How Kevin Spacey’s ‘Coming Out’ Grossly Conflates Pedophilia and Homosexuality

Actor Anthony Rapp accused Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey of forcing himself on him when he was 14. Spacey responded by coming out of the closet. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

On Sunday night, BuzzFeed News published an account from Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp alleging that Kevin Spacey made sexual advances toward him when he was 14 years old.

Spacey, who has dodged rumors that he’s gay for years—and even made a public mockery of coming out at this year’s Tony Awards—responded to the allegations by saying if he did do what Rapp alleges, then he apologizes for his “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” He then used his statement to come out of the closet, saying that he “chooses” to “live as a gay man.”

Who knew that the only thing worse than Spacey’s years of remaining in a glass closet would be his actual coming out?

In the ensuing days, many headlines will likely lead with the fact that Spacey has come out as a gay man. This is a calculated move from Spacey and a PR team that has handled rumors surrounding his sexuality for years.

The October 1997 issue of Esquire features Spacey on the cover with the headline, “Kevin Spacey Has a Secret.” Spacey’s publicist sprang into action after the article’s implication that Spacey was out of the closet and an executive at his agency William Morris encouraged his colleagues to avoid working with Esquire in the future. The Daily Beast asked Spacey about his sexuality in a 2010 interview, and the actor responded by comparing the line of questioning to gay children being bullied into suicide, before ultimately replying, “It’s just a line I’ve never crossed and never will.” Even Andy Cohen brought up Spacey’s sexuality in his memoir, writing: “I still get enraged when I think about [Spacey] talking about being in love with that woman on 60 Minutes. Come out, sir.”

Spacey choosing now to come out, in order to spin Rapp’s sexual-assault allegation, is underhanded behavior worthy of his character Frank Underwood on House of Cards.

It calls to mind hateful rhetoric like Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children campaign, which sought to associate gay men and child predators.

In 1986, Rapp, then 14, was starring in the play Precious Sons on Broadway and Spacey, then 26, was in a stage revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Their concurrent runs lead to Rapp and Spacey crossing paths with one another at industry parties.

Rapp described one of those incidents, a party Spacey invited him to at his Manhattan apartment, to BuzzFeed’s Adam Vary: “My memory was that I thought, ‘Oh, everybody’s gone. Well, yeah, I should probably go home.’ [Spacey] sort of stood in the doorway, kind of swaying. My impression when he came in the room was that he was drunk. He picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold. But I don’t, like, squirm away initially, because I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then he lays down on top of me. He was trying to seduce me. I don’t know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.” Rapp says he was able to “squirm” away eventually and talk his way out of the apartment.

The night Rapp’s account was published, Spacey immediately tweeted a statement in response: “I have a lot of respect and admiration for Anthony Rapp as an actor. I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years. This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fueled by the fact that i have been so protective of my privacy. As those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women. 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 behavior.”

Here, Spacey has changed the narrative of him allegedly assaulting a 14-year-old boy, put on Jamie Foxx’s “Blame it on the Alcohol,” and ended it with, “Oh, by the way, I’m gay!” There’s never truly a wrong time to come out and I’d never begrudge anyone for accepting their sexuality. But the seediness of using your coming out to deflect from a sexual-assault allegation is something else entirely. Already, headlines have ignored Rapp’s allegations for claptrap like ABC News’ since-edited story that at first read: “Kevin Spacey comes out in emotional tweet.” Several other outlets also led with the fact that Spacey has come out of the closet, rather than the fact that he came out in response to Rapp’s disturbing allegation. Beyond altering the narrative, Spacey’s statement grossly conflates pedophilia and homosexuality.

For Spacey to say, “if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,” implies that when most gay men get drunk, it’s second nature for them to prey on a 14-year-old boy. It calls to mind hateful rhetoric like Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children campaign, which sought to associate gay men and child predators. Of gay men, Bryant infamously said, “Some of the stories I could tell you of child recruitment and child abuse by homosexuals would turn your stomach.”

For a section of the public who had no idea Spacey was gay, there will be shock that he’s coming out. For those who’ve read between the lines, it’ll be more like, yeah no shit, like in a 2014 Hollywood Reporter interview where Spacey said, “Let’s let people live their lives and do it the way they want to do it. All the chips will fall in the end, and we’ll all be judged by a much higher power than Entertainment Weekly can.” Spacey has had this type of flippant attitude toward his sexuality for years. Lest we forget he made several tasteless jokes about coming out of the closet at the Tony Awards, just because he could. Remaining in the closet has never truly seemed like fear on Spacey’s part so much as a cat and mouse game with the media. It’s been him making jokes about the fact that he has relationships with men on national TV, knowing that it will go over the heads of most of the audience but winking deviously at the people who know and can say nothing about it.

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For Spacey to say that he now chooses to be gay also insinuates that it’s a decision someone can switch on and off. For him to speak up about it now, amid these allegations, implies that being gay is a shameful secret you must keep hidden. Furthermore, the decision to switch it on now after vehemently refusing to come out for years makes the decision all the more cold and calculated. It will absolutely overshadow Rapp’s story, which is exactly what Spacey was counting on. At least now we know why Spacey has fiercely guarded his “private life,” as he calls it. He was merely safeguarding his most powerful weapon until he could use it on Rapp and the gay community he now claims he has chosen to be a part of.