Kit Connor And Rebel Wilson Were Both Forced To Come Out. What's Going On?

It's 2022. Why are you still speculating about someone's sexuality?
Kit Connor and Rebel Wilson have both recently been pressured to come out.
REX/Getty Images
Kit Connor and Rebel Wilson have both recently been pressured to come out.

In 2022, LGBTQ+ people in the public eye are still not able to come out on their own terms.

Heartstopper star Kit Connor has said he was forced to come out as bisexual.

“Back for a minute,” Connor wrote on Twitter. “I’m bi. Congrats for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye.”

It comes just days after Rebel Wilson spoke of the “pain” of having to rush her coming out announcement, because a newspaper threatened to “expose” her same-sex relationship.

It’s not yet clear what prompted Connor’s tweet, but Heartstopper’s showrunner Alice Oseman was among the first to voice their support for the young actor and condemn those who “gleefully spend their time speculating about sexualities”.

Many on Twitter have also speculated that accusations of “queerbaiting” may have led to Connor confirming his sexuality. The term refers to the targeting of something towards an LGBTQ+ audience without authenticity or properly exploring it in depth.

In previous tweets, Connor had referenced the fact that some online were speculating about his sexuality after watching the show.

As when the Rebel Wilson story broke, Kit Conner has been inundated with supportive messages from fans, criticising those who pressurised him to speak about his sexuality. But why is this still happening in the first place?

“Sexuality shouldn’t still be such a salacious subject, but for many it still is,” says Matt Horwood, chair of London Friend, a charity supporting the health and mental wellbeing of the LGBT community in and around London.

“The number of anti-LGBT hate crimes reported each year remains incredibly high (although even just one hate crime is one too many), and we continue to witness anti-LGBT rhetoric in the media and among our parliamentarians.

“Queer people continue to face stereotypes and tropes – including those meant by well-meaning ‘allies’. This ‘othering’ of us as a community is unhelpful and feeds into that speculative lens many people have.”

Horwood also labels the growing discourse around “queerbaiting” as “problematic”.

″[It] was coined to describe marketing tactics, but is now a word being projected onto queer people (in the public eye) who subvert gender norms or embrace anything typically associated with queer people,” he explains. “It relies on problematic tropes, often erases bi people and can be very damaging.”

Connor is not the first star to be accused of queerbaiting, nor is he the only one to face speculation about his sexuality (just look at some of the discourse surrounding Harry Styles).

But each time this happens, it risks taking away autonomy from that individual and at its worst, putting them in danger.

For everyday folks, speculation about their sexuality can lead to them having to leave home, school or work, says Horwood.

“It could lead to poor mental health or expose them to violence,” he adds. “For young people who might have only recently discovered who they are, this can be particularly damaging. One quarter of young people facing homelessness in the UK are LGBT+ and the majority of these cases happen because of anti-LGBT familial rejection.”

Harry Styles has said he will not label his sexuality – nor should he have to.
Harry Styles has said he will not label his sexuality – nor should he have to.

Gina Battye, a psychological safety and LGBTQ+ consultant, works with workplaces to enable employees to be their authentic selves. She came out when she was 21 and says the moment of coming out is a “sacred one”. For any LGBTQ+ people considering doing this for the first time – whether in a professional or personal environment – she shares the following advice.

“You will know when the time is right. Just trust that the perfect time is coming and you will have the right words and feel good in the moment to talk to them about it,” she says.

“I would recommend the first person you talk to about it is someone you trust, who you can talk openly to and feel relaxed around. Because once you have told this person, you will be at ease and you will feel more settled and relaxed when it comes to having the conversation with the next person.”

But Horwood points out that coming out isn’t a one-time thing. Hearing Wilson and Connor’s stories is just a further reminder of how society needs a better understanding of the complexity.

“Many of us come out constantly throughout our lives, be that when we’re asked by colleagues what we did at the weekend, or our GP makes assumptions about who we sleep with. Sometimes, we purposefully choose not to come out, perhaps because it’s exhausting or because it might not be safe to,” he says.

“Either way, when someone makes that choice, it’s often because they either feel safe to or they feel like it’s something they have to do (or both). It’s a choice most people don’t take lightly, but the key word regardless of that is ‘choice’. Having that taken away from you is a huge deal.”

So, how do we even go about tackling this?

The first step is to call out people whenever you hear them speculating about someone’s sexuality. And remember, nobody has the ‘right’ to know how someone else identifies.

As Horwood says: “No one should ever feel pressure to come out – including and in particular people who are in the public eye. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach but happiness and safety are really important factors.

“If you’re choosing to come out, either for the first time or in a specific situation, try and ensure the environment feels safe to do so and that you have support either with you or waiting for you.”

Help and support: