Save a teen, save the world.
Zachary Quinto's character of Sylar was never on the right side of that battle in NBC's "Heroes," but as an actor and a role model, he's ready to do his part.
Quinto, who also stars in the rebooted Star Trek films, did something absolutely amazing over the weekend: He came out of the closet. He let the world know, in once again probably wasn't a deeply held secret, that he is gay. While there may be some who roll their eyes with a "so what" and "why do they need to tell everyone," this is quite significant, because Zachary's intentions were pure.
Jamey Rodemeyer took his own life at the age of 14 earlier this month after being bullied in school constantly because of his sexuality. Jamey really had no one to talk to, no one to help him through the ordeal. And he felt there was no other solution except a permanent one.
It's sad. Horribly sad. When Jamey took his life, someone told me that if he didn't come out to his classmates, they wouldn't have bullied him about being gay. But really, what are you accomplishing? It's either damned if you do, damned if you don't. You could stay in the closet, and keep who you are a secret. Then, it's a quiet torture, not being able to say who you are, and constantly afraid of the consequences if anyone ever found out. Or you could just avoid that and be proud of who you are, and the torture becomes much louder.
Gay teens are more prone to suicide because they are told that they are sick, they are an abomination to God, they are abnormal. An African-American leader once said that he didn't like the fact that discrimination cries from the gay and lesbian community were being compared to that of black people in the civil rights era, because they are totally different. They can't be compared.
He's right. They can't be compared. When you're black, you were born knowing that from the start. You go home to a black family. You are not keeping it a secret from anyone, because everyone knows. You have a family and friends support network. And yes, you may still get discriminated again, and you may still get bullied. But you are not alone.
When you're a gay teen, you may not be alone, either, but you certainly feel it. You likely only discovered it as you've grown into an adolescent, being told that straight was the only path. You have to then keep it a secret, and hope no one knows (although you feel like it's written across your forehead in everything you do). You don't have a family and friends support network, because your family isn't gay. They aren't going through the same things as you. You don't have a minister or priest, because they are against you too.
It's an absolutely horrible feeling, wondering if an outing -- whether on purpose or by accident -- will totally change your life, for the worse. You would think that harboring a secret that deep would be difficult enough. But what's worse is facing what might be alienation of family and friends. The people you care about the most, and who you hope care about you. And without role models of any kind, without seeing that hey, there's nothing wrong with being gay, you feel like you're the only one.
When I was a teenager in the early 1990s, there were no gay role models. There were no one to look up to. The only gay people you knew of were Rock Hudson and Liberace, and both were dead.
But celebrities coming out of the closet is important. Last month, Sean Maher from "Firefly" fame did it. For him, he just felt it was time. Zachary Quinto did it this weekend, because he was hoping his openness with the public would help prevent teens like Jamey -- with their whole lives ahead of them -- from ending it all before it even begins.
Both reasons are perfectly good reasons. I think Hollywood and other well-known figures should come out and be a role model. To show that being gay doesn't make you different. It's not a list of stereotypes that have been constant comedy fodder for years. It's being someone just like everyone else, who loves, who gets angry, who gets sad, who just want to find the soulmate that we all dream for. Just because it's not the whole mainstream man and woman thing means nothing. People have the right to love who they want, and seek out happiness, when it doesn't hurt a single other person.
Sean and Zachary have opened the closet door wide. Let's see if we can get even more to follow them out, and show that it really does get better. And that the choice Jamey sadly made is not chosen by anyone else.
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