There is a long and ugly history of associating gayness with pedophilia. Homophobes characterize gay men as predatory, and use this as an excuse to attack and, in some cases, kill them. Yet, in a slimy move reminiscent of his character Frank Underwood’s deceitful tactics, Kevin Spacey thought it sly to use a coming out announcement to deflect accusations of pedophilia and sexual assault.
Following actor Anthony Rapp’s accusation that Spacey assaulted him when he was 14 years old, the “House of Cards” star issued a statement blaming his behavior on drunkenness and announcing that he now chooses “to live as a gay man.” After being publicly exposed as a pedophile, he finds it a fitting time to broadcast his sexuality to the world. In doing so, he turned coming out — something that should be supported and celebrated — into a weapon. He perpetuated the false and dangerous narrative of gay men as dangerous predators, luring young boys into traps.
This has tangible consequences for the LGBT community. Spacey is a big Hollywood star with a global influence. Homophobes across the world may seize Spacey’s actions as an opportunity to target queer people. Anti-LGBT groups from the United States to Russia constantly conflate same-sex attraction with pedophilia and use this as an excuse to terrorize gay and bisexual men. Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, a group that aims to confront “the radical homosexual agenda,” claims there is a “disproportionate incidence of pedophilia among gay men.” And, in Russia, a gay propaganda law fines anyone that expresses support for LGBT rights in public. The law itself is propaganda and equates homosexuality with pedophilia. This has helped inspire groups such as Occupy Pedophilia, a Russian anti-gay vigilante army. The vigilante group uses the words “gay” and “pedophile” interchangeably and hunts downs gay and bisexual men, subjecting them to physical and verbal abuse, often posting this abuse in online videos to publicly humiliate and ostracize their victims. Spacey’s actions will only serve the agenda of these hate groups, because he is the public and famous figure they need to “prove” their unsubstantiated, hateful rhetoric.
Spacey had many years to come out and use his platform for something good. He has had years to use his fame to support the gay community and to help inspire and comfort young gay people who wish to be open about their sexual orientation. But he has twisted this chance, warping it into an ugly and pathetic excuse to save himself. As Wanda Sykes said, Spacey does not get “to ‘choose’ to hide under the rainbow.” What should have been a statement of apology veered into a deflection and an attempt to focus the narrative on his sexuality. He does not get to cower — he needs to come forward, not out, and accept the full burden of blame.
His story is not one about coming out and his victims should not become his coming-out story. This story is about abuse. That of six young men, including Anthony Rapp, Roberto Cavazos, Daniel Beal, Tony Montana, Harry Dreyfuss and an anonymous man. And it is about the abuse of power, which he used to not only sexually assault his victims, but to try and escape consequences.
Spacey’s actions must not serve as a reflection of the LGBT community, but of Hollywood. The LGBT community does not want Spacey; he has damaged, though certainly not destroyed, so many years of activism that is responsible for increased acceptance of queer people nationwide. Yet, Hollywood was apparently completely content in hiding the actor’s actions. This comes as no surprise — celebrities levy their power, money and ability to influence public perception to silence their victims. And, from everyone else, there is denial, indifference and spinelessness, all which leads to utter silence and a refusal to speak out against abusers and rapists. Hollywood has to do better, and we all have to do better. In a culture rampant with rape and abuse, this spinelessness cannot continue, because unless people start speaking up, the abuse will continue.
Jordan Saltzman is an undeclared sophomore. She can be reached at email@example.com.