When Rebel Wilson debuted her new beau, the designer Ramona Agruma, we all cheered for her. While she didn’t say what her own sexuality was in her Instagram post on Friday—that’s her own prerogative—revealing her girlfriend signaled that she was part of the LGBTQIA+ community. We were all for it.
However, our happiness for her has been colored after allegations that she may have gone public because of the threat of being outed by someone else.
After her announcement, the Sydney Morning Herald released a column on June 11 where gossip columnist Andrew Hornery talked about Wilson “gazumping” their story about her having a relationship with a woman. The story read:
“It was an abundance of caution and respect that this media outlet emailed Rebel Wilson’s representatives on Thursday morning, giving her two days to comment on her new relationship with another woman… before publishing a single word.
“Big mistake. Wilson opted to gazump the story, posting about her new ‘Disney Princess’ on Instagram early Friday morning, the same platform she had previously used to brag about her handsome ex boyfriend.”
It’s hard not to see that as anything other than Hornery complaining that the paper didn’t get to be the first ones to reveal that Wilson was dating a woman, and that they essentially gave her a two-day deadline to come out.
While the column was eventually retracted after public outcry, SMH’s (their acronym is very apt) editor Bevan Shields released a lackluster response to the situation. Instead of apologizing, Shields wrote that they followed their standard editorial process by asking Wilson to comment on her new relationship, and that they would’ve done the same thing if she was dating a man. “To say that the Herald ‘outed’ Wilson is wrong,” he wrote.
The reason why the statement falls short is that it fails to recognize its mistake and accept culpability. Outing a person, even a celebrity, means that you’ve taken away their choice to come out themselves.
“We would have asked the same questions had Wilson’s new partner been a man,” Shields wrote. But that’s the point. Her new partner isn’t a man, but a woman, and reporting on it before she revealed it herself is outing her. By saying that they would’ve done the same thing if she was dating a man, it’s an acknowledgement that they treated her sexuality as a celebrity scoop without caring that that meant outing her.
It’s hard to say that they didn’t know what they were doing, or that they didn’t realize that doing so was outing her. The first line of the original column reads, “In a perfect world, ‘outing’ same-sex relationships should be a redundant concept.”
To his credit, Hornery released a follow-up column on June 13 acknowledging his mistakes. He noted that he assumed that Wilson would’ve been happy to discuss her new relationship with him because it was Pride Month. He also realized that giving a deadline read as a threat and the tone of his column was also off, saying, “I got it wrong. I allowed my disappointment to cast a shadow over the piece. That was not fair and I apologize.” He noted that “the Herald and I will approach things differently from now on to make sure we always take into consideration the extra layer of complexities people face when it comes to their sexuality.”
“As a gay man I’m well aware of how deeply discrimination hurts. The last thing I would ever want to do is inflict that pain on someone else,” he added.
While Wilson has not talked about the situation in depth, she replied to a tweet by journalist Kate Doak where Doak notes that it wasn’t Wilson’s choice to come out.
Thanks for your comments, it was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace 💗
“Thanks for your comments, it was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace,” Wilson wrote.
Unfortunately, Wilson is not the only celebrity in recent years who has been forced to come out. Popular beauty YouTuber NikkieTutorials came out as trans in January 2020—and revealed that she had been blackmailed into coming out.
Outing or forcing anyone to come out is a violent act. A queer person’s coming out is their own prerogative, and no one should be able to take that way from them.