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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lance Bass comes out

So, this morning, the AP reported that Lance Bass, former member of N'Sync, had come out to People magazine. And this is news? There was always something about Bass that tickled my gaydar, so I'm hardly surprised by this little tidbit. But what's really interesting is how he felt that coming out publicly would sink N'Sync. I don't know much about boy bands, but to me, I really don't think Bass was the reason behind the popularity of that group. But then again, in general, I can't figure out what the popularity of that group was all about.

17 Comments:

Blogger jb said...

here is my take: i thought it was news in a lot of regards but primarily because its speaks to the heterosexism of pop music specifically with regards to the image of the male pop star (the female pop star is another story altogether). nsync was a band whose appeal was dependent on ALL the members sexual availability to crazed female fans (lance was an equal part of their succes and i say this not a lance fan but as someone knowledgeable about pop music in general disney boy bands in particular. alot of male pop/rock/r&b musicians are gay and few can come out because a good deal of their appeal is their hearthrob status. there is an enduring fantasy that underlines female fandom in general and "groupieism" in particular of hooking up with the male musician that deeply drives record and concert sales.

7/26/2006 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

JB's right, as far as Lance's popularity. Even with his lazy eye, he was considered "the other cute one". But vocally, he didn't do too much. He was a bass when most of their songs had NO baseline in the harmony.

But Lance coming out ain't gonna kill 'Nsync. Timberlake killed 'Nsync; Lance's announcement is just the nail in the coffin.

I will attest to the fact that the heartthrob issue is important to boybands, but it can be transcended. That group had been out of the spotlight for so long that this isn't gonna make or break them. We could take a page from Europe, though, where most of their major boybands had "the gay one" (Boyzone, Westlife, etc.) and it actually BROADENED their fanbase. The only diff is that these bands...for lack of a better term, "matured" as time went on and their fans kinda looked at them as bubblegum nostalgia rather than simply the new cover boys of Tiger Beat.

In America, all boybands are "gay". They've never gotten good press, either because they're manufactured, don't write their own songs, they're way too pretty, etc. But across the pond, it's a different story. I really hope that the press doesn't dwell on this for long. I hate that this is considered news.

Besides, we all knew that about Lance. The real story'll be when JC comes out...

7/26/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

And while we're on the topic, can I just vent about how many media outlets get that group's name wrong?! Here's a history lesson: The apostrophe goes BEFORE the "N", not afterwards. The group's name is an acronym of the last letter of their nicknames: justiN, chriS, joeY, lansteN (original dude's name was jasoN, but he got kicked out; the "genius" in marketing came up with Lance's convoluted nickname to make the name work), jC. The apostrophe denotes the fact that the "I" is missing. So many sites are getting that wrong today.

Signed,
The Guy Who Owns More Boyband Albums Than Carrie Bradshaw Owns Shoes

7/26/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I agree, pop music is incredibly heteronormative and the very fact that this made headline news is a testament to that fact. That being said, I never thought 'N Sync had a "cute" factor involved -- I always thought teenie boppers liked them for the music and as the poor man's Backstreet Boys. Seriously. I mean, who ever thought ANY of them were attractive?

"And while we're on the topic, can I just vent about how many media outlets get that group's name wrong?! Here's a history lesson: The apostrophe goes BEFORE the "N", not afterwards. The group's name is an acronym of the last letter of their nicknames: justiN, chriS, joeY, lansteN (original dude's name was jasoN, but he got kicked out; the "genius" in marketing came up with Lance's convoluted nickname to make the name work), jC. The apostrophe denotes the fact that the "I" is missing. So many sites are getting that wrong today."

Will, you are either really scary or are betraying a level of geekiness I didn't think was humanly possible.

7/26/2006 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Sara said...

I don't know how old most of you guys are, but as a lass who was in early middle school when 'NSYNC was big, I can tell you that nearly half the girls in my class had a crush on at least one of the band members.

7/26/2006 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Sara said...

And even in early middle school, they bought CDs.

7/26/2006 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous sheldiz said...

"Signed,
The Guy Who Owns More Boyband Albums Than Carrie Bradshaw Owns Shoes"

he's all mine, ladies and gentlemen (especially gentlemen, apparently)....

7/27/2006 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Jay said...

In America, all boybands are "gay".

No. In America, anything that doesn't conform to the belching, roaring, grunting, muscle-car-loving, gun-toting, football (and we don't mean that thing they call soccer on the other side of the world) loving stereotype is "gay".

