A memo to New Kid on the Block Jonathan Knight, who slammed Perez Hilton for outing him in the press.
Before I begin, I’d like to propose that “boy band” be declared its own form of sexual orientation apart from the gay-straight spectrum. The mixture of team machismo, harmonized falsettos, and windbreaker pants is sexlessly hypersexual. Kinsey scores it as a six divided by zero.
But one boy-bander is here to re-declare his sexuality, among other things. Jonathan Knight, the New Kids on the Block member who confirmed he was gay in 2011 after Perez Hilton had suggested it for years and fellow ’80s pop sensation Tiffany mentioned it indirectly in an interview, spoke with the UK’s Gay Times and opened about about being gay. Knight also confirmed that he hates (hated?) having to talk about it.
“Perez tried to out me many times and I hate that guy for doing that,” Knight noted of Hilton. “I was already gay and living a gay lifestyle but he wanted me to talk about it. Why? My brother and the rest of the guys don’t go on interviews saying ‘I’m straight’ etc. so why do I need to just because I’m gay?”
He continued about Hilton: “People like him want me to talk about it to make themselves feel better. They think ‘I’m gay so I want to make sure everybody knows I’m not the only one out there.’ I hate that.”
He added, “I felt stupid having to make a public statement… Even when the band got back together in 2008, New Kids fans knew I was gay. Everyone did.”
Dear Jonathan Knight:
I’m glad you’re out. That’s my main point.
Seven problems, though:
1. Not everyone knew you were gay. And those who did knew because of Perez Hilton. It’s hypocritical to condemn Perez Hilton’s outing protocol, then claim you’re annoyed you have to address the obviousness of your gayness because Perez Hilton suggested it might be obvious. He was just agreeing with you.
2. If you’re a celebrity, you have the right not to talk about your sexual orientation. The catch is, everyone else has the right to comment on why you exercise that right. And that’s the way it should be! There isn’t a problem here.
3. Perez Hilton isn’t wrong for “outing” men who are walking the streets with their boyfriends. Every other paparazzo and publication before him that refused to publish information about closeted celebrities for fear of legal consequences was wrong. Gayness is a fact. Journalists report facts. If you’re a journalist who is not reporting facts, you’re doing it wrong.
4. Your brother and fellow bandmates don’t have to talk about being straight because heterosexuality is considered the default sexual identification. Also, boy bands have thrived for decades on the marketability of heterosexual heartthrobs to preteen girls. The other NKOTBers chose to be a part of the heterosexual dreamboy factory, and they happen to be heterosexuals in their private lives too. There’s not really a story there.
5. You can’t honestly think that Perez Hilton tried to out you because he “wants to make sure everybody knows [he’s] not the only one out there”? First of all, you’re a gay person shaming another gay person for talking about gayness in public. That’s too bad. Secondly, what a shame it would be if a blogger (gay or straight) pointed out that more celebrities are gay than meet the eye. Uh oh, more fact-spreading from journalists! Third, we need more celebrities to come out. I’d like if the percentage of gays among famous people came close to resembling the percentage of gays among un-famous people. I don’t care that Jodie Foster has had a partner named Cydney and a couple of kids. I care that she is Jodie Foster and she is gay (allegedly), because that’s one tally closer to a statistically accurate readout of gays in Hollywood. This is all a smokescreen for the most uncomfortable issue of all: Celebrity lives (or what we can grasp of them) are important to society and our understanding of ourselves. There.
6. I will never stop thinking it’s weird when reticent gay celebrities expect everyone else to be reticent with them, just because we’re used to not talking about gay issues. With all due respect to my Time Machine Husband (TM) Anthony Perkins, you probably shouldn’t become famous if you think part of the deal is you can dictate public discourse about you or whomever you’re romantically involved with. If you think your private life should be a foggy temple of intrigue and secrets, you probably shouldn’t go on Oprah so she can devote a whole episode to discussing your panic disorder, which happened in 2001. And you especially shouldn’t try to capitalize on the fame of your youth with a 2008 comeback album, if the specifics of your privacy means so much to you.
7. I’m ready for the smart version of the reticent gay celebrity. If we’re going to have cagey gay celebs, I want one who publicly admits, “Y’know, there’s a lot of active closeting in Hollywood. I can understand wondering if I’m a part of that system. I never really talked about being gay before, but then one day there I was being gay and a celebrity in public, someone reported it, and I had to admit: I’m a gay celebrity in public!” That’s a new kid I can get behind.