Kevin Spacey has always been an actor I have great respect for – but recent events have revealed aspects of his character that I find deeply troubling and unforgivable.
The House of Cards actor has been accused of sexually assaulting a minor more than 30 years ago. Anthony Rapp, 46, claimed that Spacey made sexual advances towards him at a party in New York in 1986. Spacey has said he was not aware of such an incident, but that if it did happen, he was sorry and called it “deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour”.
Spacey has also used this incident to come out as gay. “This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life,” he said. “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly, and that starts with examining my own behaviour.”
Spacey’s sexuality has long been the topic of tabloid gossip, but he has never confirmed or denied these rumours. His decision to come out now as a gay man seems more a PR stunt than something actually genuine. He made a calculated decision to spin Rapp’s accusations in his favour, as he wants people to be discussing his sexuality and not the sexual assault claim.
Spacey’s announcement has worked – somewhat. Several international publications, including Reuters and The New York Times, led with headlines highlighting his coming out, and not his alleged assault of a 14-year-old child or the other 14 victims who have come to light since.
Though this can be construed a win for Spacey and his team, it’s a setback for the gay community. Spacey’s comments have made it easier for people to equate sexual preferences with paedophilia.
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The historical social stigma against gay people means that they have often been viewed as predatory sexual deviants by the ignorant. For example, some people say they don’t want to have gay teachers educating their children. They believe their children would be preyed upon by these teachers. This sort of fear perpetuates homophobia.
That sentiment is often reinforced by the politically conservative, as they seek to oppose laws that would grant LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people the same legal protections offered to heterosexuals.
Spacey has tried to play down his culpability in alleged events 30 years ago by blaming any actions on alcohol, and then followed this up with his coming out. He has failed to make it clear that these things do not excuse someone for being a paedophile or a sexual predator.
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James Hamblin, of the US magazine The Atlantic, said Spacey’s timing in coming out by “adopting a marginalised identity … does more than bleed the meaning out of an apology, it sucker-punches the entire marginalised group. It sets back fights for civil rights – in these cases, respectively, non-heterosexual people and mentally ill people, burdened for generations by baseless stereotypes pertaining to paedophilia and violence.”
Coming out should be a beautiful part of being gay – it is equated with bravery and the ability to accept yourself for who you are. Attaching that to the abuse of a child is, simply put, just very wrong.