Many people are surprised to learn that I was not an international superstar when I was 19 years old. They are also surprised to discover that women do not weep whenever I enter a room, that the private details of my life have never been publicly dissected, and that my face has never appeared on a billboard.
Aside from these small pesky differences, David Archuleta and I are practically the same person. First example: I live in Utah … and David Archuleta lives in Utah. Second example: I was in the closet when I was 19 years old … and David Archuleta … um … well, he had a walk-on cameo on Hannah Montana.
Archuleta, the 19-year-old runner-up from the seventh season of American Idol, may or may not actually be gay, but that certainly doesn’t made him immune from controversy. He recently came under fire for a series of ‘controversial’ tweets he posted to Twitter, after a number of gossip blogs claimed that the singer’s presence at a New York City gay club indicated that he himself was gay. His ‘controversial’ tweets, in which he denies being gay, read as follows:
“… it sounds like something’s going around that I need to clear up”
“Mental note to self: always ask where before you go! Wasn’t my kind of place lol, and I had no clue! I guess you live and learn …”
“… Hope that clears things up! Been seeing some of the tweets. sheesh!”
“Can get crazy quick. NO worries all, I wouldn’t get into things like that intentionally haha …”
Offensive!! Hurtful!! If we are to believe the melodramatic queens that rule the Twitterverse and the blogosphere, then David Archuleta is ‘freaking out’ over being seen in a gay club. Who does Archuleta think he is, a 19-year-old teenager raised in an overtly religious and conservative state?
Soon after being accused of being gay, Archuleta was then, ironically, accused of being anti-gay. So he once more took to Twitter and responded accordingly:
“I have friends who are gay, and they’re great people. Whether they’re gay or not doesn’t change how I think of them.”
“I have nothing against anyone, I’m sorry if that’s how it came across. I’m just not into the partying scene lol.”
On the surface, this is little more than petty celebrity gossip, overblown by the internet hamsters who have spun the internet’s hamster wheels into overtime. Nobody cares how a teenager spent his weekend, what his opinion is of gay people, or even whether he’s gay himself. This entire ‘controversy’ will probably blow over by tomorrow, and only an idiot would attempt to extract a larger social message from such a minor event.
Here is the larger social message I extract from this minor event.
I initially came out to a few close friends and family when I was 18, but didn’t start living openly as a gay man until I was 23. Like Archuleta, I grew up in a conservative Mormon family. I battled for a number of years with my sexual identity. When I was 17, a friend wrote me a letter in which he asked me, point blank, if I was gay. I viciously denied the accusation, and ‘freaked out.’ I didn’t lie because I was homophobic or malicious — I lied because I didn’t know who I was.
Coming out is a long and complicated process, as such a paradigm shift often requires a social and philosophical restructuring of one’s life. A number of people and Web sites attacked Archuleta for ‘freaking out’ when he was accused of being gay; yet how many of us actually marched out of the womb waving a rainbow flag? In fact, many gay men and women don’t come out until their late teens, early twenties, or (gasp!) even later in life.
This entire argument is only hypothetical, because it’s entirely possible that Archuleta isn’t gay at all. Nevertheless, there are other, less famous teenagers who will deal with similar situations. For such closeted teenagers to react to accusations of being gay with violence is completely unacceptable; on the other hand, for closeted teenagers to react to accusations of being gay with “Wasn’t my kind of place … I wouldn’t get into things like that intentionally” is not only understandable, but even acceptable.
Closeted teenagers still figuring their sexual identity shouldn’t be forced out of the closet, simply because anonymous people on the internet are trying to earn extra points in the more-politically-correct-than-you game. Let teenagers figure out who they are on their own timetable, starting with David Archuleta.
After all, it’s not as if David Archuleta did something truly offensive, like walk-on cameo on Hannah Montana.