Critical Thinking: Diversity and the many faces of coming out

Mon. July 16, 2012 12:02 PM by Waymon Hudson

Chicago, IL - In recent days, we've seen some very high profile people come out in many different fields- like CNN's Anderson Cooper, R&B Singer Frank Ocean, Jamaican Singer Diana King, and Olympic Soccer player Megan Rapinoe. While Cooper may have received the most attention, I think all of these stories have a greater impact than many in the media are giving them credit for.

That was the discussion that was had on Gay Chicago TV's Critical Thinking in this week's media roundtable with journalists Kate Sosin of Windy City Times and Joe Erbentraut of Huffington Post. While one might think that three journalists discussing the politics of coming out and LGBT visibility would naturally gravitate towards Anderson Cooper, the in-depth conversation actually pivoted quickly to delve deeper into issues of diversity, media stereotypes, and the importance of looking at the greater story behind the headlines of such a diverse group coming out.

While Ocean, King and Rapinoe didn't get the same attention as Anderson Cooper, it quickly became apparent that their coming out stories might actually be of more importance. Beyond just the news of someone like Cooper, who comes into people's living rooms every day on television, also people like Ocean, King, and Rapinoe coming out in traditionally closeted professions and fields like sports and Hip Hop can reach a swath of Americans that may not be tuned into or even familiar with LGBT issues.

Too often we see the queer community literally white-washed-- faces of middle or upper class white men are what are predominately used in pop culture or in the media. This furthers an untrue stereotype of rich, white gay elites, when our community is actually incredibly diverse across racial, socio-economic, and gender expression lines. The importance of telling the stories, and honor the coming out struggles, of people of color like Frank Ocean and Diana King or someone who challenges gender roles like Megan Rapinoe is extremely important.

While many in the LGBT community may question the need to come out in a time of great change and social progress like now, such questions really speak to a feeling of comfort and privilege that far too many in the queer community simply do not share. To say that there is little or no value to coming out or that such declarations are "passé" is to deny the need to see the many faces of our community-- not just ones that look like Anderson Cooper. Yes, his story and visibility is important, but it shouldn't be given heightened precedent over the brave declarations of people who represent part of our community that too often gets shoved to the side.

It's an important conversation that we need to have in the LGBT community and in the media world-- and a lot was added to it by simply sitting down and discussing the issues together at a political roundtable.

Now it's time for all of us to join the conversation.

CRITICAL THINKING - Round Table "LGBTQ Visibility" (Full Episode) from on GAY CHICAGO TV.

You can watch the full episode of Critical Thinking Hosted by Waymon Hudson after it premiers on Gay Chicago TV on July 9th at 8 p.m. central time, with new episodes added every second and fourth Thursday of the month. You can join the show's discussions on twitter with the hashtag #WaymonWrapUp and on the Critical Thinking Facebook page.