opinion

Letter from the Editor: 'Sometimes 'coming out' is most powerful when it's a casual statement of fact'

Attitude's Cliff Joannou reflects on the concept of 'coming out' as Brian J. Smith appears on the cover of our new December issue.

2019-11-08

Attitude's December issue is out now to download and to order globally.

When was the last time you came out to somebody? For me, it was in conversation with a chatty cab driver on a Saturday night in late October en-route home from a friend’s house.

The driver made a casual comment about having girlfriend trouble and that I would no doubt be able to relate. I replied that I’d actually broken up with my boyfriend a few months ago.

Driver said: “Sorry mate” — he wasn’t apologising for assuming I was straight but because he was sympathetic to my situation, which I guess is sweet of him. (And progress for reasons relating to homosexual emancipation, even if it doesn’t resolve my broken heart.) We then proceeded to engage in small talk: weather, work, Christmas, etc.

At the end of my journey, I got out of the cab, and as I went inside rated the driver five stars for his reasonably open-minded attitude to sexuality and wondered whether he would return the favour with a five-star rating for my ability to feign interest in his perspective on Brexit. (I guess there are some things people will never see eye to eye about.)

What we can be certain of, at least for the foreseeable future, is that coming out doesn’t end with your family, friends or co-workers.

Not every coming-out moment is as scary and dramatic as those early experiences can be, as you struggle to find the words to reveal one of your most authentic truths. It can happen in a passing moment while sharing personal information with a colleague in a new job, when you move home and meet the neighbours, or when you get into the cab of an Uber driver.

The same goes for our December issue’s cover story with actor Brian J Smith, who many will recognise from his leading role as Will in Sense8, and more recently as Webster in the BBC war drama World on Fire or Doug in US series Treadstone.

I feel proud that Brian chose to share the information about his sexuality with Attitude, not in a profound declaration in which he professed some long-held secret, but that he simply chose to share an aspect of his life that he had previously not discussed publicly.

Similarly, when Fleabag and Sherlock actor Andrew Scott addressed his sexuality in a 2013 interview with The Independent, it was casual and without fanfare. There was no “coming out” because he had already worked through that process in his personal life with friends, family and whoever.

We all love the “is he, isn’t he?” game of whether that hot cop from the Netflix show or Moriarty in Sherlock is queer IRL or not. And that’s OK, when it’s just friends sharing speculation.

Brian J. Smith, shot by Harol Baez exclusively for Attitude's December issue, out now

Thankfully, we’ve moved on from the days not that long ago when it would be the tabloids’ prerogative when and how they outed somebody. Today, the media (mostly) know to leave those questions aside, unless offered by the subject.

So, all power to those people in the public eye, whose simple statements of fact help show that, yes, you can be a queer actor and play the hot (heterosexual) priest in a major TV series and, yes, you can be LGBTQ and play the lead action role in a Jason Bourne spin-off.

We have still a long way to go. But the longest races are won through individual steps, not leaps and bounds. Sometimes, “coming out” is at its most powerful when it is a casual statement of fact about the reality of a person’s identity.

Attitude's December issue is available to download and to order globally now.

Buy now and take advantage of our best-ever subscription offers: three issues for £3 in print, 13 issues for £19.99 to download to any device.