How Kevin Spacey’s ill-timed coming out made LGBTQ communities more vulnerable to attack
The internet has been exploding over the last several weeks with allegations from men and women exposing Hollywood heavy hitters and their reputation as sexual predators. From this wave of resistance comes a story with a familiar arc, yet an unexpected twist: The allegations now include sexual misconduct toward a minor.
On Sunday evening into Monday morning, Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp, 46, made headlines when he brought the house of cards crashing down on Kevin Spacey with allegations of sexual misconduct toward him in 1986 when Rapp was only 14 years old. At the time of the encounter, Spacey was 26 years old.
Spacey, now 58, released a statement attempting to circumvent the media’s questions around his alleged misconduct with a minor, while repurposing the press for his own coming-out party. He left Rapp in the backdrop as he once again stole power from him.
As comedian Billy Eichner pointed out on Twitter, “Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out.” In less than three sentences, Spacey gaslit Rapp, centered his own emotions in response to his allegation and, like T-Pain, blamed it on the alcohol.
As if Spacey’s initial transgressions against Rapp weren’t harmful enough, watching him silence his victim by refocusing the dialogue around his own sexuality was gut-wrenching. Coming out as a gay man in order to deflect and avoid accountability wasn’t only an assault on Rapp, it was an assault on the LGBTQ community at large.
Coming out as gay isn’t the same as coming out about your sexual pursuit of a minor. Conflating homosexuality with pedophilia is taking a page straight from the Anita Bryant book of buffoonery.
Throughout the ’70s, Bryant and her ultra-religious husband, went on a national crusade promulgating the demonization of gay men. They disseminated the message that gay men were out to molest little boys, and that the children of America were in danger unless they were stopped. Their solution, as Bryant proposed in a 1977 press conference moments before having a pie slammed into her face by a gay activist, was to “do away with the homosexuals.”
For Spacey to choose this moment to come out does away with decades of progress in the destigmatization of gay men as sexual predators. As a trans woman plagued by propaganda that paints us all as men in dresses who prey on cisgender women and young girls in public restrooms, I understand the heavy labor involved. The demonization and hyper-sexualization has been a battle we’ve had to fight for centuries.
Spacey’s decision to center his sexual orientation in the conversation has given ultra-conservatives with homophobic agendas horsepower to drive their antiquated talking points right through LGBTQ rights. Our community shouldn’t be held hostage inside Spacey’s Porta-potty of poor decisions. He also doesn’t get to use us as a shield against his victim.
While some have applauded Spacey for having courage to share his truth, sharing isn’t caring in this situation. We need to stop enabling predatory behavior by allowing respectability politics to alter our perception of someone’s capacity to harm others. This isn’t about whether Spacey is a good guy or not. We don’t care if he kisses kittens on the forehead, helps old ladies across the street and assists people under 5 foot two inches by reaching cans on high shelves at the local market. We are specifically addressing accusations of an egregious encounter between himself and a 14-year-old boy.
This would be an entirely different conversation had Rapp been a young girl. We’re programmed to dismiss sexual violence against men and boys because of society’s warped definitions of masculinity and the belief that boys can protect themselves unlike girls. While girls are more prone to sexual abuse, one out of six boys will have experienced sexual abuse before reaching age 18. There are men and boys everywhere suffering in their silence because they’ve internalized their abuse as sex with a man versus experiencing violence from a man.
The fear of being labeled as “gay” and the rampant homophobia within our society silences them. In the same vein, male victims are often fearful that no one will believe them because many of their perpetrators are married or in relationships with women. It takes longer for the stories of male-on-male abuse to surface because we often fail to recognize the signs. We need to shift the social ecology around how we view male survivors of sexual harassment and violence while being intentional about creating safe spaces for their stories to be held. They deserve to heal just as much as female survivors of sexual harassment and violence.
Rapp, along with actors like Terry Crews, James Van Der Beek, Corey Feldman, Lance Bass and B2K’s Raz B. are warriors. They’re willingness to come forward despite criticism and backlash is beyond commendable. We need to lift them up and give them a platform to reach others still suffering in their silence.
Although Rapp is now an adult, part of him will forever remain 14. While he’s found freedom in breaking his silence, there are scars that won’t fade away so easily. If we fail to amplify Anthony’s voice, we’re also failing to protect our children. Allowing victims to be silenced is further propagation of rape culture and child molestation. It was inexplicably abhorrent to read comments on social media from men who believed the absence of intercourse absolved Spacey of sexual misconduct toward a minor.
Had Rapp been a few years younger, it may have been a complete wrap for him, as he may have been easier to subjugate. Nonetheless, Spacey’s conduct was unacceptable.
As a survivor of childhood molestation, I lost what could have been the best years of my life. There are elements of my childhood that I will never get back; and experiences in my adulthood that my trauma won’t let me explore. A great deal of my work in youth advocacy is in creating awareness around all forms of child abuse. I feel we owe it to them to bring this conversation to the national forefront. We need to remain focused and intentional about holding people like Spacey accountable for their actions. Don’t keep centering his sexuality, instead we need to #AmplifyAnthony and create safe spaces for other survivors to heal.