CNN

The pressure on 18-year-old actor Kate Connor to appear has been building on social media for months.

Connor, the star of Netflix’s “Heartstopper,” said Monday he felt forced out of the closet — a disturbing new development at the intersection of abolitionist culture and identity control.

In the upcoming series with a refreshing and forward-thinking plot, Connor plays British high school rugby Nick Nelson, along with teammate Charlie Spring, played by Joe Locke, whom he falls in love with. Over the course of the eight-episode series, which was adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Alice Osman, Nick begins to question his sexuality amid his growing feelings for Charlie.

The show was so well received when it launched this year that it was actually renewed for two more seasons. She’s one of the first LGBTQ-focused characters — both Nick and Charlie, as well as others in the main cast — geared toward a teen and young adult audience. In contrast to programs such as “Sex Education” and “Ecstasy”, which, despite their wonderful diversity in terms of sexuality and sexuality, are much more straightforward.

Calls for Connor to address his trend this spring began with ridicule on Twitter, which Addressed in a tweetsaying, “Twitter is a very funny guy. Some people here seem to know my sexuality better than me…” However, this pressure did not abate, and Connor became the target of what a social media mob called “queerbaiting”, with claims that The show was trying to draw people into a broader LGBT-inclusive themes without being intentional about revealing who his character is – and Connor might have been doing the same.

Kate Connor (left) and Jo Locke in a scene from

The reality of Nelson’s character, as well as Connor’s real-life identity, may be more accurate. With that, Connor, who clearly felt trapped in a corner, Tweet on Halloween To his 1 million followers that he was bisexual: “Count a minute. I’m bi,” he wrote. “Congratulations for forcing an 18-year-old out of himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye.”

There’s a lot to deconstruct in this story, not least that a young adult has been forced to openly share very private parts of his identity – and they are probably still in flux.

Connor felt the pressure of the moral social media mob, a force that is quick to attack and slow to forgive, requiring you to answer its questions promptly and without room for nuance or context. It’s not how we should operate as a culture.

Sometimes the Twitter crowd forces real problems and brings them to favorable results more quickly. Other times, he blows everything up and goes away, not caring about the losses he leaves in his wake.

Connor’s outing is the latest in a string of celebrities who have recently been forced to abandon themselves, lest the tabloids reveal it or “leaks” it to them, and it stands in contrast to the long history of Hollywood celebrities who have been forced to stay in the closet or otherwise endangered. Careers.

From closed-door rocker Hudson in the twentieth century to openly transformed actor Elliot Page today, performers have long had to live double lives and hide their true identities to stay on the A-list — even to stay safe and alive. It took Ellen DeGeneres decades to rebuild her career after she appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in 1997, around the same time as her character on the eponymous ABC sitcom.

It’s true that many LGBTQ characters in contemporary media have evolved–from killers, murder victims, sex workers, and one-dimensional characters who deliver a punch–into actual human beings, including those who aren’t just sidekick but lead roles.

They include Michaela Jay Rodriguez, Billy Porter, Dominic Jackson and India Moore on FX’s “Pose”. Sarah Ramirez as Callie Torres in “Grey’s Anatomy” (and yes, as Che Diaz in the spin-off “And Just Like That”); Actors in this year’s films “Fire Island,” “BROS,” and Zendaya as Rue Bennett from HBO’s “Euphoria,” to name a few. We have come a long way in a short time in terms of representation in the media.

(HBO and HBO Max are both owned by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.)

(From left) Cast

LGBTQ audiences are now asking the tough questions about who can play LGBTQ characters. Is a gender compatible person playing a transgender character up to the level of a white-faced actor, or playing a BIPOC person, or is there a different tamper test? Does acting mean playing a different character than the actor’s personal identity, or are there rules that we haven’t sufficiently drawn and maintained?

Cisgender actors like Eddie Redmayne, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a transgender woman in The Danish Girl, later said he regretted taking on the role and that it should have been reserved for a transgender woman. But other cast choices, such as Cate Blanchett or Mara Rooney playing lesbians in the 2015 hit movie, “Carol,” feel more forgiving. Perhaps choosing someone to play a character they don’t know as well as in their personal life is more acceptable if they are chosen by a director, producer, or writer who lives in that identity authentically.

Who can create exotic art and media – and what can be considered an accurate representation? Would a TV series or movie get noticed if the star-studded cast were replaced for representation alignment? What if the show’s authors or directors are gay, but the actors aren’t?

While it is an advance in which gay actors are openly represented in leadership roles, weaponizing criticism of grooming and appropriation as an excuse to force a teen or any actor out of the closet is not the answer. These conversations have come to a head, and the result is hurting people who should be allowed to make their own decisions when and how to get out, if at all.

For thousands of years, humans have felt the need to categorize the things in the world to understand them. Younger people disrupt this strict framework with looser gender identities and romantic expressions. This makes some people uncomfortable (read: current culture wars targeting transgender children, LGBTQ rights, literature and school politics, among other things). But many of these disruptors are also asking people like Connor now to put a box with a sticker on the front — and share it with the world in no time.

Going out isn’t a one-time job, or something that stays put, and why should it be? Identities are flexible, and many young people are still on the journey to find themselves. What we shouldn’t do is publicly shame someone for revealing a part of themselves that they may not be willing or want to share.

With LGBT rights under increasing threat across the United States and around the world, coming out involves a very different assessment of the risks and ramifications. There is only someone who should be driving that decision, and no, it’s not a Twitter troll.

Note: There is Lots of resources available For those who want to learn more about how best to support those who come out as gay, and for people who are exploring exotic corners of their own sense of self.

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