As a gay man, I'm so disappointed Kevin Spacey conflated child abuse with homosexuality when he came out

Conflating homosexuality and child abuse is a time-honoured technique that has been leveraged against gay men like me over the decades

Kevin Spacey has apologised over Anthony Rapp's 'sexual advance' claim
Kevin Spacey has apologised over Anthony Rapp's 'sexual advance' claim

Following accusations from Star Trek: Discovery's Anthony Rapp that Kevin Spacey came on to him in 1986, when Rapp was 14, Spacey has released a short response on Twitter in which he claims not to remember the alleged incident.

In a devastatingly lumbering segue, he elaborates on the fact that he has "loved and had romantic encounters with men" throughout his life, and that he "chooses now to live as a gay man".

There's not much to be gained from looking too closely at the language Spacey uses around "choosing", which some would find quite troubling, but the way in which he has chosen this particular moment, and this particular context, in which to come out is at best catastrophically ill-advised and at worst downright cynical.

Spacey has conflated an allegation of underage sexual assault with longstanding rumours regarding his sexuality. By doing this he is drawing a parallel – even implying moral equivalence – between homosexuality and sexual activity with children. The fact that a gay man with this kind of profile would put out this statement makes it hard to swallow.

The conflation of homosexuality and child abuse in the context of male sexuality is problematic. Connecting the two issues is a time-honoured technique that has been leveraged against gay men like me over decades, and is to this day perpetuated by our staunchest opponents.

Only a couple of months ago, the Dads4Kids campaigner Warwick Marsh, in the context of the upcoming public plebiscite on same-sex marriage in Australia, asserted that the "risk of child abuse is also significantly increased" if gay people raise children.

You might too remember BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2015 contender Tyson Fury, who detailed in an interview his belief that paedophilia and homosexuality were two of the three things that will ultimately lead to the apocalypse (the other is abortion, in case you were wondering). It didn't stop him remaining on the shortlist.

These examples serve to propagate a damaging myth – that gay men are more likely to be child abusers. I'm not talking about damage to the "movement" or to any particular "agenda", I'm talking about damage to gay people just trying to go about our lives.

I know gay men who are primary school teachers, many of whom are not out at work simply because they are anxious about having to manage the prejudice, be it from parents or teachers, around them working with children. They feel the pressure that goes with being in the closet, but are also racked with guilt because they know that their being in the closet is potentially depriving a young gay person in their school of an important role model.

I have straight friends who in the past have made off-the-cuff comments about gay men adopting. "I don't know why but I just feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of two men looking after a small child" is actually something that has been said to me a few times. I hope that knowing these kinds of views exist wouldn't stop me from one day becoming a father if I wanted to, but the fact that we even have to consider them is hugely destructive. In most cases they are just hangover views; remnants of an era where the press was much more proactively anti-gay and rhetoric around gay people and child abuse was rife, but they will keep echoing on into the 21st century until they are scrutinised and rejected.

It seems to me a sad indictment on our society that Spacey has deemed it necessary, in response to an allegation of sexual assault on a minor, to not only address the age of his accuser but also their gender. He has clearly anticipated that the "gay" question would be just as much a talking point as the fact that the person was underage, and in a world of divisively speculative headlines I can understand.

Regardless, it was wrong to use this particular context – that of sexual assault of a minor – to address rumours around his sexuality.

Someone with Spacey's platform has an opportunity to be a role model to gay people in every corner of what is often a very hostile world. That he would attempt to deflect allegations of sexual assault by militarising his sexuality in this way is to me a crushing disappointment.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in