Sykes, Lily Tomlin, Cynthia Nixon, Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Sarah Gilbert, Kristy McNichol, Kelly McGillis, and Meredith Baxter.
Out Canadian stars include Evan Adams, Luke Macfarlane, and Xavier Dolan.
Both Quinto and McNichol recently came out publicly due to their concerns about the rash of LGBT youth being bullied or committing suicide. The visibility of queer public figures and celebrities can potentially contribute to improvements in various LGBT issues, such as boosting self-esteem, countering homophobia (both internalized as well as from external sources), and providing role models.
In 2009, Everett had bitterly advised younger actors to stay in the closet, claiming that his coming out killed his career, and A Single Man star Colin Firth noted shortly thereafter that it's still difficult for actors to be out in Hollywood.
In the past, even straight stars who took on gay roles risked ruining their careers. However, as a reflection of how things have changed, and contrary to fears of career impediment, numerous stars have done so and received critical acclaim (and even Oscar nominations or awards), including Tom Hanks, Antonio Banderas, Colin Firth, Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, James Franco, and Sean Penn.