To out or not to out, that is the question. For years Out Magazine, a gay publication, has taken to the practice of "outing" celebrities. Outing, declaring a celebrity gay when he or she has not admitted it, is controversial yet effective, for the gay rights movement. The celebrity is notified of the magazine's intent and thereby allowed the chance to come out on his/her own.

This practice, unfortunately, is due to the ignorance that is still running rampant in this country. Gay rights activists choose to emphasize that their lifestyle not only exists, but continues on a much larger level than most realize. The activists use educated approaches to try to explain to others that the lifestyle is not a choice, but rather a genetic disposition.

This year, for the first time, Out magazine introduced its "Gay Power List," released in April. The magazine's cover graced two very public, and very private celebrities who, although they have never admitted it, have never vehemently denied their homosexuality. The two, Anderson Cooper and Jodie Foster, have been labeled gay for years, yet neither have stepped up to the plate to admit it.

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Celebrities in this country hold coveted, powerful positions within our society, and gay rights activists no doubt see their potential in getting their message across. One celebrity, Ellen Degeneres, stepped up to the plate for the gay community more than any other. She refused to continue lying about who she was and ultimately, paid the price, by not only having her sitcom show, "Ellen" cancelled, but by being the brunt of severe hatred, including death threats. The star continued her plight and today, has one of the most successful shows on TV. On this show, she continues to keep the gay movement in the public eye, not to "shove it down her audience's throats."

Conversely, Rosie O'Donnell chose to lie about her sexuality the entire six years her talk show "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" aired. O'Donnell declared her love for Tom Cruise and other men, while denying as well as lying about who she truly is. After the show ended, O'Donnell came out of the closet; she became a regimented, militant trooper for gay rights.

Perhaps this was a little too much, too late, as everyone, gay and straight, had lost a certain light of respect for her blatant lying on a daily basis when she could have done so much on the using the popular show as a vehicle for a better understanding of homosexuality. O'Donnell no doubt feared that her name and her show would flounder should her "secret" be exposed, a chance she was unwilling to take. Sadly, O'Donnell could have most likely done a lot for the gay movement on a daily basis, and simply chose not to, consequently, reinforcing the belief that gays should keep their sexuality hidden and be ashamed of it.

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O'Donnell is not the only celebrity that waited to come out until they were out of the limelight. Lance Bass, of N*Snyc, came out of the closet shortly after the band dissipated. Regardless, Bass showed young fans that he was not going to be embarrassed by his sexuality. Most recently, one of television's biggest sitcom start, Neil Patrick Harris announced his homosexuality in a cover story on TV Guide. Harris, who portrays a womanizer convincingly on "How I Met Your Mother," took a gamble and seems to have gained a lot of respect in doing so. Harris has been seen everywhere, most recently as host of this year's Tony Awards.

Is it right that activists investigate and out celebrities whether or not they are ready? This is controversial, such as whether or not it is right that a gay person should grow up thinking that they are less than others and that they should be ashamed. Although an inconvenience for these celebrities, it is important for our society to realize that gays do exist and most everyone probably knows someone who is. As for Anderson Cooper, who maintains a stoic presence on his hit commentary show, "Anderson Cooper 360," this inconvenience may be a more difficult one than for Foster, who works in films. Out Magazine and bloggers such as Perez Hilton will no doubt continue their relentless pursuit of bringing to light the homosexual celebrities of today with zest. Their motives may seem selfish, but are more so a tool for activists to get their message across.

Certainly, the decision to come out of the closet is not an easy one, people who have known you for years may suddenly become uncomfortable around you, forcing you to feel even more segregated. The release a gay person feels, however, cannot be underestimated. Living a lie is excruciating and the suicide rates of young gays proves this. Gay chat rooms run rampant with married, closeted gays who oftentimes practice unsafe sex with strangers, and in doing so, not only put themselves in jeopardy, but their unknowing wives as well.

It is 2010, and although gays have made leaps and bounds in their plight, there is much more work to be done. For starters, a better understanding of homosexuality is imperative. Ignorant groups of people continue to label it a "choice" that people make. Why would anyone choose a lifestyle of scrutiny and disapproval over one that is accepted and "normal?"

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In closing, being gay is a difficult lifestyle for anyone. As long as ignorance remains at large within our society, gay children will continue to hate themselves and their suicide rates will reflect it. For those celebrities who remain in the closet and turn their back on their true selves, they should be ashamed. They are in perhaps the most powerful positions of all, yet they do nothing to help the community. Homosexuality is not going anywhere, that much is obvious. It would alleviate so much pain and angst for people to just accept that fact and move forward. To build relationships with others based upon whom they sleep with is superficial and unfair. Provided they are not harming anyone, what happens behind closed doors should remain between them and whomever.

Story by Lawrence Gould

Starpulse contributing writer