Did The New York Times Gay Bait Zachary Quinto? Or Is The Actor’s Sexuality Actually No Big Deal?

It’s an impressive, although not extraordinary (in the original “extra ordinary” sense of the word) to see the Hollywood career path of Zachary Quinto evolve from a Tori Spelling gay sidekick to a Star Trek star. And now to New York theater, where Quinto will help lead a Broadway revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, a story as much about HIV and being gay as it is about morality and loss. But in profiling that trajectory, the New York Times does something extraordinary: it treats talk of Quinto’s sexuality as proper fare to cover.

The Times‘ David Rooney writes,

While Mr. Quinto accepts the occasional fan ambush as part of the movie and television stardom package, he chooses to keep his distance from what he regards as mindless celebrity-gossip culture. “I’m grateful that celebrity or notoriety wasn’t thrust upon me when I was in my 20s, because I think I would have buckled under the weight of it, as so many people do,” he said. “But I’ve come to realize through experience that ultimately I really do have a lot of power in terms of the way I relate to the public or to people outside of my intimate circle of friends and family. Boundaries are very important to me.”

Despite Mr. Quinto’s efforts to keep his private life private, the blogosphere is rife with speculation about his sexuality, no doubt fueled by his support for gay rights and organizations like the Trevor Project. He prefers not to feed that rumor mill with either substantiation or dismissal. He speaks passionately about gay marriage, about “don’t ask, don’t tell” and about the recent wave of gay bullying and suicides.

“The fact that these things are such hot-button issues right now, socially and politically, I would much rather talk about that than talk about who I sleep with,” Mr. Quinto said. “I would love to be a voice in this maelstrom of chaos and obsessive celebrity infatuation that says, ‘Let’s talk about something that matters,’ ” he added.

What’s interesting here is not Quinto purposefully — and artfully — dodging talk of his sexuality, which is less of an “unconfirmed rumor” than it is an unacknowledged truth, but the largest circulation newspaper in the country explicitly addressing (and then shying away from) rumors about a celebrity’s sexuality.

Some might say this is the equivalent of outing. And it almost would be, were Quinto’s sexuality not the open whisper-of-a-secret that it is. He makes no real effort to hide being gay, beyond simply not stating one way or another whether he is. And that alone appears to have given the Times‘ reporters and editors the freedom to engage in what is generally the territory of The National Enquirer. Then again, the paper is merely reporting on the speculation that exists (an objective observation) rather than making a statement about the actor’s sexuality (a speculative leap). But that’s basically the definition of gay baiting, were it any other celebrity.