Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Nov 9, 1999

Coming out of the ordinary.
Author/s: Bruce Vilanch

Professional homosexuals must respect the rights of homosexual professionals. This was a line I used to spout whenever anybody I knew threatened to out anybody else I knew. It seemed to make sense back when outing was still an issue, in the days after David Kopay but before David Geffen.

Back then it all seemed very simple. People who made their living being gay the way, oh, rabbis make their living being Jewish had no right to mess with people who didn't. (OK, it's not a fair comparison--a rabbi's training is much more intensive, but he deals with just as much guilt as a gay goy, pardon me, guy.)

I viewed myself as a member of the latter bridge club, people who were Oh By The Way Gay. When the Writers Guild of America, the august body that represents the interests of TV and movie scribes--in other words, my union--asked if I would like to be a part of a Gay Writers Caucus, I declined. I'm not a gay writer, I told them. I'm a writer who is Oh By The Way Gay. People who were asked to join the Black Writers Caucus or the Women Writers Caucus had no such option.

I didn't cop to it at the time, but of course I was perpetuating my invisibility, at least on a statistical level. Everybody in Hollywood knew I was gay. Certainly everybody in Hollywood I was attracted to knew. And yet Big Out Me had an identity problem.

Or maybe I just didn't want to be marching in a personal gay pride parade of one. Maybe I just wanted my sexuality to be ordinary, run-of-the-mill, standard issue. Maybe I didn't want people to make a big deal of it.

And, of course, they wouldn't make a big deal out of it. Unless I showed up at an industry function with my lover, the way any straight guy would. Or if I tried to get benefits for him from my union. Then it would become clear what an extraordinary and special collector's item issue my sexuality was.

So my lover and I avoided those situations. It was easy enough. We lived in a professionally integrated, socially segregated community, and that was just fine with us. We crossed paths rarely and discreetly with the heterosexual hordes, and we never called attention to ourselves--except for lapses like that night a bunch of us shrieked and cackled uncontrollably at the premiere of Harold Robbins's The Lonely Lady, starring Pia Zadora and a garden hose.

It's all ancient history now, of course, both the lover and my philosophy. Thanks to my stakeout on Hollywood Squares and the recent documentary Miramax released about my life in the comedy gulag, Get Bruce, I have crossed the line into professional homosexuality. Shove over, Harvey Fierstein, and make room on your pouf.

It started with Squares, where I determined there could be a safe haven for a fun-loving muppet who is Gay And Not Oh By The Way. If I'm OK with it, other people will become OK with it a whole lot easier. Granted, that sounds like the kind of deep insight you see on a bumper sticker with a smiley face. But it's turned out to be true.

After a year of Squares, the promotion for the movie coincidentally began, and I say that with no trace of irony, because I didn't plan it. I am very out in the movie, and that has led the press to ask me the kinds of titillating questions they dare ask of only the very out.

"Has your sexuality ever been a problem?" one DJ asked right out of the box. I suspected his sexuality might be a problem, but that was another story.

"I have no problem with my sexuality," I replied. "I have a problem getting laid."

I then shared probably too much information on what it's like to be the object of bear lust. Back in my homosexual professional days, I wouldn't have done it.

Call me pisher, but I think it's important for, dare I say it, America to know that there is one gay, albeit strange-looking, individual who is comfortable enough to talk about sex the way straight people do. OK, two if you count Scott Thompson. If that changes my job description for life, then it's a small price to pay.