January 27, 2014 at 11:25 am EST | by Kevin Naff
Queen Latifah can’t change, even if she tried


Spoiling an otherwise beautiful moment during last night’s Grammy Awards marriage ceremony was the presence of Queen Latifah, who presided over the mass nuptials on live TV.

Included among the 33 pairs that were married during the telecast were many gay and lesbian couples. It was a momentous spectacle — the weddings of gay and lesbian couples being celebrated on a nationally televised awards show while the crowd cheered and cried. The times have certainly changed from the days when LGBT people were rendered invisible in pop culture.

But Latifah’s involvement illustrates just how far we still have to go toward full equality and true mass acceptance. Latifah is a closeted singer/actress, a fact confirmed over the years by several colleagues and personal friends and in photos snapped by paparazzi of Latifah with her partner.

Her presence on that stage was baffling. Was it a tacit acknowledgement that she’s gay? Does she think it’s enough for her to make carefully scripted pro-gay appearances without having to actually come out?

Why do we keep rewarding closet cases when there are so many other openly LGBT people deserving of attention and praise? Bring out Wanda Sykes, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Ellen DeGeneres or Neil Patrick Harris to do the honors. The irony of that Grammy moment was glaring: a beautiful hit song celebrating same-sex love and the unions of gay and lesbian couples introduced and presided over by a closeted lesbian.

It’s akin to the farce of President Obama granting an exclusive interview announcing his historic support of marriage equality to Robin Roberts, who at the time was also in the closet. There are plenty of openly LGBT journalists who should have been given that honor.

How can we expect average LGBT Americans to come out when some of the wealthiest and most successful among us — like Latifah — continue to cower in the closet?

Queen Latifah can’t change, even if she tried.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

  • Joseph Nave

    This article is horrible. It would have been selfish for her to “come out” at this event. This was about equality, not Queen Latifah’s sexual preferences. Your article is shallow and backwards thinking.

  • Donnie Kenneth

    Why does it matter if she has come out or not? Is she out spreading hate? No. I don’t announce to my waitress that I am gay, and I don’t announce to most people that I am gay unless I am trying to sleep with them. It’s a personal issue. If she wants to share it with the world, great. If not, she is keeping HER relationship and HER sexuality to herself but still showing support for equality.

    As Matt said – your article is a disgusting hate article. Your words are filth.

  • Lane Hudson

    This was inevitable. Both Latifah and the show’s producer had to know that this discussion would follow. If Latifah doesn’t want her sexuality obsessed about, she shouldn’t do things like speak at Long Beach Pride and say “you all are my people” and then instantly issue a denial that she came out of the closet. And if she doesn’t want her sexuality obsessed about, she shouldn’t take the role of officiant in one of the most publicized shows of support for marriage equality in American history. If you don’t want the heat, don’t go into the kitchen.

    • William Monk

      So she she has no right to call human beings (that were also Americans) her people? Are they not her people? I think that what many are disgusted by is not the discussion of her sexuality, but rather the writers belief that he or anyone has the right to push someone out of the closet or to even put them in (I mean in the sense that the person may not be gay). Marriage equality is not for gay people, in the same sense civil rights movement was not just for minorities, it is something that everyone or anyone can have an opinion about and should be allowed to express it.

  • DeWayne

    Well said, Kevin! Thank you!!!

  • Lane Hudson

    I love how people think the Editor in Chief will pull down his own opinion piece. I mean, if you’re arguing that Latifah has the right to choose to live in the closet, then surely he’s entitled to an opinion at his newspaper about it.

  • Michael Bedwell

    BRAVO IN EXCELSIS, Kevin!!!!! May we ask the outraged herd leaping at your throat in her defense just two questions: 1. If she were a light-skinned black woman, able to pass for white, who has repeatedly refused to acknowledge her race, insisting “it’s nobody’s business,” what would you think of her then? 2. Have you read Anderson Cooper’s answer to the question of why it is important for privileged, high profile celebrities to acknowledge their orientation, emphasis mine: “I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. IT’S BECOME CLEAR TO ME THAT BY REMAINING SILENT ON CERTAIN ASPECTS OF MY PERSONAL LIFE FOR SO LONG, I HAVE GIVEN SOME THE MISTAKEN IMPRESSION THAT I AM TRYING TO HIDE SOMETHING—SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE, ASHAMED OR EVEN AFRAID. This is distressing because it is simply not true. I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, THE TIDE OF HISTORY ONLY ADVANCES WHEN PEOPLE MAKE THEMSELVES FULLY VISIBLE. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe THERE IS VALUE IN MAKING CLEAR WHERE I STAND. The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud. I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. IN A PERFECT WORLD, I DON’T THINK IT’S ANYONE ELSE’S BUSINESS, BUT I DO THINK THERE IS VALUE IN STANDING UP AND BEING COUNTED. I’M NOT AN ACTIVIST, BUT I AM A HUMAN BEING AND I DON’T GIVE THAT UP BY BEING A JOURNALIST. I love, and I am loved. In my opinion, the ability to love another person is one of God’s greatest gifts, and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with the people in my life. I still consider myself a reserved person and I hope this doesn’t mean an end to a small amount of personal space. BUT I DO THINK VISIBILITY IS IMPORTANT, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy.”

