His statement reacting to the accusation of attempted child sexual assault is contemptible and will be used to justify oppression of the LGBTQ community, says Guardian columnist Owen Jones
How dare you, Kevin Spacey. One of the age-old tropes deployed against gay and bisexual men is that they pose a threat to children, that they are synonymous with paedophiles and pederasts. This vicious lie has long proved useful in justifying the systematic persecution of gay and bisexual men. And that is why Spaceys statement is so utterly contemptible. He has been accused of attempted sexual assault against actor Anthony Rapp, who was a 14-year-old child at the time. The Oscar winner denied any recollection of the incident and then chose to take the opportunity to come out.
Coming out is a personal landmark for all gay men, a before and after watershed moment. It can involve profound stress because of fear of rejection but for most it is a liberation, the lifting of an exhausting weight. That so many now feel comfortable coming out is due to a protracted and painful struggle on the part of LGBTQ people, particularly in the era when being gay could make you liable for arrest and incarceration.
I am not among those who believe those with public platforms have a special responsibility to come out, even if having well-respected figures in the public domain helps people who are struggling with who they are. It is a deeply personal moment, and only those who use their platforms to further the cause of homophobia (like secretly gay politicians who vote against LGBTQ rights) should be outed against their will.
But to use an allegation of attempted sexual assault against a child as an opportunity to come out? Again, how dare you, Kevin Spacey. When celebrities respond to scandals, they have a team of experienced PR representatives to help craft statements. And what do PR representatives try to do in these circumstances? They try to deflect attention by introducing a new story. In this case, it was their client coming out. Spacey has injured a minority he has publicly refused to associate with until a few hours ago.
Remember Section 28, introduced by Thatchers government in 1988, barring the so-called promotion of homosexuality in schools? How its defenders justified the homophobic legislation on the grounds that gay men were deviants and perverts who threatened the nations children?
It is a common theme. In the late 1970s, rightwing Californian Senator John Briggs launched an initiative called California Proposition 6, attempting to bar gays and lesbians from working in Californian schools. California, thankfully, voted the initiative down but its defenders portrayed LGBTQ people as a menace to American children.
In Putins Russia, the most prominent homophobic vigilante group has called itself Occupy Paedophilia. Portraying themselves as champions of the rights of children, they target gay people for assault and humiliation. Some Russian laws treat paedophile and gay as though they are synonymous. In Ukraine, the anti-gay vigilante group White Lions similarly justifies attacking gay people on the grounds they are paedophiles. Gay rights demonstrations in Poland have, in the past, been met with cries of Ban paedophiles, while leading members of the ruling Law and Justice Party have lumped homosexuality in with paedophilia, necrophilia and zoophilia.
In the coming days, weeks and months, I bet you that homophobic bigots will use Spaceys case to press the case that LGBTQ people threaten children. It will be used to justify oppression and mental and physical abuse. There will be those who have yet to come out who will be deterred from doing so. And all because of Spaceys statement.
The spotlight is now on powerful men who use their position to harass and assault. Survivors and victims desperately need support. There is no excuse none for the behaviour of these men.
Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist