When actor Anthony Rapp alleged Sunday that Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance toward him 30 years ago when Rapp was just 14 years old, Spacey dismissed it as “drunken behavior” he couldn’t recall and apologized to Rapp in a tweet. And in the next sentence, Spacey took the opportunity to publicly come out as a gay man and in the process provided perceived validation to LGBT critics conflating homosexuality with sexual deviancy.
“It was really rather offensive, because sexual harassment and sexual orientation are completely different topics,” said a senior executive at a DiversityInc Top 50 company and member of the LGBT community choosing to remain anonymous as not to appear to be speaking on behalf of his company. “By coming out, he was trying to gain sympathy as a deflection of a past wrong. That’s something Donald Trump would do.”
“The way he came out, it was the wrong [way] to do it, and it only hurts the LGBT community,” he said, adding that “study after study after study has shown that there is no correlation between either being gay or being straight. All [Spacey] does is just [bring] back the stereotype.”
That sentiment was echoed by many in the LGBT community, with some rebuking Spacey more harshly than others.
“Coming out as a gay man is not the same thing as coming out as someone who preyed on a 14-year-old. Conflating those things is disgusting,” tweeted Vanity Fair movie critic Richard Lawson in a series of early morning tweets Monday. “This exposes the gay community to a million tired old criticisms and conspiracies. The distance we’ve had to walk to get away from the notion that we’re all pedophiles is significant. For a famous person to deflect these accusations with a long-in-the-making coming out is so cruel to his supposed new community it stings. How dare you implicate us all in this.”
While gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign have yet to officially weigh in, Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), responded in a series of tweets of her own:
“Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault. This isn’t a coming out story about Spacey, but a story of survivorship by Anthony Rapp & those who speak out about unwanted sexual advances. The media and public should not gloss over that.”
For its part, GLAAD’s official Twitter account posted screenshots of two news articles showing headlines reporting Spacey’s coming out, with the comment: “Here’s what NOT to do when reporting on Anthony Rapp’s allegations against Kevin Spacey.”
Comedian Wanda Sykes, who is gay and a vocal civil rights advocate, tweeted in response to Spacey: “No no no no no! You do not get to ‘choose’ to hide under the rainbow! Kick rocks!”
Writer James Hamblin in The Atlantic Monday laid out what seems to be the consensus among many: “Adopting a marginalized identity in a moment like this does more than bleed the meaning out of an apology. It sucker-punches the entire marginalized group. It sets back fights for civil rights in these cases, respectively, non-heterosexual people and mentally ill people, burdened for generations by baseless stereotypes pertaining to pedophilia and violence. As writer Shanelle Littlesaw it, ‘Kevin Spacey willfully harmed a child and then turned and painted a target on the gay community’s back.’”
However, others in the LGBT community, such as a senior executive at a different Top 50 company, are waiting for more facts.
“This unfolding situation may be that the accuser has gone public as a way to encourage others to come forward in this environment full of sexual harassment issues, and there may be much more to this story in coming days/weeks which could influence how this is viewed,” she said. “Nevertheless, while I do not support the way Kevin Spacey chose to come out, I also do no admonish it.”
The executive was sympathetic to Spacey’s general decision to publicly come out.
“First, it’s a shame that it takes a terrible event like being accused of sexual misconduct to prompt someone [to come] out in the first place. We still live in a world where being gay receives such condemnation, ridicule and backlash especially for those who are in the public spotlight.
“Second, at least he owned the misconduct and came out rather than being outed by public opinion or continuing to hide. I do not think we can judge how someone comes out; it is one of the most personal and difficult decisions a person makes.”
According to his interview in BuzzFeed, Rapp met Spacey while they were working together on Broadway. Rapp said he was at a party at Spacey’s apartment in 1986, where Spacey who was 26 when Rapp was 14 carried him to a bed and climbed on top of him.