Here's Why You Shouldn't Be Mad That James Franco Sorta Came Out

April 20th 2016

Kyle Fitzpatrick

No matter if you love him, hate him, or are confused by him, everyone has something to say about James Franco—especially gay men. Franco is notorious for toying with his sexuality, intentionally positioning himself near the LGBTQ community by directing and starring in gay-themed roles in films and doing things like donning drag for photo shoots.

Recently, Franco hoped to clear the air surrounding his sexuality by announcing that he is officially "a little gay" in an interview with New York Magazine. While technically it's a non-coming-out coming out, the story is making waves as Franco is doing what he does best: addressing his sexuality in non-specifics. Franco views conversation about his sexuality as over-focused, wondering why gay and straight media care to cover the story.

Here's the full context of Franco's quote from the New York Magazine article: 

There is a bit of overfocusing on my sexuality, both by the straight press and the gay press, and so the first question is why do they care? Well, because I’m a celebrity, so I guess they care who I’m having sex with. But if your definition of gay and straight is who I sleep with, then I guess you could say I’m a gay c—k tease. It’s where my allegiance lies, where my sensibilities lie, how I define myself. Yeah, I’m a little gay, and there’s a gay James.

So why do they care? Because his position is manipulative. The gay community and identity politicians have seen his behavior as problematic for some time, often feeling used by his same-sex-adjacent parading. "The thing about James Franco is, he's the greatest poser of our time," Kristen Yoonsoo Kim wrote for Complex earlier this year, relating his posing duality to "a brave (?), unique (?) performative art piece." Similarly, Gabe Bergado of Mic pointed out that Franco queerbaits yet stars in movies where gayness is a joke, which obviously is not cool. Some critics have seen his usage of shifting sexuality as "marketable," "dangerous," and "heterosexual queer." He's kind of the Rachel Dolezal of sexuality.

Yet, is this necessarily a bad thing? Speaking to the notion of "heterosexual queer," his constantly shifting views of his sexuality and interest in sexuality is truly contemporary. "I think it's healthy to make work that disrupts and questions that, and shows alternative narratives," Franco told Rolling Stone this year, alluding to how he gets people to talk about sexuality. "That's what an artist should do," he added. Moreover, his lingering between identities is truly what America is now. According to the CDC, there are a growing number of adults who identify as bisexual while less teens are identifying as "completely heterosexual." If anything, Franco is part of a growing group of celebrities whose sexualities are fluid, tied to nothing but freedom.

There will always be critics of people like James Franco since celebrities can blur the lines of sexuality without consequence while those who live day-to-day with a label are left to do the work of activism. Franco is a part of something though that, when placed in context, is reflective of a popular way of thinking. You have to hand it to him: His repeated non-coming-out coming outs are nothing to be mad about since everyone is doing it.

[h/t TIME]