‘Coming Out’ for National Coming Out Day

rick-peters-left-and-alden-peters-right-in-coming-out-courtesy-of-wolfe-videoAlden Peters is a typical young closeted gay man. He’s been coping with his sexuality — or more directly, hiding it — his entire life. Then, when Princeton student Tyler Clementi commits suicide after being outed, Peters realizes that could have easily been him. So he decides it’s time to tell the people in his life. And being a millennial with a camera, he decides to do it on film.

The 2015 documentary Coming Out, now available from Wolfe Video, tracks Peters’ process — first telling his older brother, then his friends, his mom and stepdad, and finally his dad and younger siblings … all with the camera rolling.

What’s distinctive about Coming Out is how ordinary and undistinctive it is. Peters hand-wrings about what kind of reaction he’ll get, especially from his parents. Will they be shocked? Hate him? Reject him? But first and foremost, they love him. And seeing that love manifest itself in the most prosaic of ways — “That’s cool, son,” a hug, even an awkward conversation with a younger brother who thinks doesn’t “act gay” — have played out for most of us in nearly identical ways across the years.

dvd-cover-coming-out-courtesy-of-wolfe-videoOf course, there are much worse stories of rejection, even violence. Not all coming out processes are as smooth and supportive. But the message is, and should be, that even the “bad” coming outs are ultimately positive experiences for the one coming out. Admitting who you are — not just to others, but to one’s self — is an important, even necessary step toward long-term happiness and acceptance. It’s one reason why gay people refer to each other as “family” — because even when our blood relatives aren’t there for us, there’s an entire chosen family anxious to step in. Even today, coming out can be difficult. But it’s also amazingly important — psychologically, emotionally, politically, socially.

Think about all that when you watch Coming Out, and remember that today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day, a date once each year that says, “Why not come out now? You’ll feel better about yourself.” But that’s not an excuse to wait until next year if you don’t today. There’s no wrong time to come out … whether one-on-one to your mom or on film for the whole world to see.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kristen Stewart comes out

TEEN WOLF | Purse-lipped Bella (Kristen Stewart) strings along ab-fab Jacob (Taylor Lautner) in ‘Eclipse.’

Sorry, Jacob, Bella has eyes for a less hairy sort.

Kristen Stewart, who as the sulky Bella in the Twilight Saga was encouraged to choose either Team Edward or Team Jacob, has let it officially be known: She’s Team Esme. Well, not necessarily Esme, but the boys no longer stand a chance. The actress — who is currently giving her best performance to date in the Woody Allen film Cafe Society — told Elle that she is currently in a same-sex relationship with movie producer Alicia Cargile. “I’m just really in love with my girlfriend,” she told the magazine.

Stewart has been something of a lightning rod of criticism. She started her career as a child (co-starring alongside Jodie Foster in Panic Room) and shot to fame in Twilight, but has been seen as something of a sourpuss, both in her performances and in dealing with the press — she’s notably private. Until now.

She’ll next be seen in Ang Lee’s highly-anticipated Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which is set in Dallas.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay Pride: A Texas teen’s inspirational coming out story

OF062716Growing up in Houston as the son of a multi-sport athlete, it felt natural for Jeremy Brener to play sports. He enjoyed them all, especially soccer and basketball. He coached younger kids in a recreational league. “I’ve just always been enamored with competition and athleticism,” the articulate, insightful high school senior says. “Sports feel safe and comfortable to me.”

Brener lives in a diverse neighborhood; he’s always been surrounded by different cultures, ideas and types of people.

“Maybe I was naïve,” he says. “To be honest, I didn’t know what ‘gay’ meant until I was 12 or 13.” He assumed that because all his friends had mothers and fathers, that “every relationship was between a man and a woman. “I never heard anything about gay stuff.”

But in the midst of junior high basketball season, Jeremy’s “gears started turning. It was a weird time.” He felt different from his friends. He began understanding his burgeoning sexuality. “That’s when life started for me,” Jeremy says. “I started to see other things. It scared me.”

He thought that being gay meant “acting feminine, doing feminine things.” But he did not fit there. He liked playing and watching sports.

Jeremy went online, reading and hearing other gay men’s stories. He saw many different examples of what it means to be gay, how to live life. He realized he could be gay, play sports and hang out with other guys who like him for who he is.

“There’s a whole spectrum of masculinity,” he recognized. Pretty heady stuff for a 14-year-old.

Through YouTube, Outsports, the Advocate magazine and websites like Gay Star News, Jeremy “really started to wake up. I knew this is who I’m supposed to be.”

Once he discovered he was gay, he thought that was the most important part of his personality. He wanted to tell everyone, to stop living a lie.

Now, he wishes he had not been so forthright. “Being gay is not the most important thing about me,” he says emphatically. “You can lead a truthful, honest life without telling the whole world.”

