TR Knight

I remember when Grey’s Anatomy actor (but do we really know for how much longer?) T.R. Knight “came out” as a gay man. I admit, I was bit disturbed – NOT because Knight was gay, but because even though we are several years into the twenty-first century, “coming out” – for celebrities, anyway – has barely come any farther than a freaking press release, appearances on multiple talk shows, and a month’s worth of story material for Entertainment Tonight.

Of course, Knight’s situation wasn’t ideal (if you remember, former fellow Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington kind of took it upon himself to “out” Knight during a behind-the-scenes verbal showdown), and I don’t think any of us really know if Knight would have came out so publicly had Washington not set the wheels in motion.

Given the level of public scrutiny and ignorance (which, for the most part I believe, can be blamed on inexperience and inexposure rather than character flaws), I think many celebrities feel the need to hide their sexual orientation to prevent the public from viewing them a certain way. Then, in the event someone “outs” them without their consent, they feel compelled to make public statements in order to smooth out any wrinkles that might develop in the public’s view of them.

Basically, gay celebrities have stigma of their own to deal with (as do gay noncelebs). It’s sad (pathetic, really) that people would automatically gauge a person’s worth, talent, and overall likability based on his or her sexual orientation, and because of that judgment, it’s easy to see why publicly coming out can be such a big – and tricky – deal, and one that some celebrities, such as T.R. Knight, try to avoid if they can help it.

What’s interesting is that, despite the fear that coming out will significantly affect their personal and professional lives in negative ways, one survey shows that more people would rather come out than admit to having a mental illness.

According to a recent Time to Change poll:

Nearly one in three people in the UK say they would find it hard to admit to having a mental health problem compared to one in five who would find it difficult to come out as gay […].

You know, a person’s health – just like a person’s sexual orientation – is his own business. Having bipolar disorder or being gay doesn’t mean you automatically have to announce or admit anything. According to these results (which came from 2,300 adults), the fear and stigma attached to mental illness trumps the fear and stigma attached to homosexuality. Personally, I don’t think there should be any fear or stigma attached to either, but I understand that stigma exists. If a person wants to keep her mental health a secret – out of fear of stigmatizing labels or simply out of wanting a shred of privacy – fine.

What I find scary is the fact that sexual orientation isn’t a health problem that requires treatment. Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, on the other hand? They all are.

Hopefully, these people are at least not finding it difficult to “come out” with their mental health problem to themselves, their doctors, and the loved ones who can help them. Otherwise, how on earth are they going to receive proper treatment and support?

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