Bryan Fuller Accidentally Outs Heroes‘ Thomas Dekker at Outfest 2017
"Outfest" doesn't mean you get to out people.
Bryan Fuller received an Achievement Award at this year’s Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival that is now in its 35th year. He was recognized for his illustrious career that started with Dead Like Me and has continued through this year’s American Gods, a series in which he finally, after having created five shows, was able to tell the story of a gay man. In the video above, he gives a moving speech about what it’s taken to get to this point. He also outs a cast member of one of his previous shows, which isn’t exactly okay.
In his speech, he painstakingly goes over each show he’s created, each of which included an attempt of his to portray a gay person or relationship only to be thwarted by outside forces. When he discussed the show Heroes, on which he wrote and produced, he said the following:
“I had a brief stint on Heroes where the gay character was “het-washed”—you can hashtag that now—was het-washed after the actor’s management threatened to pull him from the show if he, the character not the actor, were gay. The character became straight, and the actor came out as gay.”
Thing is, the actor never did. And it’s easy enough to discern who the actor was in context, despite the fact that Fuller doesn’t say his name. It’s Thomas Dekker, who played the role of Zach on the NBC series. Now, according to The A.V. Club, “Dekker says the character was written as a straight dude with a burning love for Claire (Hayden Panettiere), so that’s how he’d been playing the misfit teen. To have him suddenly outed as gay would have undone his months of work, just like every season of Heroes after the first one totally did away with any goodwill for the show.”
Ahem. Regardless of your opinion on Heroes, or the seeming discrepancy as to whether Zach was actually “het-washed” or whether a straight character might have been changed mid-stream, the important part is that Dekker didn’t come out publicly as gay at the time, though his sexuality had been speculated about before. Now, while this was prompted by Fuller’s comments, Dekker has decided to come out on his own terms, refusing to have that honor taken away from him. While he gently chides Fuller for his words, he nonetheless sees this as an opportunity:
My sexual orientation once again came into question this week when a prominent gay man used an awards acceptance speech to “out” me. While he did not mention me by name, the explicit details of his reference made it easy for the public and media to connect the dots. While it is an odd situation, I thank him because it presents a prime opportunity for me to publicly say that I am indeed a man who proudly loves other men. In fact, this April, I married my husband and I could not be happier. I have never lied to the press about the fluidity of my sexuality but this man claiming that I came out is not true. Because I have not “officially” until this moment. I simply refuse to be robbed of the glorious joy that belongs to me. To say the words myself. “I’m gay”. Those words are a badge of honor that no one can steal. Sexuality and who you love is a deeply personal and complicated thing. For some of us, it takes time to cultivate, discover and conclude. It is not something anyone should ever be ashamed of and certainly not something anyone should be rushed into. I agree with many who believe it is an important responsibility for LGBTQ persons with a platform to come out. It has the power to change minds, challenge beliefs and make others feel understood and supported. It can strengthen the progression of our community and help disarm those who discriminate against us. It is a brave, powerful and important thing to do but it is also a deeply personal decision. One that should only be made when you are ready. If we are to stand strong in the gay community, our mission should be support, not exclusion; love, not shame. I choose not to look back on the past with a regretful heart but rather focus on the future with a hopeful one. A future where myself and all others can feel free to express their true selves with honor and dignity. I embrace you, any of you, with open arms, kindness, faith and patience. For all of you who have supported me, before and now, I thank you from the bottom of my fledgling heart. Be proud of who you are. No matter how long it takes.
This part is particularly important: “Sexuality and who you love is a deeply personal and complicated thing. For some of us, it takes time to cultivate, discover and conclude. It is not something anyone should ever be ashamed of and certainly not something anyone should be rushed into.”
Perhaps Fuller misspoke or misunderstood just how open Dekker was about his sexuality at the time. I don’t think he had bad intentions, and he probably legitimately thought Dekker was out already. But unless one is absolutely sure that someone is talking about their personal life publicly, it’s not a good idea to use their lives as fodder for your own anecdotes, particularly if they’re someone who is easily Googleable.
Still, I’m glad that Dekker has come out on his own terms. As he says, “it is an important responsibility for LGBTQ persons with a platform to come out. It has the power to change minds, challenge beliefs and make others feel understood and supported.” Dekker is doing a lot of good for a lot of people today, as has Fuller with his career.
Here’s hoping we all remember that it’s up to each person to decide for themselves how, and whether they even want to make their private lives public to help others.
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