*trigger warning for sexual assault*
Kevin Spacey's response to the many accusations of sexual assault, particularly of underage boys, was to come out as gay. Deflecting responsibility for harmful actions on the basis of one's sexuality is never okay.
This week, dozens of men publicly accused Kevin Spacey of sexual harassment or assault dating back to the 1980s and into the present. Men across the world, (and across age ranges!) shared their truths of dealing with his abuse. It began with actor, Anthony Rapp’s, allegations on Twitter that Spacey had tried to sexually assault him at a party when he was only 14 and starting his career on Broadway in 1986.
Spacey’s modus operandi appears to center around following and persistently harassing young men, many as young as 14 at the time. He used his privileged position as a successful actor and adult to manipulate these men’s vulnerable positions at their work (as one bartender recalled), in their shared workspace (at the Old Vic theatre in London, or on the set of House of Cards), or by promising jobs to boys trying to find their way into such a cutthroat and exclusive industry.
What was Kevin Spacey’s response to these sexual assault claims? He said he didn’t remember the incident(s) due to drunkenness. More importantly, he came out.
Spacey’s decision to shame his accusers, gaslight their statements and claim that alcohol, or a bad memory, is to blame for predatory behavior is a clear indication that he is not sorry for how his behavior affected them. Rather, he’s only sorry he got caught after decades of inappropriate and toxic activity.
However, his choice to come out in the same tweet response is even more deeply troubling for an LGBTQ+ community combatting a history of claims that queer people’s real intent is not ending homophobia and transphobia, but gaining social acceptance in order to molest children and sexually assault people. This coming out story is particularly problematic since many of his victims were minors at the time of their assaults.
Kevin Spacey has had 56 years to come out, but he chose to open up about his identity in 2017, when he was called to account for his crimes. He chose to deflect them hoping for support, rather than confront his behavior issues. Those violent actions had nothing to do with being gay and all to do with his identity as a sexual predator. The proximity of this revelation to the allegations against him blurs the lines between queer identities, and sexual violence toward children, distinguished in the last few years as queer men and trans people fought for their rights to be viewed as equal.
Already, some homophobic national leaders are seizing this opportunity Spacey provided aligning pedophilia and homosexuality to condemn the advances in LGBTQ+ rights acquired in the last 50 years. His refusal to accept responsibility for committing decades of abuse by coming out as gay has ruined much more than his career.
However, famous people are not the only ones to blame for using their queerness as an excuse for bad behavior. Many gay men have sexually harassed women assuming that consent is not needed because they are gay: insulting women’s bodies, or been nasty to others (including using misogynistic words like bitch) on account of the alleged nature of “gay culture.” Interpersonal bad behavior is unacceptable under any conditions and cannot be ignored on the basis of sexuality. When ridiculing Spacey for linking homosexuality with sexual assault, make sure to consider how you interact with others and whether you have ever defended your bad behavior because of your queer identity.