A fake People magazine cover featuring Taylor Lautner with the headline “Out and Proud” recently surfaced on the net, quickly exploding on Twitter and Facebook feeds. Twi-hards were devastated, celebrity outers were vindicated, and gossip rags were crestfallen because writing about Taylor being openly gay isn’t half as fun (or profitable) as writing about Taylor being secretly gay. Even Russell Simmons got in on the action, tweeting his congratulations.
Of course it’s now been revealed that the cover was a scam, with People spokesperson Julie Farin saying, “The cover in question is 100 percent fake. This began as a ridiculous Twitter joke that went viral."
The problem is that this isn’t a joke. Maybe Taylor is and maybe he isn’t, but shouldn’t we respect his right to be or not be on his own terms? There is the argument that it’s important to out celebrities because the more famous people we have out and about, the more exposure, the more understanding and the more acceptance that will create. Yadyadaydada. That only works if the celebrity in question is “out and proud” willingly. If he’s being dragged out of the closet, exposed, tormented, forced — what kind of a message does that send to the world? It’s not something to celebrate when it’s done through humiliation. When we shame stars into being out, we are implying there is something to be ashamed of.
It’s like Russell Simmons said after it was revealed that the cover was a hoax: “Disappointed that people would joke about someone coming out about their sexuality. Let Taylor Lautner be whoever he wants to be."