By The Way, We're Gay

People did make something of it. They fell in love with him. Harris, then in his second season playing a straight womanizer on How I Met Your Mother, racked up four consecutive Emmy nominations for his role; found a rewarding side gig as the decade's most versatile awards-show host; and even one-upped any possible jokes about his sexuality by spoofing himself as a sick, twisted closeted straight dude in the last Harold & Kumar movie. What's more, by coming out from a position of success, Harris unwittingly made himself into the long-awaited test case refuting a decades-old excuse for staying in the closet: the idea, frequently proffered by entertainment execs, armchair quarterbacks, know-it-alls, and homophobes, that if audiences know an actor is gay, they'll never buy him as anything else. Thanks to Harris — who just completed a seventh HIMYM season built largely around his trip to the altar (with a woman) while tweeting occasionally about his off-camera fiancé actor David Burtka, and their twins — we finally have an answer. It turns out that people actually understand that actors are acting. And they even like it.

Given that, it can be hard to comprehend what's taken so many actors this long to join him — or why so many more are still on the other side of the closet door. But it's useful to remember the pressures against coming out that can still emanate from an actor's own team of agents, managers, and/or publicists (plenty of whom are gay themselves). Twenty years ago, they might have said, ''Don't come out — you'll ruin your career!'' Today, the phrasing may be gentler — actors are more likely to be told, ''Why rock the boat just when everything's going so well?'' Or they're stalled with ''Let's wait for the perfect moment'' (i.e., never), or hammered with realpolitik (''Why alienate any segment of your potential audience?''), or handed some self-righteous misdirection as an invisibility cloak (''You should have a right to a private life!'').

Even if an actor waves away all of those warnings, coming out still takes some planning. A lot of thought generally goes into identifying an appropriate interviewer and media venue, although — news flash — it's not exactly tough sledding to find a gay-friendly entertainment journalist. The smallest details are often the subject of quiet negotiation — for instance, an agreement to place the news deep in a story, or to keep it out of the headline, or not to send out a press release highlighting it.

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