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On deck: All the gossip fit to print

And the gossip not fit to print

LANCING. The outing of Lance Bass was part of a growing trend by bloggers to out celebrities.

Britney Spears renounced the Kabbalah, Madonna took her children’s book to the Home Shopping Network and Nelly Furtado recanted her fleeting brush with bisexuality.

Meanwhile, Gioia Bruno, of 1980s pop power trio Exposé, proudly took things to the point of no return when she came out as bi on Q Television’s talk show, Brunch.

Ex-Buffy-slayer-in-training Iyari Limon (she played Kennedy and landed girl-loving witch, Willow), also came out, alongside long-term girlfriend DJ Sandra Edge.

George Michael, who’s been in and out of the spotlight for napping at traffic lights, pot possession and the like, gloriously refused to apologize when he was caught, in June, cruising Hampstead Heath and getting busy behind the bushes: “Are you gay? No? Then fuck off! This is my culture!”

In October’s Esquire, Brad Pitt proclaimed: “Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.”

But perhaps the most noteworthy element of 2006 has been the relentless speculation on Hollywood starship sexuality — in particular, celebrity outings, or “lancing,” as it’s being called, ever since *NSYNCer Lance Bass came out in July.

Bass only came out, of course, after heavyweight media probing. You remember all the rumours. He and boyfriend (now ex) Reichen Lehmkuhl (of million-dollar Amazing Race 4 fame) were seen frolicking through Provincetown’s gayest during the Jul 4 weekend. Then there was the San Francisco Pride festivities. On numerous occasions, the couple was caught (oh, God!) wearing one another’s clothes.

Though Bass, 27, initially refused to comment, he told People Magazine that it was time: “The main reason I wanted to speak my mind was that [the rumours] were really starting to affect my daily life. Now it feels like it’s on my terms. I’m at peace with my family, my friends, myself and God, so there’s really nothing else I worry about.”

Other targets of lancing?

Neil Patrick Harris, aka Doogie Howser, MD, who came out in November. Though Harris’s sexuality had been gossip fodder for years, the homo hubbub climaxed this fall. For starters, everyone’s favourite trash- talking media blog whore, Perez Hilton, begged that Harris come out (Perezhilton.com). Then Canada.com called Broadway actor, David Burtka, Harris’s “longtime sweetheart,” and suggested it was their coupledom that scored Burtka a spot on Harris’s CBS sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.

Though Harris’s publicist immediately stated Harris “wasn’t of that persuasion,” Harris, 33, responded by offering People an exclusive: “The public eye has always been kind to me, and until recently I have been able to live a pretty normal life. Now it seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships.

“So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumours or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love.”

TR Knight, who plays Dr George O’Malley on ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy, came out in October, following a flurry of speculation that was sparked by a fight between Knight’s costars, Isaiah Washington and Patrick Dempsey. The tangle, which occurred just prior to Knight coming out, involved Washington allegedly outing a costar when he told Dempsey, “I’m not your little faggot like [name deleted].” Reportedly, the name was withheld “because of the extreme nature of the slur.”

Knight told People magazine (again!) that he was sick of the gossip: “I guess there have been a few questions about my sexuality, and I’d like to quiet any unnecessary rumours that may be out there. While I prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope the fact that I’m gay isn’t the most interesting part of me.”

Other pressure cookers?

Actresses Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3) and Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight, Lost), who costar in BloodRayne (written by queer icon Guinevere Turner), found themselves in a storm when Loken said that she and Rodriguez had “partied a lot” on set. When FHM magazine asked Loken last December whether or not there was any make out involved, she said: “I plead the fifth on that.”

Loken, 26, initially turned heads back in 2003 when she made out with Pink. In Curve’s March issue, however, she came out: “I have dated and have had sex with men and women and have to say that the relationships I have had with certain women have been much more fulfilling, sexually and emotionally, than of those with certain men.”

As for Lehmkuhl, he is upset with the trend toward lancing. “People should be able to come out on their own. I don’t know so much that it helps gay equality if a celebrity is outed by someone else and it shows that they’re forced out. It seems like it just continues the vilification of homosexuality in the media in this country.”

But Perez Hilton vows to continue exerting pressure on celebrities to come out. In a recent update, the gay blogger notes: “We are throwing down the gauntlet and issue a challenge to all the closeted celebrities out there: Come out. Come out now! Come out in droves! Can you imagine the good it will do? Society will no longer be able to marginalize us! Please, stand up. Do your part. We are talking to you Anderson Cooper, Jodie Foster, Kevin Spacey, Clay Aiken, Queen Latifah, Ricky Martin, Matt Dallas, Wentworth Miller, Richard Simmons, Sean Hayes and the rest of you!”