On June 9, the Australian actress and comedian Rebel Wilson posted a selfie of her and designer Ramona Agruma on Instagram, captioning the photo with pink heart emojis, a rainbow and #loveislove. Wilson wasn’t just celebrating love during Pride Month; she was publicly coming out. Her post read, “I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince… but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess.” A majority of the reactions were positive and celebrated Wilson’s happiness, especially considering she’s a longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community.
But only two days after the announcement, the Sydney Morning Herald published a column from Australian journalist Andrew Hornery titled “Rebel starts spreading the news of relationship.” The column commented on Wilson’s announcement with an aggrieved tone and revealed the shocking truth about why the comedian suddenly came out: The Sydney Morning Herald had full knowledge of her relationship and gave the actor two days to go public with it before the paper published the information.
In the since-deleted column, Hornery wrote, “So, it was with 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.” The outlet not only wanted to be the first to break the story, but Hornery thought all he needed was Wilson’s approval for what would be a “happy and unexpected news story for her, especially given the recent Pride celebrations.”
But Hornery failed to acknowledge that it was not his place to publish the story in the first place. There should never be a race to publish an exclusive story that details someone’s sexuality or gender identity before the individual has publicly come out. A publication used a very personal secret about an LGBTQ+ woman’s private relationship as media leverage. Not only did it hold the information over Wilson’s head under the guise of “extending a hand” to her team, but the paper took her hostage emotionally and mentally. An entire publication gave Wilson a two-day deadline to come out to the world — before it would politely do it for her.
This was never purely an inside scoop on some celebrity relationship drama concerning who is with who. The Sydney Morning Herald forced not just anyone, but a global celebrity, to come out to the world and to their fans before they were ready. Being forced to come out because of a deadline that’s forced upon you is not only horrific and manipulative but an action that should be illegal. A woman’s personal life and identity aren’t simply the latest exclusive; Wilson deserves privacy, yet the publication attempted to out her publicly, despite its supposedly positive intentions.
However, the worst part of the column isn’t the politely coded blackmail, but Hornery’s justification. “She had already revealed a month ago that she had been dating and was very happy,” he wrote. Apparently, since Wilson had attended a slew of events with Arguma and previously featured her on Instagram, the story was fair game in his eyes. Hornery even cited their attendance as VIP guests at the Gay and Lesbian World Pride Polo match in Florida as evidence they were basically asking for assumptions.
This argument is incredibly weak, and even if it was blatantly obvious that they were in a relationship — what does that matter? Wilson is entitled to her privacy and never deserved to be outed. Famous or not, everyone in the LGBTQ+ community is entitled to come out whenever they feel comfortable and ready. There should never be a clock counting down toward someone’s public declaration of their own personal journey and identity.
Hornery’s column was openly bitter. Confusingly, he felt annoyed that Wilson did exactly what he told her to do — come out. Clearly, he wanted the news published, but on his own terms and not hers. Most likely, he wanted to be the one to break the story and gain publicity. In the since-deleted column, he wrote, “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, wealthy American beer baron Jacob Busch.”
Not only did he feel betrayed by Wilson for taking control of her own narrative, but he antagonized her. He not only made fun of the language Wilson used in her own coming out message, but also criticized her previous use of social media. Hornery claimed her boasting about a previous male partner justifies reporting on her current same-sex relationship. This isn’t only homophobic but also remarkably disrespectful.
Hornery noted that Wilson has a complicated relationship with some journalists, citing her successful defamation lawsuit against Women’s Day in 2017. In the column, he was taken aback that she ignored “our discreet, genuine and honest queries.” This entirely ignores that someone’s sexuality is not an invitation for questions and curiosity by anyone outside of that individual.
Hornery tried to justify his actions by saying, “Of course who anyone dates is their business, but Wilson happily fed such prurient interest when she had a hunky boyfriend on her arm.” How is being publicly seen with a partner or even daring to post about a relationship on social media feeding into anything? It’s empowering to share one’s relationship, but Wilson didn’t surrender her privacy the moment she went public about it.
Using how she shared her past heterosexual relationships as a basis for how she should share her current same-sex relationship is incredibly homophobic, regardless of Hornery’s recurring defense that he is gay himself. In his eventual apology, Hornery admitted mishandling the exchange, writing, “I genuinely regret that Rebel has found this hard. That was never my intention. But I see she has handled it all with extraordinary grace.”
He further asserted that because of his proud and public identity as a gay man, he knows the true impact of discrimination. What he didn’t say or seem to comprehend was the fact that his sexuality doesn’t diminish his capacity to be ignorant, manipulative and homophobic himself. Whether he’d like to admit it, regardless of his sexuality, manipulating and attempting to out Wilson for the latest scoop is an act of homophobia; whether it comes from internalized issues or a complete misunderstanding of right and wrong is irrelevant. His gay card cannot forgive or justify harm to his own community. It is important he apologized, not just for mishandling the situation but also for the horrendous tone he took in his since-deleted column.
LGBTQ+ relationships need to be reported on more responsibly and entirely differently than heterosexual relationships. It’s not just about gossip or the latest exclusive. Nobody should have a deadline on sharing their own story, and it should be respected that LGBTQ+ people come out when they’re ready.
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