On Wednesday, Barry Manilow – the voice behind beloved-by-grandma classics such as Mandy and Could it be Magic – came out as gay. The 73-year-old American crooner has been with his husband, Gary Kief, for almost 40 years, but had never previously confirmed his sexuality. His main reason for not being open before now, he said, was that he didn’t want to disappoint his fans.
News of Manilow’s sexual orientation wasn’t a total surprise to everyone. People magazine reports that the singer’s relationship with Kief was “an open secret to some in [Manilow’s] long-devoted, mostly female fan base”, and that rumours had circulated after the couple married in private in 2014.
Consequently, many people were quick to take to Twitter to claim that they “already knew” Manilow was gay.
But responding with “Well, duh!” when someone reveals they are gay isn’t just beside the point – it can be downright offensive and harmful. It also overlooks one tiny thing: this moment really isn’t about you, remember?
Anna Kendrick skewered the people putting themselves at the centre of Manilow’s coming out story with a characteristically dry tweet.
Read more: What it’s really like to come out at work
“Lots of people seem really proud of themselves for announcing they ‘already knew’ Barry Manilow was gay,” wrote the 31-year-old actor.
“Yeah… You’re the true heroes today, guys.”
She then retweeted a follower who referenced Pepsi’s self-congratulatory (and hugely controversial advert) starring Kendall Jenner.
Kendrick’s tweet touches on an important issue – namely, that deciding to come out on one’s own terms is a hugely significant moment for any member of the LGBTQ community. And while effectively shouting ‘I knew it!’ might seem like you’re saying that you don’t care about whether a person is gay or straight, it can undermine what feels like a major turning point in a person’s life.
“Even if you’ve always suspected this person was LGBT, it can be impolite or even offensive to point this out,” writes Miranda Perry for Care2. If you respond this way, Perry says, the person in question “may feel ashamed that it’s taken them so long to come out and they don’t need to be reminded of that struggle.”
Furthermore, coming out on one’s own terms – rather than have people make assumptions for you – can have a profound effect on one’s mental and physical health. In 2013, researchers affiliated with the University of Montreal found that LGBTQ people who had “come out” had lower stress hormone levels and fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression and burnout.
In conclusion: don’t say ‘I told you so’ when someone comes out, feel happy that they felt comfortable enough to do so, and always listen to Anna Kendrick. The woman knows what she’s talking about.
Images: Rex Features