Coming Out Is Sacred: Maria Thattil On Rebel Wilson’s Untimely Outing

Like many, I was shaking my head in disbelief when an Australian columnist recently lamented they had been “gazumped” by Rebel Wilson for coming out on her own platform on her own terms. The issue? That she ignored the two-day deadline they gave her to comment on her new relationship with fashion designer Ramona Agruma. The entire episode has been a sobering reminder of the challenges that not only people from the LGBTQIA+ community face, but also the entitlement that people and publications feel when it comes to the private lives of those with a public platform. 
When I first chose to come out to the world, it was in a candid conversation with a friend whilst on a television show. I allowed that conversation to be aired after years of anxiety, paranoia and stress about my sexuality becoming public knowledge without my consent. In 2020, after the end of a long-term, monogamous and heterosexual relationship, I finally acted on what initially started as curiosity and switched my preferences to ‘men AND women’ on a dating app. 
At the time, I was merely a finalist in the Miss Universe Australia competition and had a humble social media following where a small local audience tuned in for beauty content. But it was enough to be recognisable. Within a day of switching my preferences, a friend told me that someone screenshotted my profile and sent it to someone they knew. They asked if I was queer and after my friend deflected by suggesting the profile was a fake account, I got nervous and quickly changed my preferences back to men, only. 
Having had crushes on girls in my school years, I was quick to write it off as a confusing secret because I didn’t want to be subject to the homophobic vitriol that was rife in the school, religious and social circles I ran in. But last year, I opened up to dating women. Holding space for myself to privately explore this was beautifully affirming. It felt like I was coming home to a part of myself I tried to deny — a beautiful part that was begging to bloom. 
But after every date and every public kiss with a woman, I’d become incredibly paranoid that I had been seen, that someone would take a photo and that a story that was mine to tell would then be told by a tabloid. Before my coming out episode aired, despite knowing that I was sharing this intimate part of myself on my terms, I felt the same anxiety and fear of judgement that I had felt when I first switched those dating preferences. 
When I came out, I was mostly met with love, but some had contrasting opinions on how ‘forthcoming’ they thought I was. ‘We don’t need to know what you do in the bedroom!’ one DM read. For many queer folk, this is one of the many confusing sentiments you are met with; one that reduces your sexual identity to bedroom escapades and undervalues and invalidates queer intimacy, relationships and capacity for love. 
Heteronormativity is so strongly woven into the fabric of our society that our culture conditions us to expect intimacy, sex and relationships as a connection between men and women. It’s why many people struggle to accept what they want, because they’ve been taught to want something else. It was why I didn’t understand my own sexuality until my late 20s.
Even as an out and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I still choose to keep my dating life sacred. Having recently started dating someone, I was shocked to receive another message from an anonymous account holder who saw us in public together before prying about the other person’s identity. There is an assumption that having a public profile or sharing a lot about your personal life entitles the world to a look behind the curtain at the things you decide to protect. 
You’re judged for sharing and judged if you don’t. I can’t help but wonder, at what point does society’s voyeuristic tendencies morph into an entitled imposition and deluded sense of authority over how someone else lives their life?
Coming out is incredibly intimate and personal; a decision to be made when one feels ready and safe to do so with agency and autonomy. Reading about Rebel Wilson being given a deadline to comment on her new relationship is incredibly triggering for anyone who knows the fear of their sexuality becoming a narrative that is taken out of their hands. It is also incredibly familiar for public figures whose right to privacy is often trumped by entitled and at times unethical endeavours by others to lap up their lives to satisfy a thirst for gossip.  
This story is bigger than Rebel Wilson being threatened with being outed, or forthcoming DMs asking me to disclose things about the person I’m seeing. When it comes to people who choose to share elements of their life publicly, we need to remember that ultimately, they have a right to share what they choose to. Choice and agency when it comes to one’s personal life shouldn’t be conditional depending on how publicly known you are.
Beyond just LGBTQIA+ folk who deserve the fundamental right of sharing who they are on their terms, people everywhere have the right to respect, privacy and to protect what they deem sacred. We are so desensitised to divorces, miscarriages, court cases and people's personal lives playing out in the headlines, that it’s easy to forget that it’s a person’s love, pain and life you’re consuming.
It's important not to disassociate — you wouldn’t want your own love, pain and life up for consumption. We need to honour that a person’s life is theirs to protect, and not fodder for gossip and a two-day deadline. 
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