Perez Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, rose to fame in the early 2000’s as one of the first internet celebrity gossip bloggers. His cut-throat approach to revealing some of Hollywood elites most guarded secrets didn’t just make his famous; It made him infamous. He was both at once loathed by industry insiders and loved by gossip hounds who coveted the fact that the rich and famous were just as messy and ridiculous as the rest of us.
By no means a professional journalist, Hilton created an empire as a celebrity chasing fanboy who notoriously outed Lance Bass months before he revealed he was gay; posted x-rated photos of screenwriter Dustin Lance Black in a series of compromising situations with another man, made fun of Rumor Willis, daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis and ultimately made a career of dishing salacious secrets and humiliating the subjects of his blog posts. No one was spared from the ire of Hilton, not even the children of the celebrities that he eviscerated in his missives. Early in his career, he was, himself famous for drawing penis doodles on the faces of those he wrote about. After being labeled a bully, Hilton, who is a gay man, suddenly found himself being unanimously rejected by even his most devout readers due to his unapologetic pursuit of humiliating famous people by either outing them, accusing them of being gay or subtly implying they were. As the backlash ensued, Hilton decided it was time to grow up, declared himself a “changed man” and announced he would stop outing and shaming celebrities for, well, being human.
“In talking about all these gay teens who had committed suicide a lot of people started to call me a hypocrite and a bully, and it got to a point where a majority of people thought that. It was life-changing. I had kept telling myself that I was just talking about celebrities and I didn’t feel bad because they were rich and famous and knew what they were signing up for.
But I was being really nasty to these people and they are human, and some people might have got the message that it’s OK to behave in the same way. I deluded myself.” — Perez Hilton
Perhaps, part of this change was influenced by that fact that Hilton had become a father, which suddenly thrust him under the same knife of celebrity scrutiny he had exposed others to. Many speculated on his emotional stability, his moral compass, and whether or not he was fit to raise a child. Suffice it to say, none of the tabloid ramblings had any more merit that Hilton’s own, years long, dissection of the personal lives of others. In retrospect, it was a sort of karmic justice.
In 2015, he appeared on the UK television staple, Celebrity Big Brother is which he donned a pair of speedos, humped windows, bragged about the size of his manhood, wept uncontrollably and told a fellow house guest “If I was your child I’d kill myself.” During his stint on the widely watched reality show, his antics were so controversial that it left audiences wondering how this man took care of himself, much less an infant child.
Here we are now and Hilton has added two more daughters to his brood via surrogate, and while his online persona has been substantially tamed (No more penis doodles.) he has continued to make a spectacle of himself at every opportunity.
Last week, Hilton shockingly stated on his podcast that he would not allow his five year old son to take dance classes for fear it would “Make him gay.”
As a gay man himself, I am in awe of the fact that Hilton believes that any outside influence can make someone gay. It feels reductive to have to reiterate this, as science has done a much better job over the last two decades than I can now, but I will anyway; You can’t be made gay, Perez. And if you’re gay, you can’t be made straight. It’s embarrassing you have to be told this.
For a moment, though, let’s set that blatant stupidity aside.
As a Trans woman, life has not been a walk in the park. The resistance the LGBT community (As well as people of color) have experienced has been amplified just because of who we are, what we look like, how we dress, talk, walk and who we keep the company of. We have arrows of hatred shot at us from the parapets of elitism coming from every direction; From the president, from school teachers, from conservatives, from religious zealots, from alt-right fanatics, from lawmakers, from anonymous bullies on social media and the general public. The media mocks us, makes crude jokes at our expense and the subject of our gender identities or respective sexuality becomes tabloid fodder- something Hilton is intimately familiar with having been guilty of it himself.
Yet, is it really wrong to hope that your child isn’t subjected to that? I recall being seventeen years old and accompanying a dear friend of mine who decided to come out to their Mother as a gay man. I stood by his side as he confessed that he was terrified he was going to disappoint her, but he needed to be open and honest with her in order to move forward. He told her he hoped one day to meet the love of his life- and that could only be achieved, by his very nature, with another man.
She cried. She sobbed. She snotted into a box of kleenex as he apologized profusely until she took his hand, looked him in the eye and said words I’ll never forget:
“I don’t care if you’re gay. That doesn’t bother me or make me think less of you or disappoint me because my love for you isn’t measured by who you love. But I’m so scared that the world out there will ruin you. I’m crying because I know that there are so many people who will never give themselves the chance to know you; to see how truly wonderful you are and what a kind soul you have because they will not look beyond who you love. You deserve so much more; So much better.”
I understood. But, that factor alone is what makes coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender such an enormous obstacle- and why our disclosure can fetch such an emotional response from those who love us. While there are instances where pure ignorance can result in our ostracization from family and peer groups, sometimes the tears aren’t ones of absolute rejection, but of a keen awareness of the obstacles we will inevitably be faced with; The trials we will endure, for no valid reason other than the bigotry of others.
In a follow up video to his statements, which were met with outrage from the LGBT community and our allies, Hilton did his best to clarify, albeit clumsily and without much tact. Yet, the nucleus of his explanation, which could have been easily lost between the misinformed hyperbole of claiming “50% of dancers are gay,” and how instead he signed his son up for tennis lessons to reinforce heterosexual tendancies, was this; “I want him to have an easier life than I had.”
To be completely fair, being the son of a man who has made a career of publicly naming and shaming people- and even paying physical consequences for it, like getting punched in the face by Will.i.Am. after calling the rapper a fa**ot, isn’t exactly the best first foot to step out on as a child embarks on this oftentimes treacherous life journey. I was surprised to see Hilton wasn’t more concerned that his past exploits would come back to haunt his children, instead of worrying about their, as of yet, unexpressed sexuality.
As a parent, I think it’s fair to give Hilton breathing room when expressing his hope that his children are straight, especially because of how intimate he is with the persecution of gay men, being one himself. Of course, I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the hostile climate our government has fostered toward LGBT Americans, and in other countries, gay men are being rounded up like wild animals and executed. Violence toward the LGBT community is at a record high as our President appeals to the rage of his fanbase, even giving them special rights to discriminate against us by explicitly removing the laws intended to protect us. As we’ve all witnessed our community subjected to state-sanctioned neglect, we’ve spiraled into a dystopian nightmare where everything we knew to be wrong is suddenly accepted as right and good.
Hilton made clear that, even should his son determine that he is gay, he would still love and support him unconditionally.
That’s more than I can say for most parents of LGBT children.
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