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Kevin Spacey’s coming out harkens back to age-old conflation of queerness and pedophilia

With the recent slew of sexual assault reports in Hollywood, the politics of responsibility and privilege have come into question. Notable actor Kevin Spacey found himself at the forefront when he was accused of over twenty counts of inappropriate sexual behavior against various people between 1982 and 2016, some of whom were minors at the time. The list of accusers comprises names such as Broadway alum Anthony Rapp (Rent), filmmaker Tony Montana (Overnight) and most recently the son of former ABC Boston news anchor Heather Unrah who was 18 at the time of the assault. In his official statement addressing Rapp’s initial accusation, Spacey tweeted that he did not remember the incident in question and apologized if he had committed these actions. Instead of ending it there, Spacey added another paragraph stating that Rapp’s story inspired him to “address other things in [his] life,” followed by his declaration to live his life as an out gay man.

Now, I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure there are many of us out there in the LGBT community who weren’t jumping for joy and congratulations at his announcement. Why? Because the implications of Spacey’s self co-opted apology echoes urban legends of the so-called direct correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia. Coming out is meant to be a moment of personal empowerment and solidarity within a community in celebration of one’s identity. When that intention is dishonored and corrupted into a shallow justification for heinous actions, it perpetuates a culture that both shames survivors into silence and attempts to invalidate the serious nature of sexual attacks.

It is no secret the prevalent rape culture in the United States has seeped toxins throughout the fibers of our everyday lives. It tosses around blame to scapegoat the ones who cannot defend themselves and protect the interests of those who can. Spacey’s cheap attempt to salvage his own reputation by evoking the “rainbow shield” is a prime example of it. A white man of substantial sway in the entertainment industry suddenly faced with the repercussions of his actions does what many do best: deflect and control the narrative.

The mass hysteria around homosexual men’s supposed predation of young boys reverberates throughout our society and has real world effects on the innocent people who inhabit these identities. It also shames survivors into years of silence; sometimes permanent silence. Spacey’s closeted homosexuality did not push him to pray on those men. Outside pressures, or any other bull excuse one could come up with to justify his actions, were not the cause. It was Spacey’s own selfishness, cushioned by his position as a high paid and highly acclaimed actor, that spurred his decision to violate and forego consent.

Spacey very well may be a gay man. Which is fine; being a gay man, thankfully, is no longer a crime in the United States for white men. The issue is one of the sexual assault of minors and adults without their consent. It is one of weaponizing “coming out” as a way to distract and explain away the trauma Spacey has inflicted on his victims. And it presents homosexuality as a prerequisite to pedophilia. So to Kevin Spacey I’d say this: you want to deal with this “honestly and openly”? Try taking responsibility for the people you traumatized rather than a cheap attempt to excuse away your crimes. And stop making it about you. Because it isn’t.