Pop star Ricky Martin came out yesterday, confirming his sexual orientation for the first time. And the most prevalent reaction across the board has been a sarcastic gasp of, “Ricky Martin’s gay? I’m so shocked!” Sure, nobody was really surprised by this revelation. I had a twinge of, “Wait, this is news?” myself. But what I really feel at the core is a deep sense of sadness that people have to first hide who they are, and then, later, announce it in order to quell years and years of speculation. I hate that we live in a world where you can’t just be. There is so much judgment, so much pressure, and this intrinsic need to slap a label on everything.
But on the other hand, there is also a great sense of hope when a public figure comes out, and I don’t want to diminish that at all. Seeing Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, and now Ricky Martin take this step basically says to the rest of us, “This is okay. I’m proud of who I am and you should be, too.” People struggling with their identity, with coming out to their families and colleagues and neighbors can draw strength from other people taking those steps. That’s a bit of beauty that springs from the tragedy of closeting.
Ricky Martin’s was actually the first concert I ever went to, sometime in 1999. (Yes, I was 21 when I went to my first concert. I led a sheltered life, okay?) And I, of course, knew of him from Menudo and his turn on General Hospital as Miguel. He’s one of those artists whose music really inspired me. I had Vuelve, I had his eponymous English debut album, I had Sound Loaded. I knew his lyrics by heart. But never once did I actually trouble myself about his sexual orientation. I remember that I thought he was gorgeous and talented and spiritual, but that I didn’t particularly care if he was gay or straight.
And that’s still the case. The man is gorgeous and talented and spiritual and does a lot of humanitarian work. And I don’t particularly care if he’s gay or straight. But I’m happy that he’s at peace with himself, and hopeful that his coming out will be yet another example that helps bolster LGBT youth — and even people coming to terms with themselves late in life.
But I really wish for the day when there are no closets to come out of, and who you love isn’t cause for fear and censure.