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TODAY

Saturday, April 20

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Several days ago, actor Neil Patrick Harris, best known for his work on the teen doctor drama Doogie Howser, M.D. and star of the current CBS comedy hit How I Met Your Mother, issued the following statement:

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 rumors 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.

Not long after the announcement, reality TV star Reichen Lehmkuhl (he and his former partner won an installment of The Amazing Race) said Harris had been "lanced"; that is, "to be a celebrity outed by someone in the public media." It refers to Lehmkuhl's boyfriend, N'Sync-er Lance Bass, who in July granted People magazine an exclusive interview about being gay.

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton (whose real name is Mario Lavandeira) immediately took a large amount of credit for shoving Bass out the closet. "I know there is some controversy about outing people, but I also believe the only way we're gonna have change is with visibility. And if I have to drag some people screaming out of the closet, then I will."

Looking beyond the obviously phallic implication of the term itself — which, come on — and the fact that it was coined by one of the people involved in said "trend," "lancing" is a new term for an old, still controversial practice. US Weekly's Janice Min described Lavandeira as "a guy who draws cocaine sprinkles falling out of celebrities' noses and writes things like 'sucks d*ck' on pictures of celebs he wants to out." She's not wrong. Lavandeira went from trashing celebrities, to hanging out with them, to being cited as a gossip expert by several media outlets, both in the U.S. and overseas. He is unapologetic about both his obvious celebrity asskissing and his opinions about famous people in the closet. After Harris, Bass and T. R. Knight (George on ABC's Grey's Anatomy — Knight revealed he was gay after an on-set argument and scuffle in which co-star Isaiah Washington uttered the phrase "I'm not your little faggot like [blank]" to Patrick Dempsey) came out, Hilton pleaded for other celebrities to join them:

Today is another step towards full equality under the law for gays and lesbians, their relationships and their families. We are so proud (despite the naysayers) in having a hand in bringing about change. We've said it before and we will say it again: the closet no longer exists if you are a celebrity or a politician!…And, we are not done yet!!! 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!

He wasn't fool enough to mention Tom Cruise, who has been dogged by rumors for decades, but still. In contrast, E! gossip columnist Ted Casablancas, who is also gay, doesn't out-and-out out Hollywood homosexuals. However, he teases his audience by running "blind items" in his column; several of these detail the naughty bedroom shenanigans of actors and celebrities. Website Defamer invites readers to decipher the clues the secret identities and then posts the results, sometimes with hilarious results. However, as far as I know, Casablancas has never literally outed someone. Hinted, implied, pointed a finger — sure. But never a banner proclaiming "CELEBRITY X IS GAY!"

His favorite long-term target is Toothy Tile, a closeted actor this close to coming out. Almost everyone and their Internet dog claims it is Jake Gyllenhaal, but Casablancas has never confirmed this. Casablancas also claimed to know about Knight's sexuality but didn't disclose it until Knight himself came out to, of course, People magazine.

Does disclosing someone's homosexuality compare with Bill Maher recently outing Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, on Larry King Live? (CNN censored the statements when the show ran on the West Coast. The original clip on YouTube was pulled at the demand of the news network, yet the edited footage still remains.) Or Mark Foley, the Republican congressman from Florida that apparently sent explicit e-mails and instant messages to young men in the congressional page program, all while chairing the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children? Or Pastor Ted Haggard, a married Colorado Evangelical minister and father of five, who admitted his "sexual immorality" after a former male prostitute alleged he and Pastor Ted had had a three-year affair in which they both used methamphetamine?

Celebrities are not elected public servants, and each of the above-mentioned politicians had gone on the record against homosexuality in the months and years before their scandals made headlines. But do we have the right to know with whom our leaders — either political, of the box office and television ratings, or of the music charts — are having sex? One can reasonably argue that the private behavior of actors and musicians doesn't compare with similar situations of congresspeople, representatives or even our 42nd president. (Hi, Bill!) But celebrities also live in the public eye, and as a result, fans often feel obligated to know every detail.

One side argues that the more gays who are out and proud, the better chance that society as a whole will start see them as well-adjusted individuals and not moral deviants. This could help in the fight to grant homosexuals the same freedoms straight people sometimes take for granted. A subset of this viewpoint believes that closeted people in power — whether it is in government or in the entertainment business — are hurting the fight for gay rights by not speaking up about their orientation. By staying silent, they are only feeding the misconceptions and stewing in their own hypocrisy. Another way of thinking asks the questions, Whose business is it, anyway? Why should we care if Harris wants someone to doogie his howser? (Props to Conan O'Brien for that phrase.) Keep out of people's bedrooms — or kitchens, or bathrooms or pool houses…

I believe in a right to privacy. I also believe in using one's voice, no matter how small, to try and make a positive difference in the world. But I don't believe in forcing someone into a public situation, especially if it's nothing more that an blatant and transparent attempt to serve the pusher's agenda. It's not about advancing the rights for all people, no matter their sexual preference. It's about the number of page hits. And that's wrong.

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the CW's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at pop@gapersblock.com.

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