Actor Kevin Spacey is the latest celebrity to face allegations of sexual abuse in the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein revelations. In new accusations, actor Anthony Rapp alleged, according to Adam Vary at BuzzFeed, that “in 1986, Spacey befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.”
Spacey responded to the allegations in a statement. He wrote, “I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.”
But then he went on to do something unusual: He used the last half of the statement to come out as gay. “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man,” he declared.
It’s generally good when notable people come out. It shows gay people that despite a long history of anti-LGBTQ oppression, you can be gay and successful in American life. And LGBTQ activists, for one, say that more and more people coming out over the past couple of decades was key to building support for same-sex marriage and other rights.
But this news should not distract people from the bottom line: Spacey — an A-list actor — has been accused of aggressive sexual behavior toward an underage boy. Whether Spacey is gay is simply a footnote here. (Since this will inevitably come up, let’s be clear: Empirical research shows that gay men are not more likely than straight men to molest children or underage teens.)
The LGBTQ community has already pushed back against any inclusion of Spacey. Culture bloggers Tom and Lorenzo summed up the sentiment in a headline: “On Behalf of the LGBT Community, Fuck Off, Kevin Spacey.” Advice columnist Dan Savage tweeted, “I’m sorry, Mr. Spacey, but your application to join the gay community at this time has been denied.” And the LGBTQ group GLAAD slammed Spacey for coming out “to deflect from allegations of sexual assault.”
Yet so far, multiple media outlets have given as much, if not more, attention to Spacey coming out.
One of Reuters’s tweets for this story, for example, only pointed out that Spacey is gay, leaving out the allegations:
Actor Kevin Spacey declares he lives life as a gay man https://t.co/5cP3xh1MwI— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 30, 2017
The New York Times got the allegations in its tweet, but also pointed out that Spacey is now openly gay:
Kevin Spacey, accused of a sexual advance on a minor decades ago, apologized Sunday and then disclosed he was gay https://t.co/gOBfSK3mCT— New York Times Arts (@nytimesarts) October 30, 2017
This seems diversionary — what Spacey would want in this situation: Any news about him that is now focused on his sexual orientation will typically be more positive than Rapp’s allegations.
But we shouldn’t let this distract us. Again, Spacey was accused, as a big Hollywood celebrity, of abusing an underage boy. That should be the news of the day — and Spacey’s coming out needs to take a far, far back seat in the face of the other news.