Toronto
3 min

Rosie’s badly-kept secret

Not only that, but two straight girls are having a cat fight over who gets to tell the world about it

BIG FUSS? Was there really anybody out there who didn't know? Credit: Xtra files

News flash: Rosie O’Donnell is gay! Gosh, who’d have thunk it? No signs that the talk show host was a big dyke.



Not only that, but two straight girls are having a cat fight over who gets to tell the world about it.



Rosie was supposed to come out in any interview with Dianne Sawyer, set to air Thu, Mar 14. But Barbara Walters couldn’t resist a good scoop, and just dropped a mention of Rosie’s sexuality into a story. Oops! (Apparently, Barbara is very sorry….)



So what’s the big fuss? Was there really anybody out there who didn’t know?



Coming out for celebrities feels very been-there done-that. Ellen did it, Melissa did it, Rupert did it. The world doesn’t end. It’s no big deal. And, like the advocates of coming out and outing say, it’s important to have those high profile role models.



After all, what has Rosie risked? She waited until the end of the run of her show. No more show, no worries of falling ratings, no worries of sponsors pulling advertising, no worries of being cancelled by the network.



But sometimes it is a big deal, like in Rosie’s case. The gay and lesbian community and its closest friends might have known about her for years, but for many in the straight world, her announcement is a shocker.



Her talk show, her eponymous magazine and her mass popularity, are all about her appeal to the average American housewife/mom. She’s not beautiful or thin or sexy or fabulously upper class (though she is very, very rich). All this, and her sense of humour, adds up to her being “real.” She talks about real stuff, and shares the real stuff from her life.



Except for one little thing – her sexuality. She didn’t share it with her viewers because she doesn’t share it with most viewers.



And that one little thing is probably enough to alienate an awful lot of the people who tune in every day. The housewives from small town Missouri or Montana just don’t see things in that “get over it” mentality we might have.



So maybe we should give Rosie a credit for putting her money where her mouth is – or maybe in her case, her mouth where her money is.



It’s not just about her personal risk, but the statement she’s making with her timing. The coming-out story has emerged around Rosie’s involvement in a legal case challenging Florida’s law banning adoption by homos. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the ban, arguing that the law is discriminatory, and that the bigotry of the law hurts children and families. Rosie, a part-time resident of Florida and an adoptive mother of three children, has been working on the case for a year now.



The interview with Dianne Sawyer apparently will involve Rosie talking about her sexuality in the context of this case.



Now, some homo folks might prefer that Rosie, and other unnamed celebrities, just come out for the sake of coming out. But I can’t help but respect Rosie for tying her coming out to a real-life legal controversy. For having the guts to get involved in a case that should cause outrage on the part of lots of celebrities, gay or straight, who are too busy being fabulous to care.



This is no apple pie issue. Gay rights remain controversial in the US, with the idea of homo parenting and adoption making some people apoplectic. Rosie is standing up for something she believes in.



At one time, coming out was a political act in its own right. Maybe that time has passed. Maybe it’s time that we actually expect more from famous people. They shouldn’t hide their sexual orientation. But they need to do more than say they’re gay. They need to put some of their fame, their time and their money into some causes that really matter. Rosie’s doing that.



Despite how easy it is to be bitchy about the tempest in the teapot of her coming out, I can’t help but say, You go girl!





* Brenda Cossman is a member of the board of Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra.