Why we’re covering this: While some folks have rolled their eyes at yet another white, cisgender, conventionally attractive and obviously gay actor coming out, we’ll always support people’s decisions to come out (or to choose not to) because coming out remains a powerful tool for transforming society. Colton Haynes’ coming out is especially notable because it illustrates the needless expectations society places on gay celebs.
Anyone even paying half a bit of attention has known since the March 2006 issue of XY that Colton Haynes was gay as balls; the issue had pics of him making out with a dude. But then, at the beginning of January 2016, Haynes came out again on Tumblr by commenting that his “secret gay past” wasn’t much of a secret. Now he’s come out yet again for a third time in an Entertainment Weekly interview where he talks about his struggles with anxiety.
Three comings out? What the hell is going on? Is there gonna be a fourth?
The fact that Haynes has had to come out in such a repeated, stop-start fashion highlights the absurdity of the entertainment industry, an industry rife with queers yet run by white, heterosexual dinosaurs who see women, people of color and LGBT folks as a liability because they’re “un-relatable to audiences”.
When Haynes took the XY pics, he was an 18-year-old asserting his own gayness and career trajectory. Why hide? He was going to be different. His conventional attractiveness and acting skills should’ve been enough to found his career. But, as Entertainment Weekly states, “like many others on his path, [Haynes] took advice early in his career to subdue [his homosexuality].”
So shortly before his 2011 premiere in MTV’s incredibly gay Teen Wolf series, some dumb lawyer working on his behalf tried to have all of his XY pics scrubbed from the web. It didn’t work and it was dumb to begin with seeing as Teen Wolf turned out to be a pretty gay show. They only wanted to hide Hayne’s gayness to make him more appealing to drooling female fans and to avoid typecasting him as “a gay actor.”
Entertainment Weekly elaborates:
“The truth is, Haynes has been out for most of his life – in high school, to his family and friends, to his cast members, to his Hollywood bosses (like Arrow creator Greg Berlanti, now one of his closest mentors). But as a green transplant in Hollywood in 2006, he wasn’t any more immune to the town’s well-chronicled discomfort with LGBT identity.”
As anyone who has ever lived in the closet knows, you can’t help but be who you are. So Haynes took to appearing alongside his openly gay brother in a plethora of Instagram photos as if to express his gayness by proxy. And when he made that January 2016 comment about his “secret gay past” not being a secret — a playfully coy comment that should’ve been enough of an admission — the resulting cacophony of congratulations and outrage over his not saying “I’m gay” sent the poor guy into rehab for anxiety.
He wasn’t ready to make some grand sweeping announcement — an announcement he never should have to make in the first place — seeing as he had already come out in 2006. His being gay should have progressed naturally from that point, but it didn’t because Hollywood spooked him into into the closet.
Straight people don’t have to come out. They simply bring their boyfriend or girlfriend home at some point and the family figures it out. But our society’s enduring queer-phobia and anti-LGBT laws place the burden of visibility on LGBT celebrities — after all, the average LGBT person doesn’t get anywhere as much press as they do and LGBT celebs have enormous potential to change viewer attitudes towards LGBT people.
So when LGBT celebs don’t announce their queerness outright, they get accused of hiding, being “cowards” and even harming LGBT youth. We tear them down so fervently, it’s no wonder they’re reluctant to become part of our “community.”
Any psychotherapist who has worked with gay client will tell you, when patients have issues with homosexuality, it’s because society has told them they should. Society stole 10 years of open living from Haynes and while the resulting damage has been padded by his privileges of fame, wealth, and conventional beauty, it’s still a sad reminder that all LGBT folks — famous and not — get discouraged from just being who they are. They’re expected to perform and explicitly state their sexual identity (as if it were a fixed, stable thing), and all that anxiety and expectation drains energy from what they should be doing: living their lives and creating the art they want, without apologies or fear.