Kevin Spacey’s Closet

Flicking through the Australian newspaper today, I came across an article on the actor Kevin Spacey, who is facing sexual misconduct charges dating back to 1986. During cross-examination in court, Spacey described his father as a “white supremacist” and a “neo-Nazi,” who disliked gay people and did not appreciate his son’s interest in the theatre. Of course, this is not the first time Spacey has faced assault charges. But taking the stand today, Spacey said something that got me thinking, ‘My father used to yell at me about the idea I might be gay. He would scream at me: ‘don’t be a faggot!’ His father’s words must have weighed heavily on his mind because Spacey kept his queerness hidden. He feared that his Hollywood career would be over if word got out. Spacey was at one time living the American dream. He was rich and famous… and also in the closet. In the 1950s and 60s, many movie stars were forced into the closet by the studios, locking their queerness away from public view. As if being “musical,” a term used by practising homosexuals in the golden years of Hollywood, was something to be ashamed of. Remember Montgomery Clift, Anthony Perkins and Rock Hudson? All famous leading men, all queer and in the closet!

“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions”

Leonardo Da Vicini

Spacey isn’t the first man or woman for that matter, to be ridiculed by his family and forced to hide their sexuality for fear of rejection. It’s a common story, as old as time itself. But what about those who chose not to hide in the closet? Leonardo Da Vinci and Oscar Wilde were imprisoned for homosexual acts. While American politician, Harvey Milk, was sent death threats and assassinated by a friend who voted against gay rights. Imagine today shooting a friend because they’re gay? Not today, not ever? Well, it doesn’t sound that far-fetched to me. Let’s chat about Matthew Shepard? The American student was beaten and left to die near Laramie on October 6th, 1998. The killers, both in their early 20s, were said to have adopted a strong anti-gay sentiment. They offered Shepard a lift home and then drove to a remote rural area and proceeded to rob and torture him. Why did they do it? Because Shepard made a move on one of them. Why didn’t they just tell Shepard politely that they were both ‘straight’ and drop him off safe and sound? Their hatred must have come from somewhere. But where?

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

Harvey Milk

A friend once said to me over a couple of cock-sucking cowboys, ‘In this world, gays are defined by their sexuality, everyone else by their personality.’ It’s true! There’d be people reading this story who have asked work colleagues to reveal their sexuality without giving it a second thought. The question is simple, ‘Are you gay?’ Most gay men and women will tell you this question is frequently asked, and often on the first day on the job. Even when asked by a well-meaning member of staff it’s confronting. Most people aren’t trying to offend, they’re just curious. But if you are in the closet, like Spacey was, you’re forced to lie for fear of rejection. A fear closeted men and women have held close since childhood. In conversation, I often hear, ‘My parents don’t know I’m gay. I’m still in the closet at home.’ Why be ashamed? You love your family and they love you, don’t they? Isn’t that how a functioning family is supposed to work? Life doesn’t come with a manual of what’s right or wrong, straight or gay. But it does come with a mother and father! And good parenting should be unconditional and free from judgement!

“You look ridiculous if you dance. You look ridiculous if you don’t dance. So you might as well dance.”

Gertrude Stein

This brings us back to Kevin Spacey. The star of so many great movies, American Beauty, The Usual Suspects, LA Confidential and the TV series House of Cards. I won’t comment on Spacey’s assault charges, that’s for the court to decide. But somewhere in his childhood, he was made to feel ashamed of his queerness by his neo-Nazi father. What damage did he do? “Don’t be a faggot,” his father shouted. And what about the two boys that killed Matthew Shepard, young men filled with anti-gay sentiment. Where did they get all that hatred from? It isn’t hard to figure out, is it? All young people deserve a safe and supportive environment growing up, regardless of their sexual orientation. Perhaps ‘Cat on a hot tin Roof’ playwright Tennessee Williams sums up queerness best when he wrote, “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.”

PS. On 21st October 2022 – A jury found actor Kevin Spacey not guilty of sexual assault. Deliberations lasted just over an hour. 

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