Man, that throws off your gossip something awful...

The Straight Dope Message Board has got this thread running at the mo', about which celebrities are gay and haven't come out yet. If you don't hang out there, IIRC the opening poster is a humanities professor at a university in the American South somewhere, and is, as a friend of mine used to say, queerer than a football puck. He's also known for posting family stories that are mostly entertaining in the same way Woody Allen comedies are entertaining, i.e., hilarious when they remain on the other side of the screen.

I've noticed in the past few years, these threads have started turning into something of a muddle. Someone will post a name, and then a few other people will go 's/he's already out', and someone else will say 'nuh-uh', and eventually it'll degenerate into a discussion of what does and does not count as 'out' anymore. There are a few fairly public cases, like Neil Patrick Harris stomping a very stupid maelstrom of rumor with about two sentences (the world thought that was boring and moved on), or Jodie Foster publicly thanking her girlfriend at an awards show somewhere (they were on the rocks; they split soon afterwards). But mostly, there's a lot of argument.

The thing that seems to be derailing a lot of perfectly good stupid gossip is that in order to come out one has to have been in something to begin with. A lot of people in my generation really aren't. I'm still kind of puzzled that there was ever an argument over Zach Quinto -- I think the only time I've ever seen him out of character is on the gag reel for Star Trek and, honestly, he is quite cheerfully and openly in the Liberace bracket of the league. Or that anyone would even consider Johnny Weir as 'not out' because he didn't issue a press release. Granted that right after his first Olympics, someone asked if he was gay about every forty-seven seconds and his answer was always "Isn't that a little nosy?" but then he went and married a man, which one would think would answer the question pretty decisively in favor of "at minimum, not straight".

One thing that seems to throw older people off is that there is a developing schism between being culturally gay and actually having a homosexual orientation. It used to be that there were distinct cultural and behavioral markers that were associated with being gay -- partly because gays used them to identify each other, but also partly because straights wanted to differentiate themselves and sought to do so by making sure they acted not-gay -- but kids don't really so much care anymore. Girls got to start wearing trousers and getting dirty decades ago, but now guys wear hair product and makeup and jewelry, and it's not "sissy", it's "fashion". Similar splits have occurred with other subcultural groups in the past; my housemate, for one, is culturally and ethnically Jewish, but religiously is definitely a physicist.

These days the only really young celebs I see issuing press releases about it are doing so for the same reason Anna Paquin did -- they're saying so specifically in order to make some kind of social or political statement. It's not really news otherwise.