7/27/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

The problem here is that we now know way too much about Lance Bass. This is not a news story. Who cares?

Mainstream media outlets only further homophobia when they assert that the entire populace should concern itself with the sexual identities of its celebrity class. Such unnecessary public scrutiny insults those who come out, as well as those unconcerned with Lance Bass' sociopolitical identification.

7/27/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

Amen! And while we're here, I'd like to take this opportunity to reveal that I...am straight. And I'm also Black. Double whammy! Suck on THAT, Bass!

7/27/2006 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger mingerspice said...

James said: Mainstream media outlets only further homophobia when they assert that the entire populace should concern itself with the sexual identities of its celebrity class. Such unnecessary public scrutiny insults those who come out, as well as those unconcerned with Lance Bass' sociopolitical identification.

I'm ambivalent on this issue myself. While I personally am of the opinion that almost NO entertainment "news" actually is worthwhile, I dont think we should single out news about a celebrity's coming out as gay as especially non-newsworthy.

I am not convinced that it furthers homophobia to publish news about a celebrity's coming out. What usually does further homophobia is the endless speculative articles when certain celebrities are not out. Another thing that can further homophobia (depending how and why it's done) is "outing" - when some paper publishes information about a celebrity's sexuality acquired without that celebrity's consent.

The news about Bass' coming out has gotten a lot of play on the queer blogs and news sites I read. Most or all of the posts are positive and congratulatory. Some reminisce about their own coming out experiences. We like to hear about people coming out precisely because for many LGBT people the act of coming out is fundamentally different from being gossipped about or "outed". It can be very empowering, while the other two are absolutely NOT.

Coming out narratives are very powerful for a lot of LGBT people and their families and friends. Public coverage of those narratives, if done right, can in turn expose people to stories about LGBT people's lives and the importance of living openly that will reduce rather than increase homophobia. Of course, this requires some sensitivity on the part of the editors and writers. Definite No-No's include heterosexist headliness/story angles like: "Sorry Girls, He's Gay!" (which I've seen before) that frame coming out as a "loss" of a heterosexual rather than an act of honesty by a queer person.

Most of the coverage of the Bass thing I've seen has been appropriate and even educational (admittedly, I read just one or two articles, clicked through from the blogs - although one or two is probably enough, isn't all news just cut and pasted from AP nowadays?).

7/27/2006 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

One problem Mingerspice: Bass came out to People, not The Advocate. If his coming out narrative has any benefit, it's logical it could assist his community, but that does not explain why the mainstream's entertainment magazine need discuss his sociopolitical identities.

Further, why would anyone expect straight media outlets to produce sensitive, uplifting stories on a celeb's coming out? Of course they are going to write tripe like "Sorry Girls, He's Gay!" - straight media outlets have no financial reason to respect homosexuality (or discuss it without a false relation to heterosexuality), since their buying public overwhelmingly includes straight people.

To be honest, though, I have to ask: why would Lance Bass' sexuality be news? What could possibly be the publicly relevant angle? It's Lance Bass, the guy who couldn't buy himself a Russian space ticket. Now I've gotta recall him because he says he's gay? That's the special treatment when the passing narrative meets American minor celebrity: you're encouraged to retain interest in less-than-interesting people because they sing, or dance, or act, or do all of the above badly, and when you tire of their strutting and fretting across the stage, they return with the identity politics encore that may endear them to your heart once again.... unless you're a bigot.

Well, I'm going to say it - personal identities like homosexuality can't be respected in a society where utterly vanilla D-listers can suddenly apply that identity like Max Factor to reinvent themselves in the public mind. It's not that I doubt Bass' coming out narrative, but I find the use of personal identities as publicity stunts especially repugnant. My cynicism asks why does homosexuality work so well as newfound publicity; if Chris Brown sat down with People to inform them that he's Black, no one would care. And no one should: yes, it's public knowledge, but really, it's his identity, his narrative; Chris Brown's Blackness doesn't really affect the public interest in any conceivable manner.

If Lance Bass needed to let his family and friends know about his sexuality, cool. If he wanted to inform his community about his open membership, cool. But going to People has to be interpreted as publicity first, politics distant second.

7/28/2006 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

"It's Lance Bass, the guy who couldn't buy himself a Russian space ticket. "

Priceless =)

7/28/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger mingerspice said...

James - Spurred on by this comment exchange, I've read some of the entertainment "news" a little more closely.

