In case you haven’t heard the news by now, performer Barry Manilow has officially come out as gay.
Oh, wait a minute, you more than likely have heard the news by now — well before now, actually.
In fact, you probably saw it first addressed the same time I did; two years ago, when several major publications, including the Daily Mail, the Daily Beast, and ironically, People, who exclusively assisted Manilow’s open confirmation of his homosexuality early Wednesday, even though they were among the first to also report on his same-sex marriage to Garry Keif, his longtime manager, following a not-so-secret 30-year-long courtship, in 2015.
But apparently, today was the first day that the “Mandy” and “Copacabana” crooner had actually stepped forward to say those three tiny words that change just about everything in a celebrity’s life, at least when it comes to gossip rags and the LGBTQ readers who love them, I suppose — and that’s coming with the fact that Manilow already managed to accomplish the same task by previously saying nothing at all about about his marriage to Keif. Go figure.
“I thought I would be disappointing them if they knew I was gay,” the 73-year-old still-active performer relayed to People, “so I never [said] anything [about it]. [But] when they found out that Garry and I were together, they were so happy. The reaction was so beautiful — strangers commenting, ‘Great for you!’ I’m just so grateful for it.”
Mind you, the push of Manilow’s gay marriage in the media came right in the midst of his 2015 “One More Time” tour, and months before his third annual set of holiday charity concerts, “A Gift of Love.”
And for the record, neither excursion was affected by that particular reveal.
But perhaps, pray tell, he was referring to the period between 1964 and 2015, when he received numerous accolades, triumphs, and lots and lots of money in relation to his iconic music career. That would seem like the obvious gist, especially since he more or less said it himself during his People sit down, right? Well, not if you believe the chorus of those flocking to social media to say that Barry Manilow’s big, gay secret was never a secret to them at all.
And before some well-meaning, albeit heavily misguided, SJW comes my way to say otherwise; know that I, as an out, gay man of nearly two decades myself, tend not to see a problem with that kind of mass assumption in relation to someone like Barry Manilow, a well-recognized notable, especially since it kind of negates the necessity of finally telling folks something that they all knew ages ago, and seemingly never had an outright problem with.
For example, despite the unspoken yet widespread knowledge of Barry Manilow playing for “the gays,” the man has amassed nearly $70 million throughout his entire life, according to the Richest.
Most of us won’t ever see ever a 10th of that; gay, straight, or otherwise, but somehow, I’m supposed to sympathize with and defend Barry Manilow, the five-decade-long popular performer who was never in any real danger of losing his prominence, because he was fearful at one point of losing everything due to his homosexuality — which everyone says they knew about.
Please explain why I’m supposed to care about this, other than respecting the fact that at least he’s speaking on it now?
Also, and this next thought is going to be one of the most controversial things I’ve ever attributed to LGBTQ celebs, there is a huge difference between coming out as gay to own your truth in a world that may not accept it, and coming out as gay in order to protect your entertainment legacy, whether solidified or burgeoning, from being sullied.
Case in point, last February, British vocalist George Shelley, formerly of Union J — a pop group alum of the U.K’s X-Factor and a once-personal fave — attempted to thwart the controversy of him exchanging racy Snapchat photos with a male model by coming out as bisexual in the same week via a YouTube video.
“I want to start 2016 with a clean slate [and] I don’t feel that I should hide anything,” Shelley said, as the Daily Mirror transcribed.
“I’ve been reading a lot of speculation online as to whether I’m straight or gay or bi. I’ve had girlfriends that I’ve loved, but I’ve also had boyfriends.”
Well, we figured that, George, the moment you showed your nether regions to another dude, only to have it shown to anyone with internet access — and that’s fine, really (the “liking men” part, not the leaked photos stuff. Seriously, y’all, stop doing that), because no one should ever be made to feel ashamed or be shamed by another person for being sexual or loving with a person of any gender.
Be that as it may; however, on the flip side, to engage such a passionate and personal act just to ensure that fans are still buying tickets for your live shows, such as the group concert in April that additionally features Vanessa Williams and openly gay personalities Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) and Andy Cohen, is unbelievably disrespectful to what it truly means to come out as gay, bi, trans*, non-binary, lesbian, and/or asexual, along with all of the other genders or sexual preferences that people are in this world.
And that’s exactly what Barry Manilow did here, make no qualms about it. This was not about coming out to own his truth. This was about coming out to make sure that his fans still liked him, and that’s what I have a major problem with.
Lest we forget, we still live on a planet where even appearing to be gay in certain countries, including America, can straight-up get you killed. For me, coming out when I did; even though I didn’t have the most conventional of experiences — my mom found me sleeping in the arms of a former lover (we were fully clothed, by the way) and she more or less told me I was gay later that day — was still incredibly risky because of my actual environment (the Bronx in the mid-90’s), certain other family members who were less than accepting of gay people (like my brother, who came around eventually), and of course, people in general who are just hateful of things they don’t understand, but judge anyway.
It has literally been the opposite way of life for Manilow; a man who may not have said those words openly until recently and admittedly felt some kind of trepidation about doing so, but has never once seemingly faced some kind of antagonistic response, personal or otherwise, on something that has been speculated on for years and years. He still records, he still tours, and he’s still very, very famous — and he’ll be even more so now, now that he’s really, truly out.
Mark my words, before 2017 is done, expect Barry Manilow to win some kind of major LGBTQ-media award and receive even more attention for his music than he’s ever received in the past 50-something years of his career, because in the eyes of the public, he’s no longer just a celebrity.
He’s now, officially, a gay celebrity with nearly 50 years of personal baggage that was inaccessible until this very today — not to mention, we all knew that he married a man two years ago. This wasn’t news, people. We all knew Barry Manilow was gay. He just needed to realize it himself. Mission accomplished!
Good or bad, Barry Manilow and his career are going to be just fine, just as they always were going to be, but what about the gay kid whose parents just beat him down to a pulp after he decided that today was the day that he just couldn’t hide from his truth anymore?
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Stringer/Getty Images]