Why coming out in 2012 was both a big story and a non-story at the same time

By Mark Harris
Updated December 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Some revolutions make headlines because they don’t make headlines. In 2012, when celebrities came out of the closet, nobody yelled ”Stop the presses!” Nobody followed up with long think pieces about the potential career damage that was being wrought. Nobody, in fact, did much of anything. Gay people played it cool, and straight people did not act like drama queens. Well done on both sides.

So how are the newly out faring, several months later? Here’s the breaking news: Jim Parsons is still the star of The Big Bang Theory. Andrew Rannells is still the star of The New Normal. Zachary Quinto (out since late 2011) is still the once and future Spock (and also, this past fall, basic cable’s best serial killer). Anderson Cooper is still on CNN and (at least for a while longer) daytime TV. And all four men openly and without shame continue to pursue alternative lifestyles as stars of the New York stage when their schedules permit (yes, even Cooper, who did a voice-over for the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Remember all those old jokes about how working in theater means you’re gay? To paraphrase the late, great Nora Ephron: It’s not true, but it feels true). Coming out was not even a speed bump for these gentlemen, in part because their no-big-deal big reveals were accomplished with such perfectly orchestrated casualness, hand in hand with friendly media who downplayed their news by placing it deep in a story or as a relaxed, matter-of-fact reference in a quote. As for Cooper, he came out on his own terms, in an email to gay political blogger Andrew Sullivan, who asked him to comment on the issues raised by an EW cover story on this very subject.

The Hollywood closet isn’t going away, nor is antigay prejudice — although, happily, that’s being shoved into a closet of its own. But it’s a measure of how well the entertainment industry has pioneered this issue, and how far we’ve come, that our focus is shifting to fields — sports and politics in particular — in which bigoted rhetoric is slower to disappear. EW has been covering this subject since 1990, and we’re not close to the end of the story yet. But as Churchill once said (not about gay people), it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.