Heteronormativity is one of the industry’s best kept secrets. It preaches diversity and inclusion but at the core they’re all just money hungry. As long as the big names are kept in a good light and checks keep rolling in, it doesn’t matter whose lives are affected or in what ways. This pattern has been repeated time and time again, yet no real changes have ever been made – likely because of the fear that is instilled in both artists and the public. The victims of these tactics need support more now, than ever.
The most recent example of exposed closeting within the industry is the relationship between Landon Ross and Julian Morris. On December 2, 2021, Morris posted a slide of photos featuring him and his partner of 18 years – Landon Ross– for the first time, despite having a public girlfriend for almost a decade.
Another well-known and successful instance of closeting is George Michael, who was in the public eye for almost two decades before he was outed due to a bathroom scandal. He was signed to Sony for over 10 years before finally suing them for professional slavery because he alleged Sony refused to promote his music after he made the decision to minimize his image as a sex symbol. Further, he claimed that his contract, which was originally signed in 1982 (age 18) but resigned in 1988, prevented him from controlling his own image or finding a new label who would respect his wishes. He lost the lawsuit; however, this shed bright light onto how the industry works and treats queer artists.
A huge queer icon today, Freddie Mercury, was never even able to talk about his sexuality while he was alive and in the public eye. Not only for fear of what his family would say but also for fear of how the public would react. Today, we see Mercury as someone who opened the doors to flamboyance and self expression both on- and off-stage, but, it came at a great cost to his own life and that is something that is often ignored. It is theorized that the only reason he was able to be so expressive is because he kept his true identity under wraps and only showed the public a heterosexual relationship. In fact, the only reason we know about his sexuality is because of his death and those who knew him personally that spoke out after his passing.
The media industry would be nothing without these incredible artists yet, they were told they wouldn’t be successful if they were true to themselves. They can make millions of dollars, but it comes at what cost?
Over and over again the public can see that these huge companies and big names don’t truly support their artists, yet we have never seen huge public uproar when these facts come out. Why is that? Are people too scared to speak up? Are they afraid companies will come after them? It all boils down to money and power. Seeing something systemically wrong as an individual is enraging but how can one person fix everything? It’s overwhelming.
There is power in numbers, though, and as more and more people see through the charade, and form communities, change can finally be made. It is so easy to lose sight of the end goal because it can feel like people are shutting things down left and right, claiming that this idea is unrealistic, that narrative is absurd, and those goals are pretentious. Focusing on the facts is dire in situations like these where this issue is repetitive, nothing has been done, and people are still being hurt by it.
With enough people, enough motivation, and enough proof– power and money are all but necessary.