Barry Manilow is officially out of the closet. For those who might not know, Manilow is a pop musician whose career has spanned over 50 years. Some of his hits include “Copacabana” and “Mandy.” He has also written a number of jingles for commercials you might recognize. These include, “I am stuck on Bandaid ‘cuz Bandaid’s stuck on me,” and “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” His coming out as gay is not a huge surprise to most people who have followed his career. There have been several “outings” in recent years, but he has never commented until this week in People Magazine. As it turns out, he married his long-time partner in 2014 during a secret ceremony. They have been together for 39 years.
Things I Didn’t Know
There are a few things that struck me about this story as I did a little reading. Manilow is quoted as saying this in regards to his fans (affectionately called ‘Fanilows’), “I thought I would be disappointing them if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything.” He was born in 1943, so it is unsurprising that he would wish to keep his life private. In this era of “sexual freedom,” it is easy to forget that it has not always been safe to come out. People have not always been as accepting of homosexuality as they are now. He has faced a fair amount of criticism from the gay community for not coming out sooner.
Another thing that I didn’t know is that he was briefly married to a woman. She was his high school sweetheart who he was in love with. Their marriage failed, because he wasn’t ready for marriage and wanted to devote more to his music career. The People article states, “The star maintains he wasn’t struggling with his sexuality at the time of their one-year matrimony.” I find this refreshing, as the common narrative now is that people say that they always knew they were gay. This sometimes goes back to their earliest memories. I have often wondered what that means to them. Certainly, I can relate to feeling different and out of place as a child. I wouldn’t, however, claim that my feelings were homosexual or even sexual at all until later childhood. Much of those sexual feelings began through some sexual play I was introduced to around age 8.
Living Out of the Closet
Despite one’s views on homosexuality and the validity of gay marriage, I am glad that Manilow has arrived in a place where he can live openly and honestly. From my own experience “in the closet,” I can honestly say there is little but darkness and shame there. Those who haven’t experienced it personally don’t know what it is like to be a celebrity. I imagine it is difficult to live honestly under those conditions, especially during past decades when being “out” could have destroyed his career. I have chosen a different path for myself than Barry has, in large part due to my personal Christian convictions about sexuality. It was through my own path out of secrecy and shame that I met and fell in love with my wife. I am grateful to live life out of the closet. I am thankful that I have found a way that brings my faith and sexuality into congruence.