Last week, a reporter from a queer Canadian publication caused controversy—and outrage—when he asked Tom Hardy about his sexuality during a Toronto International Film Festival press conference for the actor’s new film Legend.
Hardy, who in 2008 candidly stated that he experimented with other guys when he was younger but found gay sex “did nothing for him,” quickly shut down the interview after refusing to answer the “disrespectful” question. However, on Thursday the Mad Max star had quite a bit more to say about the incident while speaking with the Daily Beast.
“I think everybody is entitled to the right to privacy,” Hardy said. “Some things are private. I’m under no obligation to share anything to do with my family, my children, my sexuality—that’s nobody’s business but my own. And I don’t see how that can have anything to do with what I do as an actor, and it’s my own business.”
Hardy, who plays a queer character in Legend (which means the question about his sexuality actually could have something to do with what he does and/or draws on as an actor), explained that he’d be fine with a friend asking about his sexuality but noted, “To put a man on the spot in a room full of people designed purely for a salacious reaction? To be quite frank, it’s rude.”
Hardy conceded that what the reporter “had to talk about was actually interesting, but how he did it was so inelegant” and noted that what the reporter “and his publication stands for, none of that is offensive, and on the contrary, it’s very admirable, and an important issue.” However, he also emphasized: “I’m not a role model for anyone, and you’re asking me something about my private life in a room full of people. I don’t want to discuss my private life with you. I don’t know you! Why would I share that with a billion people?”
As if Hardy’s hypocritically self-righteous stance wasn’t disappointing enough, when I saw how quickly my social media feeds were filling up with giddy praise for his comments—in many cases giddy praise from queer people—I grew even queasier.
While watching variations of “Tom’s right! It’s nobody’s business!” and “That’s private!” flood comment fields, tweets and Facebook statuses, I sighed and thought to myself: “Really? Are we really still defending—and celebrating!—the idea that sexual orientation is akin to some deep dark secret to be discussed after dark behind closed doors in hushed tones with only our most trusted confidantes?”
Apparently we are. But this has to change, folks. Why? Because even though, sure, everyone should be “entitled to the right to privacy” regarding certain aspects of their lives, sexual orientation shouldn’t be considered private.
Our sexuality is merely a part of who we are—like the color of our eyes or our height. What we do with our sexuality may be private (and even then, if I had my way, we’d all be a lot more open and honest about how and when we have sex, too), but our sexual orientation shouldn’t be. By claiming otherwise, you’re saying that there is something about how a person identifies—and who they choose to love and/or sleep with—that should remain secret.
But why would that be? If there’s nothing wrong with being anything other that heterosexual—as most people and I’m sure Hardy himself would claim—what exactly are we keeping private? And, again, why?
Because even though, sure, everyone should be “entitled to the right to privacy” regarding certain aspects of their lives, sexual orientation shouldn’t be considered private.
Perhaps the homophobia that historically had people—especially celebrities—employing statements like “no comment” and “that’s private” hasn’t disappeared as nearly or as neatly as we’d like to think or hope. Maybe—just maybe—even though marriage equality has finally come to every state in our fair nation and beloved sitcoms are being boldly rebooted with gay characters, we haven’t really come as far as we think we have and queerness is still seen as shameful—and therefore damaging—especially to a male action star like Hardy, whose masculinity serves as his meal ticket.
And I get it. Despite the fact that we’ve seen more and more stars come out in the last 10 years, Hollywood‘s closets remain uncomfortably crowded due to the not-so-irrational fear of losing jobs, disloyal fans, and plummeting relevance.
But I refuse to accept the “sexuality is private” lie any longer, and I refuse to accept Hardy’s outrage at being asked about his sexuality, especially under the guise of privacy. This is the same man who, though he claims he doesn’t want to share his personal life with “a billion people,” gave an interview to Details magazine earlier this year in which he discussed his father, his spirituality, and his sobriety. That all sounds pretty personal to me.
What’s more, Hardy has opened up about his harrowing experiences with drugs and alcohol on numerous occasions, offering intimate soundbites like “I didn’t want anyone to know I was out of control, but I couldn’t hide it. … I was lucky I didn’t get hepatitis or AIDS” and “I would have sold my mother for a rock of crack.”
So, apparently, it’s not his personal life that he doesn’t want to talk about—it’s just his sexuality.
And before anyone gets the wrong idea, I want to be clear that I’m not questioning Hardy’s heterosexuality. This is not about that. As much as I’d like to have my way with him, I’m fine with him living a straight life. By all means! But I do want to point out that heterosexual people who are completely at ease with themselves have the luxury of not pulling the “my sexuality is private” card because being heterosexual isn’t seen as shameful—it’s our society’s default (and privileged) setting. It’s “natural.” It’s “normal.”
Maybe—just maybe—even though marriage equality has finally come to every state in our fair nation and beloved sitcoms are being boldly rebooted with gay characters, we haven’t really come as far as we think we have.
We can’t keep saying that being queer isn’t a big deal out of one side of our mouths and then turn around and cry “How dare you!” and “Privacy!” out of the other side. For those of you who are championing Hardy’s little hissy fit, I’d love to know why and what you think is so precious about his—or your—sexual orientation that it should remain off the record. I wish Hardy had responded, “My sexuality? I’m straight” or “I’m only interested in being with women but I fooled around a bit when I was a kid and it wasn’t a big deal.” I don’t need him to be a role model or a poster boy for me or anyone else—but saying something like that alone! Imagine how amazing it would be to hear that come out of his mouth.
But maybe Hardy isn’t quite as comfortable with that candid 2008 conversation he had about his youthful dalliances with other guys as we (and he) thought he was. Maybe seven years and a slew of really successful action films have changed the way he thinks about who he was and what he did—or at least how he’s perceived and what that means for his career. Who knows?
What I do know is that queer people have to “inelegant” questions about who they are and what they do all the time. But the more we are asked and the more we answer honestly and with deep, daring introspection—not just of ourselves but of the world we live in and how and why it views us the way it does—the further we push the needle until one day the needle snaps off and these kinds of questions are no longer necessary.
But we aren’t there yet. And we won’t get there by campaigning for people—queer or not—to shy away from being honest about who they are, especially about something we’ve all agreed shouldn’t be a secret and shouldn’t be shameful.
Instead, we should tell and we should teach. Instead we should say “I’m gay.“ Or “I’m straight.” Or “I’m bisexual.” Or “I once had a dick in my mouth but that was a long time ago and to be honest it didn’t do a whole lot for me, but I’m not embarrassed about it and I’m not ashamed of it—and yeah, I guess, maybe it did help me approach this character in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Or it didn’t. I don’t know. I don’t want to put words in Tom Hardy’s mouth (or anyone else’s). But I do want him—and everyone else who is yammering on about privacy—to rethink exactly what they’re trying to protect, exactly why it’s so threatening to answer a question about sexuality, and what it says about them—and all of us—when they refuse to do it.
Noah Michelson is the Executive Editor of Gay Voices at The Huffington Post. Michelson received his MFA in poetry from New York University, and his poems have been featured in the New Republic, The Best American Erotic Poetry from 1800 to the Present, and other publications.
This article was originally featured on Huffington Post Gay Voices and reposted with permission.
Photo via chispita_666/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III