On October 29th, Buzzfeed News published a story wherein Anthony Rapp says that Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance at him when Rapp was just 14 and Spacey was 26. That same day, Spacey made a statement on Twitter where he claimed that he doesn’t remember the encounter, that he owes Rapp an apology for his “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,” and that he’s sorry.
That’s the first half of the statement, which is lukewarm at best. Pinning down a 14 year old on your bed, alone with him in your apartment? Those things are not “inappropriate,” they’re downright criminal. 12 years his senior and with Rapp still in puberty, Spacey’s actions are pedophilic. Enough said. Case closed.
Ah, but the case was not closed, because Spacey then continued to speak. “This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life,” he wrote. “I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy.” Everyone and their mother knows Kevin Spacey is gay, he even hinted at it multiple times during this year’s Tony Awards. Yet he chose not to come out; his silence protected him from the backlash that the LGBT community feels. Of course, no one has to come out at any point. The troubling thing is that Spacey decided that this moment – directly after the accusation – was the time to burst triumphant from the closet, hoping the rainbow carpet would be laid out for him. “I choose now to live as a gay man,” he said. “I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.”
To Spacey, it seems that being a gay man somehow equates sexual advances towards a minor. Even the Buzzfeed article spends a fair amount of time discussing Spacey’s sexuality. His gayness has become a central point to this story, which is dangerous territory. The central point is this: Rapp was 14. Spacey was 26. It’s not being gay; it’s being a pedophile.
Back up a little to 2005. In a Gallup poll, only 54 percent of respondents said that gay people should be allowed to be elementary school teachers. And that’s still an issue that’s widely up for debate; many people still feel that gay people are only fit for certain places in society, and being around children is inherently inappropriate and dangerous to kids. This view is due in large part to Anita Bryant. Bryant was a Christian singer who lobbied to repeal a 1977 Miami ordinance that banned anti-gay discrimination; she succeeded, thanks to her claims that “the ordinance condones immorality and discriminates against my children’s rights to grow up in a healthy, decent community.” The name of her advocacy organization? Save Our Children.
Bryant spearheaded the anti-gay Christian movement, which rests on the claims that same-sex attraction is demonic and acting on it is an immoral sin. This drive to “protect the children” rested on nothing of substance. Scientists have attempted to find a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, but there is none. Pedophiles target children, while gay adults are more interested in – you guessed it – other adults. Many times, when they do target children of the same sex, it’s not due to sexual orientation but rather, access – you may be thinking of the Catholic priest scandal (which one?), and I’d like to point out that altar boys are never girls. Sexual assault, harassment, and predation aren’t about sexuality. They are, always, at their core, about power. “The important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals…because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman,” says Gregory Herek, an emeritus professor of social psychology at UC Davis.
Despite zero scientific basis, many people to this day still think there’s a link – in 2010, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins argued against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by pointing out an alleged connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, saying “the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a [molestation] danger to children.” Hint: the research, in fact, agrees that this is not the case at all. There’s no evidence for any of these claims, and yet they continue to be pervasive.
There’s untold harm that this myth has on the gay community, and Kevin Spacey just set us back in the fight to debunk it once and for all. While most rational people understand that the evidence is unanimous against the myth, with Spacey choosing this moment to come out, he’s linking pedophilia and homosexuality. The queer community – which he now “chooses” to be a part of – has spent decades trying to convince people that we’re just like everyone else, that we’re capable of being teachers, social workers, parents, just as much as our heterosexual counterparts. Many of us have been forced to downplay our sexuality in order to convince those around us that we’re normal and therefore deserving of rights – something that’s true no matter our sexuality, of course. Even the most queer among us deserve equal rights, because they’re still, you know, human beings.
This feels like a setback in that fight. For Spacey, an actor so many people loved and respected, to say “yeah I might have made a sexual advance toward a 14 year old boy, also, I’m gay and this moment has given me a chance to say and reflect on that,” the effect could be huge. Those two things have nothing to do with one another, and to pretend that they do hurts the community.
So thanks, Kevin. Next Pride, you should just stay home.