Actor Lee Pace came out recently, but not on his own terms.
The 38-year-old actor is currently starring in the Broadway revival of Angels in America, almost ironically as Joe Pitt, a Mormon who spends the play coming to terms with his sexuality. In an interview with W Magazine, he was asked about his sexuality, to which he replied that he’s “dated men [and] dated women.” The reporter noted, however, he seemed “flustered and surprised by the question.”
“I don’t know why anyone would care,” Pace said. “I’m an actor and I play roles. To be honest, I don’t know what to sayI find your question intrusive.”
Pace later clarified on Twitter what his thoughts of the situation were.
“In a recent phone interview,” he wrote, “I was asked questions that I wasn’t expecting and found myself momentarily at a loss for the right words. My privacy is important to me, so I protect it. When interviewed by the media, I keep the focus on my work.”
In a recent phone interview, I was asked questions that I wasn’t expecting and found myself momentarily at a loss for the right words. My privacy is important to me, so I protect it. When interviewed by the media, I keep the focus on my work.
— Lee Pace (@leepace) March 5, 2018
“As a member of the queer community,” he continued. “I understand the importance of living openly, being counted, and happily owning who I am. That’s how I’ve always lived my life”
I sympathize with Pace because I also didn’t get to come out on my own terms.
I’m a pretty effeminate man who is automatically assumed to be gay by practically everyone I meet. As an adult,I’ve accepted this. But when I was 12 and still figuring things out, it was hurtful and confusing. I started having to think about my sexuality in sixth grade, after being bullied by classmates whose main attack was telling me I was gay.
I didn’t think I was gay, because I didn’t know what “gay” was. Like most sixth graders, I didn’t think much about my sexuality or anything substantial related to my identity. I wasn’t trying to fall in love–I simply wanted to build a following on tumblr and read Spider-Man comics, not come to terms with the scope of my sexuality.
That didn’t stop people from calling my a “fag” or a “sissy,” which I didn’t really pay any mind to, because as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t gay.
But because the world had decided that I was gay, I had to ask myself, Am I gay?
Eventually I came to the conclusion that they were right. It was true: I was gay–but I wasn’t ready to talk about. I was still figuring out my queerness, and the true scope of what it meant to be queer. I didn’t have any gay friends or mentors. The only gay person I knew was Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Actually being gay made the insults and bullying take on a whole new reality. It’s easy to deflect what isn’t true, but now I had accepted my gayness, the slurs and berating took on a searing realness that kept me up nights. Now I was what these people said I was. These people didn’t hate me for what they thought I was–they hated me for what I was and who I was.
Eventually, I was ready to come out to the people close to me. But coming out is special in that it includes opening up your innermost self to another person in a way that changes everything, and not just for the person coming out.
I lost my best friend. She was religious and told me I was going to hell. She never talked to me again. She also lost her best friend.
I lost my father. His homophobic attitudes informed me that wasn’t good enough and never would be. He sent me to conversion camp. He lost a son.
My mother didn’t care, but now she had a gay son. Other friends simply said “no shit” and things went on as normal, except now they weren’t afraid to talk to me about my being gay; something that outside of acknowledging the truth, I wasn’t ready to talk about.
I began to turn on myself. At 12, I wasn’t mature enough to properly deal with my sexuality, the pressure of which heightened into a depression that almost ended in suicide.
Pace isn’t a 12-year-old boy with junior high bullies. He is a successful actor who will probably walk away from his being outed unscathed. Nonetheless, he was ripped of a uniquely queer process that changes a person’s life, and the lives of the people around them. What if he wasn’t out to his family or friends? What if he, like so many of us, is still figuring out his sexuality?
The evidence of the situation points to Pace not being happy with how everything went down. He blocked the writer of the story, Brian Moylan, on Twitter after the story was published. (Moylan then mocked Pace, calling him “she” and disingenuously congratulating him for joining the “queer community.”)
If Pace wanted to come out and effectively become a spokesperson for queer actors in Hollywood, he would’ve done so on his own terms. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. And while it is great to have another queer person in Hollywood, his being outed makes his being family somehow less celebratory.
I wasn’t outed for clicks or for headlines. I’m not sure why my bullies outed me to everyone at school for any other reason than they didn’t care how I felt, or thought it was funny. While our coming outs were not nearly identical, both mine and Pace’s were done without the queer person’s choice. We weren’t consulted on if the world should know, and our feelings weren’t taken into account.
If Pace was simply afraid to come out because he didn’t want to lose work, that is his right. A person’s privacy shouldn’t be sacrificed for representation. Queer people are underrepresented in the media and have been for a long time because they are queer. Hollywood has been more willing to show queer stories, but it is often with straight actors (i.e. Call Me By Your Name), while many queer people struggle to find work. (As Pace noted on Twitter, he has proudly been part of LGBTQ-themed films, TV series, and stage shows including A Soldier’s Girl, The Normal Heart, Halt and Catch Fire, and, of course, Angels in America.
There have been multiple times in my life where I have tried to hide my sexuality for my own benefit or safety. Once I was going door-to-door for a job and was chased off by a man who “didn’t want fags on his property.” Afterward, I tried to make my voice sound deeper, attempted to act “straighter” at every door.
Being queer isn’t easy, and getting to a place where living openly and proudly is a privilege that doesn’t come without its challenges.
Maybe Pace isn’t sure of his sexuality. While everyone loves to talk about being true to oneself, many were mad when he refused to label himself. The way in which he was forced to have the conversation was not something he was given the opportunity to think through or prepare for.
I’m sad and angry for Lee Pace. My coming out was messy and filled with hardships for myself and the people around me. It left me with issues that I still deal with and am working toward fixing. I wasn’t able to brace myself for the fact that many people hate queer people, including people close to me. I also wasn’t ready to talk about it, and alienated people close to me because they weren’t on my timeline. Being outed means having to deal with all those messy feelings and emotions all at once, whether or not you are ready for it.
I don’t know if Pace was out to his family or his friends, but now he is out to the world. The world isn’t all people who care about you; just people who think they have the right to decide who you are, maybe even before you get the chance to figure it out yourself.
Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images
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