Friends slowly distanced themselves. His grades dropped. “I thought living my truth would be wonderful,” Jeremy explains. “That wasn’t the case.”

Then, in February 2013, Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers came out. He was the first professional male sports team athlete in North America to do so.

Jeremy was coming off a knee injury. Compounded by his friends’ reactions to his sexuality, he considered giving up soccer. But Rogers’ coming-out experience propelled Jeremy back in the game. He even changed his jersey to 14. That was Rogers’ number, and also Jeremy’s age.

Jason Collins and Michael Sam soon followed Rogers through the closet “out” door. “I realized there really are gay people everywhere,” Jeremy recalls. “And I saw that being gay is only part of a person. That’s why Outsports is great. It really debunks stereotypes.”

For his last two years in high school, Jeremy focused on just being himself. “People like me for me,” he says proudly.

So who is Jeremy Brener? “I’m an athlete, a basketball coach, a friend, a brother, a son. I like physics and business. I’m so much more than a gay teenager. I’m proud to be gay, but I’m also proud of every part of me.”

Jeremy is also a contributing writer for Outsports — the site that did so much to show him the world of gay athletics. Earlier this month, he wrote a story about Braeden Lange, the 13-year-old gay lacrosse player whose life was turned around by Andrew Goldstein, a former pro with his own positive tale. Braeden’s coming out at a young age, facing some negative reactions, and still emerging empowered and strong — it all resonated with Jeremy.

He wove together Braeden’s story — including the “Courage Game” organized by Goldstein, bringing together lacrosse players from around the country in a show of support for the youngster; an ESPN profile on the game and Braeden’s life, and the founding of Philadelphia’s Courage Home for homeless LGBT youth — with Jeremy’s own coming-out process. It was a compelling read.

The next day, a young reader contacted Jeremy. He was struggling, and alone. Soon, though, he came out – and felt great.

“That was so powerful,” Jeremy says. “If I weren’t gay, that kid wouldn’t have felt confident enough to do that.

“I’m gay for a reason,” Jeremy concludes. “Now I want to try to make a difference in the world.”

He doesn’t have to try. He already has.

— Dan Woog

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Joel Grey comes out as gay, no one bats an eye

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Grey, in his Oscar-winning role alongside Liza Minnelli

It is perhaps the biggest piece of non-news of the year to date: Joel Grey, the Academy Award-winning star of Cabaret and a Broadway legend for roles such as the Wizard in Wicked, has, at age 82, finally comes out publicly as gay, in an interview with People magazine.

If you hear crickets chirping, I’m not surprised. Despite being the father of actress Jennifer Grey, Joel has frequently been at the fore of gay causes. So why hide it for so long? (As Nathan Lane noted when he came out years ago, “I’m single, I’m 40, I do musical theater …. you do the math!”)

The People interview sheds little light on that matter, other than the fact he grew up “in a different time.” But those times have long passed, and now in his ninth decade, you’d think he would have come out long ago. But no.

Ah, well. Better late than never. Welcome to the party, Joel! Your toaster oven is on its way.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Country singer Ty Herndon comes out as gay

Country singer Ty Herndon came out as gay in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Watch a segment of the video below.

—  James Russell

Apple CEO Tim Cook comes out: “I’m proud to be gay”

Tim CookApple CEO Tim Cook came out as gay in an essay published this morning, Oct. 30, in Bloomberg Businessweek:

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

It was the worst kept secret in the country. Named CEO of Apple in 2011, we reported it then. Cook has long been suspected as being gay, but has never brought up his sexual orientation. In 2011, OUT named him the most powerful LGBT person in the United States. A CNBC host accidentally outed him in June.

Cook spoke during his inauguration into the Alabama Academy of Honor, denouncing Alabama, his home state, for stalling on LGBT rights on this past Monday, Oct. 27, according to Business Insider.

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce lauded Cook’s decision to come out in a statement: “[As] the business voice of the LGBT community, [we] commend Tim Cook for his moving and heartfelt coming out essay. While his story and success are unique, we are proud to say we hear about similar journeys every day from the LGBT Americans, including those who are part of NGLCC. Our goal is to expand economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people. Tim’s words today will help us in that mission. They also serve as an opening of the door for other LGBT CEOs and senior executives to move forward in knowing there is a safe place for them in the business world.”

—  James Russell

Out NBA player to be seated with Michelle Obama at State of the Union

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Jason Collins

The White House announced some of the guests who will be seated in first lady Michelle Obama’s box during the President’s State of the Union address Tuesday. Out former NBA player Jason Collins will be among the guests.

Other guests include a Boston Marathon survivor and his rescuer, the Moore, Okla., fire chief who directed the rescue after a devastating tornado last year, D.C.’s teacher of the year and a 16-year-old Intel intern.

During the State of the Union address, presidents traditionally tell stories about Americans who have made a difference during the year.

Collins played in the NBA for 12 years, making it to the playoffs nine times. In college, he was selected as an All American, named the NCAA’s “Big Man of the Year” and earned an appearance in the Final Four.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers described Collins as “the best.”

“He literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach,” Collins said.

In April 2013, Collins became the first male player in major American team sports to come out openly as gay.

A statement from the White House described Collins’ coming out as courageous.

The President expressed his gratitude to Collins for his courageous announcement through an article Collins penned himself. The President said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Collins, recognizing this as a point of progress for the LGBT community, and one more step in America’s goal to treat everyone fairly and with respect. Collins is 35 and lives in Los Angeles, California.

—  David Taffet

Robin Roberts comes out, thanks ‘long time girlfriend’

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Robin Roberts

“Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts came out Sunday in a touching post thanking her “long time girlfriend,” The Huffington Post reported.

Roberts disclosed the relationship in a Facebook post in which she reflected on the past year. On Dec. 29, 2012, the news anchor celebrated 100 days post bone marrow transplant during her battle with myelodysplastic syndrome.

“At this moment I am at peace and filled with joy and gratitude,” Roberts wrote. “I am grateful to God, my doctors and nurses for my restored good health. I am grateful for my sister, Sally-Ann, for being my donor and giving me the gift of life. I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together.”

Amber Laign is a licensed massage therapist from the San Francisco Bay Area, according to People magazine. She and Roberts met through mutual friends and have been together for 10 years.

“I am grateful for the many prayers and well wishes for my recovery. I return every one of them to you 100 fold,” Roberts continued. “On this last Sunday of 2013 I encourage you to reflect on what you are grateful for too.”

CNN’s Brian Stelter noted that this is the first time Roberts has spoken publicly about her sexual orientation.

The 53-year-old follows in the footsteps of other famous figures who have chosen to discuss their personal lives without formally choosing a title or label.

Earlier this month, Olympic diver Tom Daley came out in a YouTube video, revealing he is in a relationship with a man. Last year, Frank Ocean came out in a blog post. He opened up about a same-sex relationship he had when he was 19 years old.

ABC News issued the following statement regarding Roberts’ Facebook post (via BuzzFeed):

“We love Robin and Amber, who we have all known for a long time. We were so touched by Robin’s Facebook message today and so thankful for all the loving support she has in her life.”

—  Steve Ramos

Bob Harper comes out as gay to help a contestant on ‘The Biggest Loser’

Unknown-1Bob Harper, from the reality weight loss competition show The Biggest Loser, came out to help a contestant who was struggling with his own sexuality. The Huffington Post reported 48-year-old Harper came out Tuesday.

Contestant Bobby Saleem Saleem came out as gay on the show, but struggled to break the news of his sexuality to his father. To help encourage Saleem to come out to his dad, Harper decided to share his own story.

“I haven’t talked about my sexuality on this show ever,” Harper said. “And now, meeting Bobby, I really do believe this is the right time. I want to show Bobby that he doesn’t have to live in shame.”

So, Harper sat down with Saleem on camera and publicly came out for the first time.

“I’m gay. I knew I very long time ago that I was gay,” the Tennessee native said. “When I came out — when I was 17 years old — it was one of those things where I realized that there was going to be so many obstacles, but being gay doesn’t mean being weak. And being gay doesn’t mean that you are less than anybody else. It’s just who you are.”

—  Steve Ramos

Wentworth Miller, ‘Prison Break’ actor and former Dallas resident, comes out

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When the TV show Prison Break was filming in North Texas for two seasons, I had the opportunity to meet and interview the show’s star, Wentworth Miller, on three occasions for TV Guide. And on each occasion, my gaydar went off. It could have been simply because he’s was a dreamy, personable, intense fellow, who talked in hushed tones and tended to lean in when he spoke to me. Partly it was that he was renting a condo in Uptown, just near the gayborhood. But I never personally saw Miller on the Strip, nor did he hit on me exactly. (By contrast, Rob Knepper, who played a scary bisexual prisoner on the same series, would leer at me suggestively in character, then smile devilishly. He was great fun.)

So when I read this morning that Miller had come out as gay to protest the treatment of gays in Russia, I can’t say it came as a shock. But it delighted me nonetheless.

Miller hasn’t been much in evidence in recent years as an actor, though he has a hand as a writer for the recent art-house film Stoker (it wasn’t very good, unfortunately). He’s just the latest person this month to come out for political reasons (as I blogged about earlier this week).

I’m happy for Miller. But I’m even happier my gaydar wasn’t off.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones