Conversely, those who choose not to come out are finding it harder than ever to protect their privacy. Over the past decade, the press has become more hostile to, and aggressive about, celebrities who are perceived to be closeted to exactly the same degree it's become more accommodating to those who come out. As the media have realized that being out has gotten easier, they've granted themselves the right to knock harder than ever on the closet door. Until a few years ago, coming out was understood to be a high-risk decision. With that in mind, the non-tabloid press adhered to a tacit pact that there was a difference between public figures who lied about their homosexuality (and were thus fair game for ridicule, along with their embarrassing starlet marriages and unconvincing awards-show dates) and those who just didn't discuss it and therefore had the right to be left alone in a gray zone of discretion. In that ''glass closet,'' their homosexuality was common knowledge in the industry, in the press, and among gay people. But they wouldn't be bothered as long as, in Lily Tomlin's words, they ''never denied anything, but...never said anything specific.''
That understanding is beginning to erode. Last month, a New York appeals court overturned decades of precedent by ruling that calling someone gay, even inaccurately, is not in itself defamatory. And legalities aside, the inherently insistent and impolite nature of the Internet has given so many people the ability to stare into that glass closet that the notion of ''not out, but not in'' has become very difficult to sustain. It's impossible to imagine that 15 years ago the chief television critic of The New York Times would have dared to belittle Anderson Cooper during the first week of his syndicated talk show, complaining that ''the one thing he hasn't done yet and the lacuna grows more obvious and awkward with each show is talk about his love life. It's hard to see how he can continue to leave that out selectively.''
That particular no-man's-land (well, perhaps that's not the best choice of words) has created any number of convoluted discussions. Nearly five years after Jodie Foster, at an awards breakfast, thanked ''my beautiful Cydney, who sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss'' with no subsequent allusion to a same-sex relationship writers, editors, and gay-rights advocates are still arguing among themselves about whether that counted as coming out. Welsh actor Luke Evans (Immortals, Clash of the Titans), who had been out since 2002, was recently the target of ridicule when a publicist tried to dismiss his earlier, spectacularly unequivocal record of public comments as stemming from being ''inexperienced,'' creating a new category known as ''out until being cast in The Hobbit.'' And recently, when it was perceived that Queen Latifah had come out by reportedly referring to ''my people'' while performing at a gay-pride event in Long Beach, Calif., she found herself explaining to EW's Melissa Maerz that no, actually, she hadn't come out. Which leads to a question that begins, ''If you have to explain that you're not coming out...'' and is probably best left uncompleted.