BY NATASIA LANGFELDER
There’s been a lot of anger towards out fitness expert Jillian Michaels over her recent comments in a Health magazine interview. If you haven’t read them, here is what she said when asked if she has always been comfortable talking openly about being gay:
“I don’t know that I am now, to be honest with you. The gay thing has always been hard for me. When Heidi and I are out and somebody older asks, ‘Are you sisters?’ I say, ‘We’re friends.’ I guess it comes from thinking that they will be shocked or disturbed. Look, I wish I had some strapping football player husband. It would be such a dream to be ‘normal’ like that, but I’m just not.”
Jillian has since apologized for her comments, through a statement issued to People. But I don’t think she should have apologized and I don’t think any of us should be angry. When I read that statement, the message I take away is “being straight is easier than being gay.” Which it is. But just because something is easier, doesn’t mean that it’s better.
I’ll come straight out and say it, I love Jillian Michaels. When “The Biggest Loser” debuted on NBC in 2004, I was watching. I laughed, I cried, I developed a huge crush on the loud, passionate, butch trainer (I don’t care how long her hair is, she’s butch).
In 2006, I joined Facebook and it helped feed my “Biggest Loser” addiction. I joined a “group” where fans could meet and discuss their deepest feelings about a show where the participants laid both their souls and their bodies bare to their trainers and to the audience. We all felt that we knew them. Once, a fan posted, “Wouldn’t it be great if Bob [Harper, the original male trainer on the show] and Jillian fell in love?”
I immediately responded, “They are both gay” without even really thinking about it. To me, a queer person, it was just so obvious that they were. Harper even starred in a series of workout videos called “Queer Abs.” Can you guess what happened next? Of course, you can. The Facebook group exploded. I had called beloved public figures gay, which, of course, couldn’t be anything but a huge insult. The
vitriol got to intense that I had to leave the Facebook group.
“The Biggest Loser” caters to audiences in the Bible Belt and in the Midwest. My partner at the time and I had long impassioned discussions about Michaels and whether or not she would ever come out while she was on the show. There was discussion in the queer media, which at the time was mostly AfterEllen, on whether or not NBC had forbade Harper and Michaels from coming out.
It’s 2014 and the world has changed a lot, but it’s not perfect. There have been great strides made in marriage equality and visibility but there are still hate crimes. There were two this month in Brooklyn alone, which goes against the popular stereotype that only the clueless religious zealots or unfashionable old people hate gay people. All types of people will hate you when you are gay. This is our reality. We all live it everyday.
What straight people don’t know is that you don’t just come out once; you come out every day of your life. From your manicurist to your mailman to your coworkers, chances are someone is going to ask about your relationship status. My girlfriend and I are in London and when we went through customs the customs agent asked how we knew each other and we had to come out to her.
Every time you come out there’s an element of risk. Let’s face it, we often have no idea how the person we are talking to is going to react. I kissed my girlfriend’s hand in public yesterday and a man looked at us, stopped and reached into his jacket breast pocket. For a split second, I was petrified that he was going to pull out a weapon. It was just his phone — luckily he wasn’t using it to record us. And to reject Michael’s comments is to reject the idea of prejudice against queer people. The threat is real, the fear is valid and that is the truth.
Not everything Jillian Michaels says or does is perfect. But she is out. She has risked showing her beautiful family to the world and that’s more than we can say for a lot of celebrities. That’s more than we can say for many of us. Michael’s is a celebrity, but she has just as much to lose as any of us do. She could be the victim of a hate crime, her family could be threatened, she could lose her job. But she’s out anyway. She’s allowed to admit that being out is scary and that it’s not the ideal. She admitted that she wished she could be different. I have yet to meet a queer person who didn’t have any anxiety over their sexuality or wish it away. Even if it was just for a moment, even if it was when you were 14 and coming out and scared. Didn’t you wish you were different? Michael’s shouldn’t wish that she was straight, but whose fault is it that she feels that way? It’s the fault of anyone who has ever rejected a queer person because of who and they love. That is who we should be mad at.