I think Bass was in imminent danger of being "outed", since he'd been spotted with his partner somewhere (not that I could pick either of them out of a crowd, but whatever). Going to People with his story was probably a pre-emptive move to prevent the negative effects of homophobic gossip/outing stories on his career and (tangentially) LGBT communities.

As for not going to the Advocate, you're right, that may have been a better choice on Bass' part. But I'm not here to defend Lance Bass. I was just saying that media coverage of a celebrity's coming out story need not further homophobia.

So the money question- Did the media coverage in THIS case further homophobia or help dispel it?

Thank goodness Queerty has done a run down of the media coverage, sparing the rest of us the task of reading through entertainment "news".

7/29/2006 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger mingerspice said...

Oh also, I don't think one can compare stories about revelations of race (often plainly visible) to revelations of sexuality (largely invisible).

A better hypothetical would be to suppose Chris Brown sat down with People and informed them that he uses medical marijuana, or that he was a survivor of abuse (btw, neither of these is true as far as I know) I think that would be a pretty big story, even though ordinarily it would be none of our business, the fact that he would come out and say something like that in the public eye would mean something.

I draw the analogy to coming out as gay.

7/29/2006 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Mingerspice, you're not saying why revelations of personal behavior from celebrities cast as identity politics emerges as big news stories. That stuff is never in the public interest; just because we live in a society where media outlets investigate charges of drug use, childhood abuse and homosexuality among celebrities does not imply that the public interest is best served by those personal behavior stories.

Quite the opposite I think, and that's why homophobia bleeds from every new public celebrity coming out. Many straight people hate the very concept of homosexuality to some degree, and men who make their living from selling sexuality to young women, like male pop stars, will be interpreted by some as liars and cheats when they come out, and further the rampant stereotype of the untrustworthy homosexual who hides his personal deviance from public view among a straight public that hates and fears gay people. It's not right, it's not okay, and in a more reflective world Lance Bass' coming out might make us all pause and consider our own prejudices, even the young women who idolized him during 'NSync's heyday.

There's just one problem - news, ideally, objectively recounts events of the day important to the public interest. Our daily news should not be a socialization tool designed to further anyone's cause; that's why Fox News Channel's incessant flag-waving simplicity always devolves their broadcasts from news to right wing propaganda. Of course, the Left screws up in this manner all the time; who can forget the newfound focus on child abuse in the news media after Oprah discussed her childhood trauma. The point is that talking about one's personal business to the media as a celebrity always displays more publicity hunger than moral certitude, and rarely deserves our sympathy, if ever.

Now, to be honest, that would be a fine dismissal of the celeb drug addict post-rehab, or the now healthy celeb bulimic - but never for the closeted celeb homosexual, whose personal narrative so involves the necessary personal deception of passing that the straight public can neither judge nor understand the celeb's motivations. No straight person is morally equipped to examine the life of the closeted homosexual. In a world like ours, where racial information isn't always obvious to the viewer (Tiger Woods, y'all) and sexuality cannot be determined from a passing glance, the debased transidentifying known as passing still matters, and we only silence discourse and debate within identity politics circles when those who pass publicly escape any criticism, even though they tell everyone of their crime. Heterosexism assumes that everyone is straight, and that unfairly creates pressures for young homosexuals that lead to the personal catharsis called coming out, but People perverted Lance Bass' honesty just like those rumors about his sexuality.

As a Black man, I condemn both Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez, who rediscover their ethnic roots whenever they release a new album and forget their colored communities in the interim. Passing grates, chafes, reminds those of us enveloped in burnt sienna melanin and broad sub-Saharan features that American acceptance remains color-coded today and Americans cast out the shadows in their midst. I despise passing, and disagree with the passing inherent in many coming out stories; to cynically hide one's true identity in order to escape the silent judgment of the privileged majority and profit from said disguise nauseates. As long as homophobia involves a straight person's fear of the unknown, closeted homosexuals who come out publicly open themselves to the unfair concerns of those who will never understand them, and harm themselves in that process.

Meanwhile, because of their own pathetic fear of public condemnation, straight people who have questions, comments, or concerns do not speak, and their inherent homophobia festers unchallenged. These straight people respond to Lance Bass' coming out with a simple thought process: "X person came out. Now I know. I can avoid being a bigot if I don't say anything aloud." This parallels self-censorship among the White student Left during the late Sixties and early Seventies, who watched the criminal excesses of the Black Panthers and other Black nationalist groups with horror and silence and encouraged double consciousness among their liberal White population that could view Panther violence, extortion, and sexual coercion with a blind eye and deaf ear so long as the Panthers fed impoverished schoolchildren free breakfast before school. It's not that Lance Bass (and celebrities like him) shouldn't come out; of course he should if that's his choice. But no one need report his choice to anyone; it's a personal matter involving one person's life, literally involving the individual alone, not the public.

7/29/2006 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger mingerspice said...

Mingerspice, you're not saying why revelations of personal behavior from celebrities cast as identity politics emerges as big news stories.

You're right, I didn't. In fact if I were to go into why, I'm pretty sure we'd be in agreement that the media's attention on celebrity news at all both reflects and contributes to a diminished public interest in non-celebrity issues like, oh, politics. I was just saying that given that there is celebrity news at all, I don't think coming out stories are an especially bad type of news, nor are they inherently homophobic, and may even help reduce stereotypes or negative emotions towards LGBT people.

Many straight people hate the very concept of homosexuality to some degree, and men who make their living from selling sexuality to young women, like male pop stars, will be interpreted by some as liars and cheats when they come out, and further the rampant stereotype of the untrustworthy homosexual who hides his personal deviance from public view among a straight public that hates and fears gay people

Again, you're probably right that no matter how the story is reported, some people will interpret this as "gay guys are dishonest". However, no publication can hope to completely control its readers' interpretations. If the article is generally respectful and informative, at least some of the audience will learn. We can't condemn an article for broaching a topic just because some bigots will have nasty thoughts no matter what it says about that topic. A newspaper could report on, for example, the new LGBT anti-discrimination laws passed in California, and some bigots might think "there go those gays with their special rights again". Does this mean that papers shouldn't report on anti-discrimination laws?

The point is that talking about one's personal business to the media as a celebrity always displays more publicity hunger than moral certitude, and rarely deserves our sympathy, if ever.

Like I said, I'm not concerned with morally judging or second guessing the motives of the celebrity who comes out. I don't see what good it does us to engage in that pretty speculative discussion. I'm more focused on the effect of coming out stories on the reading public.

I despise passing, and disagree with the passing inherent in many coming out stories; to cynically hide one's true identity in order to escape the silent judgment of the privileged majority and profit from said disguise nauseates. As long as homophobia involves a straight person's fear of the unknown, closeted homosexuals who come out publicly open themselves to the unfair concerns of those who will never understand them, and harm themselves in that process.

I'm hopefully misinterpreting your statement, but it sounds like you're saying that LGBT people just shouldn't come out except to close friends and relatives? Speaking as a queer man and person who's worked in the LGBT community, I would strongly disagree with this assertion, from a political and psychological point of view. Coming out for queers is precisely an act of not-passing, and an ongoing process (you don't just come out once).

I'm guessing that by "the passing inherent in many coming out stories" you mean the fact that coming out as queer usually entails a pre-coming out period in which the person "passed" as straight/non-trans. I too think that passing is morally and psychologically suspect at best. However, to condemn coming out stories because they entail a prior period of passing is a bit weird. It's like saying that you hate lying, but also hate when people who have lied later confess and tell the truth and have that truth publicized. Surely it is better that they do so than continue to uphold the lie. Note: I'm not saying that passing is the same as lying, it's far more complicated than that, of course.

because of their own pathetic fear of public condemnation, straight people who have questions, comments, or concerns do not speak, and their inherent homophobia festers unchallenged. These straight people respond to Lance Bass' coming out with a simple thought process: "X person came out. Now I know. I can avoid being a bigot if I don't say anything aloud."

I don't really understand why this is a reason not to print coming out stories. Would these straight people have been any more well informed or less homophobic if the story had not been printed? Anyway, if we're going to speculate about reactions to these articles, while I don't know the statistics and can speak only from anecdotal and personal experience, for many LGBT people having these stories in shared culture can make it easier for us to come out personally. Suppose a lesbian sees her straight male friend reading the article and not having a negative reaction. She might decide then that it would be ok to come out to him. It's a bit harder to keep your questions, comments and concerns silent when it's one of your friends that you know is queer.

But no one need report his choice to anyone; it's a personal matter involving one person's life, literally involving the individual alone, not the public.

Coming out as queer is inherently dual in nature - both personal and public. It articulates a feeling of commonality with a certain social group with a distinct political identity. There are plenty of men who have sex with men who would never identify as "gay", and hence would never come out as such.

7/30/2006 01:44:00 AM  

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