TL;DR - After Rebel Wilson posted a photo on Instagram with her new girlfriend, it was revealed she had been outed by Australian media. It shone a light on how the media treats queer people - and how it needs to change.
Rebel Wilson appeared to have ‘come out’ last week, but the darker story behind the decision sparked debate about how the media treats LGBTQ+ people.
We told you last week about Rebel Wilson’s adorable Instagram post with her girlfriend Ramona Agruma, saying she’d found her “Disney Princess”.
Australian publisher the Sydney Morning Herald published a column the following day, revealing that one of their journalists had approached Wilson’s representatives about the relationship, giving her 27 hours to respond before he published. He said that the Pitch Perfect star coming out on her own terms had “gazumped” him.
Understandably, there was a huge backlash when fans found out she may have been ‘outed’.
The Herald’s editor Bevan Shields quickly issued a public response. He wrote: “To say that the Herald ‘outed’ Wilson is wrong […] We simply asked questions and as standard practice included a deadline for a response.”
However, the columnist admitted to “mishandling” the story, and the article was promptly removed from the website.
Celebs and the public alike condemned the Herald and Shields’ article. LGBTQ+ people and allies flooded to Twitter to offer love and support to Wilson.
Whoopi Goldberg said of the Herald columnist: “If it wasn’t your intention [to out Wilson] you wouldn’t have done it”, on The View.
An anonymous staffer at the Herald even emailed their colleagues, saying “our reputation is trashed”. They wrote: “Management silence us on social media and treat our audience with contempt … what’s the point?”
While Wilson didn’t directly address the story, she wrote to a Twitter user: "It was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace."
It sparked opinion pieces, Twitter debates, and public anger, but there was one vital takeaway: coming out is a personal decision, and no one should be forced into it before they are ready.
Historically, numerous celebrities and public figures have been outed or pressured into coming out.
April Ashley was outed as trans by The Sunday People back in 1961, and over 50 years on it seems the media is yet to learn that this is unacceptable.
The media needs to learn to respect LGBTQIA+ people’s right to come out - or not - on their own terms.
QueerAF was set up because we were tired of the mainstream media failing and misrepresenting our community. But even with the big change needed, we haven't given up hope. With a new generation of LGBTQIA+ creatives working in the industry, and being supported to do so, change is possible.
The media has a serious issue. Time and time again, we see LGBTQIA+ stories being mishandled by media professionals.
This mistreatment is because there are just not enough LGBTQIA+ journalists in newsrooms. Our community will lead the change, but we need to give more budding LGBTQIA+ writers the opportunity to do so.
We need to support queer creatives to not only get media roles - but stay in them, to change the industry.
Our free weekly newsletter that commissions underrepresented writers is filling the room with the story that needs to be told. But by becoming a member of QueerAF, you fund a future where LGBTQIA+ journalists are hired, supported and understood.
We're working with creatives to not only improve their craft but to build ties with the industry - to change it. It's vital, but time-consuming work - and we need your help to make it possible.
Let's rewrite the narrative and change the media for good.