Rebel Wilson: SMH denies outing actor as LGBTQ+ group denounces ‘appalling’ situation

Rebel Wilson was put in “an appalling situation” when the Sydney Morning Herald contacted her about her new relationship, the head of LGBTIQ+ Health Australia has said.

The Hollywood star revealed on Friday she was in a relationship with the US fashion designer Ramona Agruma, which prompted an outpouring of well wishes. But controversy erupted after the Herald reported on Saturday that it had contacted her on Thursday, wanting to do the story.

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The Herald gave Wilson two days to respond. After she revealed her own story, its columnist Andrew Hornery complained the paper had been “gazumped” and said it was a “big mistake” to have contacted Wilson in advance.

In a note to readers on Monday, the Herald’s editor, Bevan Shields, said the paper did not out Wilson, but “simply asked questions and as standard practice included a deadline for a response”. The ABC radio host Rafael Epstein called that “disingenuous”.

⁩“oh we just ask the questions..”

What exactly do you think she would have thought when you asked the questions?


Low rent behaviour

How would these journalists and editors feel if these questions were asked about their private life?

— Raf Epstein (@Raf_Epstein) June 12, 2022

LGBTIQ+ Health Australia’s chief executive officer, Nicky Bath, said there was a process people went through to reveal their sexuality and it was an intensely personal and vulnerable time.

“They are personal decisions,” she said. “Who you disclose to first, how you do that, and when you do that.

“When people do come out, the important issue is that they have made the decision to do so, and have the right support around them to go public on an important part of their life.

“To have pressure put on you to come out is really unhelpful, and will impact on [people’s] mental health.”

On Friday morning, Wilson posted on Instagram, with the hashtag #loveislove, that she thought she was “searching for a Disney prince”.

“But maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess,” she wrote.

On Saturday, Hornery wrote that the paper had emailed Wilson’s representatives on Thursday morning, “giving her two days to comment on her new relationship with LA leisure wear designer Ramona Agruma”.

“Big mistake,” Hornery wrote. “Wilson opted to gazump the story.”

He wrote that “who anyone dates is their business”, but that Wilson “happily fed such prurient interest when she had a hunky boyfriend on her arm”. Wilson would be unlikely to have experienced homophobia, he wrote, and “sexual orientation is no longer something to be hidden”.

On Sunday, Wilson said on Twitter it was a “very hard situation” that she was trying to handle with grace.

Thanks for your comments, it was a very hard situation but trying to handle it with grace 💗

— Rebel Wilson (@RebelWilson) June 12, 2022

Shields wrote that the paper would have asked the same question had Wilson’s new partner been a man. Shields said he had not made a decision about whether or what he would publish, but that any decision would have been informed by any response from Wilson.

“This was not a standard news story,” he wrote. “We wish Wilson and Agruma well.”

Bath said that while society may consider “everything to be right as rain” for LGBTI people, the reality was that “homophobia is alive and well in Australia”.

“In 2022, to find ourselves in this situation is really disappointing, when we know that people from LGBTIQ+ have elevated rates of mental health [issues],” she said.

She said coming out it should be a joyful time for people to talk about who they are, and that process for Wilson had been “tarnished” by the Herald. She pointed to the Australian Press Council’s standards of practice, which refer to the need for respect and consent in discussing a person’s sexual or gender identity.

Your paper has no god-given right to know anything about the private life of anyone
I don’t claim to speak on behalf of Rebel Wilson
But for LGBTQIA+ people the consequences of what is nothing more than a hissy fit over who gets to print gossip can have devastating effects

— Magda Szubanski AO (@MagdaSzubanski) June 13, 2022

Shields and the Herald have been contacted for further comment.

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