By Tiffany Fang
The public seems to think that they have the right to know a celebrity's sexual orientation... and it has detrimental effects.
“I guess I’m more similar to Will than I thought” was the caption of famous “Stranger Things" star Noah Schnapp’s coming out TikTok. Confirming the rumors that he had come out to his friends and family, he noted that it “wasn’t that serious, and will never be that serious.'' The short 8-second video, posted only a little over a week ago, has already racked over 71 million views, 13 million likes, and 500k comments.
From the notorious scene between Mike and Will Byers in Season 3, where Mike shouts, “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls!” to that unforgettable car scene in Season 4 (yes, you know which scene I'm talking about), Will’s sexuality has always been infamously questioned and scrutinized since the beginning of the show’s start in 2016; the character was finally confirmed gay by Schnapp himself in July to Variety.
Although the comments on his TikTok were flooded with love and support, Schnapp’s recent coming out was not done by completely his own choice. A few days after he posted the viral TikTok, a user had commented, inquiring about the pressure he felt to reveal his sexuality to the public.
“I’m not going to lie. It was hard seeing people speculating and discussing my personal life like that."
The concept of “coming out” (often paired with "the closet")has been around since the 1950s, and has been a way for people to announce their sexual orientation either publicly, or to close friends and family. Although coming out is typically quite positive, it has also started to place pressure on those who are not as comfortable with announcing who they are to the world. It is important to remember that everyone is different — some people feel comfortable coming out, but it is mistaken to expect it of everyone; it is a choice for the individual to make for themselves. There are people who want to label their sexuality, and there are also people who do not. Outing someone or forcing someone to out themselves takes away their ability to choose. People are not entitled to know others’ sexuality; no one owes anyone anything.
Sexuality is fluid with a wide spectrum.
Labels limit and disallow for individuals to feel differently at different moments in time. Putting labels on someone without knowing who they actually are takes away the decision of that individual to freely express themselves however they want.
It is pretty clear that Schnapp felt pressured from people online to publicly come out, especially by people on Twitter who were criticizing him for not coming out or even going as far as threatening to out him. Unfortunately, Noah Schnapp is not the only actor who has been forced to come out.
Kit Connor, the Emmy-Award winning British actor who plays the role of Nick Nelson in Netflix’s groundbreaking show, “Heartstopper,” has just recently been forced to come out as well.
The show, released in April 2022, follows a young boy, Nick Nelson, who realizes he is bisexual after meeting a fellow gay student, Charlie Spring. The show and original comics explore sexuality, specifically the struggles and difficulties that come with coming to terms with and understanding and accepting one’s own sexuality; it even addresses the pressure that comes with coming out or labeling oneself, especially in Nick Nelson, who Connor plays. The show was revolutionary for Gen Z, as it was one of the first LGBTQIA+ shows that depicted this generation’s queer romance in a more accurate and positive way.
While the show received a lot of praise and support, there were a large number of fans who accused the actor of queerbaiting, even after he made it clear that he was not a big fan of putting labels on things. “I am perfectly confident and comfortable with my sexuality,” he said on the “Reign with Josh Smith” podcast. Unfortunately, there was a large sum of fans who believed that this ambiguity was unfair and further proved that Connor was taking the opportunity to play a queer character from a “real” queer actor, claiming that this was a lack of authentic representation in the show. This twisted and misguided accusation of queerbaiting continued to quickly spiral on the Internet, specifically on Twitter.
In response to the influx of accusations, he tweeted, “Twitter is so funny man. apparently some people on here know my sexuality better than I do…”
However, the negative comments and speculation prolonged, and reached a point where Connor decided to take a break from the app; he posted one last tweet before officially deleting his Twitter account, officially coming out to the public.
Alice Olseman, the original author and creator of the web comics, showed her support and disbelief of the accusations: “I truly don’t understand how people can watch 'Heartstopper' and then gleefully spend their time speculating about sexualities and judging based on stereotypes. I hope all those people are embarrassed as FUCK. Kit you are amazing."
There was even a specific scene in the original comic books that she wrote, addressing the importance of not making assumptions, which is exactly what the public did to Connor.
Many fans also expressed their support, along with sympathy and anger on behalf of Connor:
An unfortunate byproduct of celebrity status is the disappearance of personal space and privacy. The parasocial relationship between fans and celebrities has a huge effect on the public, especially when it comes to disclosure of information. The boundaries of what information celebrities “should” or “should not” disclose are incredibly blurred. It becomes an issue when the public uses one of many excuses to invade celebrities’ privacy and feel that they have a right to know every detail about a celebrity’s personal life, when this is not the case.
It is natural to admire or feel curious about a celebrity, but a line has to be drawn — especially when it comes to basic respect of one’s sexuality.
People often forget that celebrities are people with feelings too, and there is no reason to pick apart their actions, tendencies, or personal lives to make blatant assumptions. It is exciting to find out that one’s favorite celebrity is queer and being able to look up to someone. Nonetheless, it should not be up to the fans to decide.
Tiffany Fang (@tiffanym.f) is a huge fan of Heartstopper-- she finished the entire show in one day and bawled her eyes out. She also sat there for about twenty minutes with her jaw hanging when she discovered that Noah Schnapp had come out. When she isn't binge-watching the newest show on Netflix, you can find her wasting her money on more clothes or creating yet another playlist on Spotify.