    • William Monk

      This comment has the flaw, as does the article, that these things are peoples choices! No straight person ever HAS to make a declaration of their heterosexuality, no heterosexual person HAS to talk about their sex life or activity, no heterosexual person HAS to put their personal privacy (or belief) second to that of the entire orientation, and neither should a homo or bi sexual person. Also you and another commentor tag along someone else’s philosophy to chain her down with, but are every heterosexual chained down with every quote on heterosexuality by a heterosexual? The thing this article, and many of its supporters, have to take into the account is this is a person with all the rights and liberties of every person no matter how famous she is and no matter her sexual orientation. It is not disturbing to say that nor insidious or sad, no that would be to force people to live every aspect of their life how you choose and to follow your moral. Isn’t that the plight of the gay community.

    • Lane Hudson

      Got a link to this?? Would be interested in reading it.

  • I feel sorry for you. To watch such a ground breaking, heartfelt, supportive, beautiful scene that surely gave lgbti people all over the world a glimpse of how things should be (and will be); to see people in the audience moved to tears and imagine the millions equally touched in the privacy of their living rooms; to imagine what doors could have been opened in that moment for family members to embrace their lgbti members; and have such a positive experience marred, for you, by the fact that the joy-filled, tearful, celebratory and supportive person narrating it hasn’t publicly declared themselves lesbian…I truly feel compassion for you.

  • Mark Fischer

    This piece is so shamefully wrong and so blatantly intolerant. I did not come out to meet the expectations of others. I did it because it was the right thing for ME and allowed me to live MY life the way I wanted to live it.

    As a 64 year old, gay man who has been out since age 23, I’m more than a little sick of those who feel entitled to tell others how to live their lives. It is as disgusting to me as Bible thumpers telling me what is right and wrong with my life.

    For me, the fact that I am able to be open about being gay has been liberating. It has allowed me to help others by being an easily identifiable resource for those needing to talk and an advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves. I see my ability to be open, based on both my emotional/mental makeup and my environment (primarily my accepting and supportive family) to be a blessing.

    On the other hand, my decades of work in the community has taught me that not everyone is, in fact many are not, similarly blessed with the circumstances I am fortunate enough to have. So, I encourage people to try to be open as much as possible by telling them about freedom it gives but respect individual choices as long as people are not hypocritical.

    Choosing to earn a living in the public arena does NOT mean opening the details of your private life to public scrutiny. As long as the individual does not use her/his public status to harm or impede the rights of LGBT people or in any other way act hypocritically, s/he deserves her/his privacy.

    The fact that anyone publicly supports LGBT equality should be applauded not nit picked because your personal expectations want to deduct style points.

    Stay the hell out of other folks business and work on improving your own life. If you feel the need to engage in “community work”, help the needy and less blessed.

    • William Monk

      Very good points

    • Alex Sachs

      Very well put, Tiffany, addressing the nuance so well. Latifah being Latifah, even Latifah, may have people and family in her life from whom she feels she needs to maintain that opaque. And that is sad but it is still a reality for some people. Yes, I think Queen Latifah is great, yes, I was sorry to see a closeted person chosen to have such a role in the beautiful ceremony and performance, but it is still ultimately up to Latifah. Thanks.

    • Teatime

      Why? And the fact that you think she does, says more about you than her. She owns “you” and everyone else absolutely nothing. You buy her album, watch movies or tv show or don’t.

    • deanna Bryant

      Who cares if she comes out or not. Its her
      Life not the public. What or who she has in her
      Bedroom is her biz. Not the press and not the public.

  • Point Of Fact

    Ok let’s be a little bit logical… though Queen Latifah did not stand up at the event and say, “Hey, I too am a Lesbian!” Was that really the place for that announcement? She was there by request obviously and what the attendees know about her is unknown to us. It seems as though she is not welcome unless she grands stands on her orientation prior to supporting the rights of LGBT. How does that even sound? Let’s use everyday people in the equation… Unless you know that your uncle, mom, or close family friend is also in your lifestyle you cannot allow them to speak at your wedding… Ummmm FOOLISH! everyone has their own battles you can’t impose you’re podium on others. QL stood for equality for everyone not just herself and that is commendable. This article did what it was meant to do stir up LGBT gossip and attempt to create folds in an otherwise peaceful stand.

  • LVN

    This “article” is soooo clearly really racist and sexist. It’s critical of the woman of color that doesn’t want to disclose her sexuality but praises the straight cis white man who is reaping the millions of a song written about queers and of course he specifically included language on how he isn’t gay so that everyone knows, just in case. Also love how they put Wanda Sykes as the first alternate suggestion because it was the only out queer person of color/woman of color they could think of. Take your privilege and oppression, and sit down. Also while you’re at it, go read a book!

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