Rupert Everett has spoken with the grace of a toddler throwing a brick. In an interview with the British Sunday Times, he said, among many things, that he "can't think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads."
To this, as an immediate reaction, I want to say that I can think of about five worse things off the top of my head, genocide not included. But Mr. Everett doesn't deserve immediate reactions. He is a member of shared community with me, he is someone whose talent and past bravery I respect and someone who wrongly spoke about something much bigger than an off-the-cuff remark. I also shouldn't react in short terms to his short terms, especially if I want him to listen to me or have his mind changed.
Everett's remarks have charged many people and gay affiliated media outlets, rightfully crying foul or cringing. And though I am angry, though I think it is hurtful and incredibly selfish to say that because you think hetero-gendered couples (he stated that he feels kids "need a father and a mother") raise a kid best, though he has a limited view of what a family is and can be and of homosexual or gender variant couples raising children, I don't want to shame, shun or attack him.
Rupert Everett came out a year after an act of Parliament, Section 28, made it illegal to "promote" (read: talk about) homosexuality and homosexual families. That law, passed in 1988 (in the throes of Thatcherism and the media hysteria surrounding rising HIV/AIDS diagnoses) was only repealed in 2003. Rupert Everett has gone on record saying that coming out when he did was a tremendous mistake, that it has hurt his career.
Some colleagues of his, like Ian McKellen, have sustained or even grown in fame after their publicly acknowledging their homosexuality, and though Everett had a very noteworthy run of films in the late 90s to early 00s, he is now relatively obscure to wide audiences -- though finding some renewed success in voice acting, theater and most recently acting in BBC/HBO miniseries. To be gay when it is codified that you can't talk about being gay, no doubt, can affect a person's view of self and society. To not work and to have it be because of your honesty about yourself can hurt you even more.
I know what its like to hate yourself, deeply. I know what its like to not want to be happy, to not want anyone else to be happy. I don't think Mr. Everett hates himself right now, or if he ever has. There might be something in him that he doesn't see, it might slip under his tongue or lodge itself behind his eyes, tinting the tone of his voice and how he sees his LGBTQ siblings. Again, I don't want to speak like I know him, I just know that is something I and others have had to deal with. In addition to these things, I know what its like to sound rough and rude or incredibly depressing, when you just thought you were being cheeky or blithe. I don't know what it feels like to do so on a multinational level with the eyes of the media watching; it's painful and strange enough when it's just with people you know. These, and one more larger reason, are why I understand (but do not enjoy or agree with) Everett's words.
Rupert Everett also stated he does not feel like he is a part of any community really, he stated that he was a part of the human community instead. He can have that, but he is wrong.
I would like to say to Mr. Everett, and possibly people angry at him for his words, I am sorry but you are a part of the gay community. In some basic senses, Rupert Everett always will be among us. If he doesn't wish to be active in it, it's fine, don't socialize or operate within it, but that fact should be understood.
This means, for him, be prepared and comfortable with what you say in reference to the community you have at least a small part in. This means, for the gay community, he might sound like a distant, angry relative, one we should hold accountable for their actions, but ultimately one we should have some understanding for.
I am writing this the morning after I went to a queer spoken word event, saw friends perform before going to a bar and getting drinks and dancing with them. I am writing this for a website I work for with people who I cherish, a website that I hope reaches out to people like and unlike me in so many ways and is a resource, a space, a sign of understanding and a method of self and group realization.
I write, I go to these places, I love within a community. Rupert Everett, though being entwined with it by his sexuality, has probably never gotten to interact with a community like this or in this way. And now because of his tactless words, Everett finds himself facing their anger. Even if he might not want it, I'm asking for a little mercy for him. For now. Maybe if he saw more of us, maybe if he knew a bit more about the larger community or smaller things happening with in it far away from him, then maybe he wouldn't say how some of our families structure themselves is one the worst things imaginable.
Other than that, I am just going to take him on his word. He has his ideas, he can show them, say them. I will have mine. I will do the same. He has no real place in determining policy or law. I feel a bit better knowing that. I also know there are others in our community who have opinions and convey them, who don't think like him. There are so many stories to prove him wrong, that would be opened up to him with more interactions.
Author's note: Everett has now been on the talk show This Morning to explain that his views are his own and that he doesn't want them to be put on anybody else/deny other people their rights because of his beliefs. "I am very out of kilter with the rest of the world, I realize." You can be off kilter. You can say what you want. Just make sure you really believe in what you say, and know someone might try to fight against it.