An Open Letter to Aaron Carter

3/31/2018

Oh, my dear Aaron,

I have a confession to make. I only had a vague recollection of you from my teen years. I wasn’t much of a Backstreet Boys fan (Hanson4Lyfe, y’all), so a baby brother off-shoot from the band wasn’t exactly my speed. By the time you started having hits, I was aging out of teenybopper stuff. The only song I knew was “I Want Candy” because it was on a CD mix played on loop in a candy store I worked at in college. In fact, right now I’m listening to most of your songs for the first time to get an idea of what you were singing about as a teen. It doesn’t resonate for me, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist and person that deserves respect.

I figured you had faded into obscurity like so many other late ‘90s, non-threatening heartthrobs with hair parted down the middle. And there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps you figured it would make little difference, except to your most hardcore fans, when you came out as bi last year. Maybe you weren’t ready for the media vivisection to come, or the personal repercussions your truth would have on your career or life. And I don’t judge you for that.

I hope you saw that parts of the LGBTQIA community rose up to meet you with your revelation. We fellow bis especially know how hard it is to be honest with yourself, let alone the world. Yet when your words blew open the closet doors to the world, you faced mostly scrutiny, doubt, and scorn. And you deserved so much better than that.

While I am a bi woman and not a bi+ man, I have nothing but empathy and admiration for bi+ men who come out in our binary-thinking culture. It’s tough as all hell. You probably felt like you didn’t have much of a tribe to welcome you, and the straight world didn’t know how to process the honesty of your heart. And the narrative they serve sure is tempting to get you back into the hetero fold. They supply enticing phrases to cling to, where you can dismiss your orientation as “confused,” or “just a phase.”

In a way, I can understand, after all the personal fallout you experienced when you burst out of the closet, why you would want to retreat, why you would say your words and story were misconstrued. But it breaks my heart, both as a person and as a bi activist. I hate to see anyone hide who they truly are because it doesn’t fit into an accepted mold. Dulling your sparkle makes the world a little less shiny and enjoyable for everyone. But not only that, your withdrawal hurts the bi movement; it undermines us and vindicates the haters and homophobes who want to see our part of the spectrum as transitory, instead of valid and worthy.

I’m ashamed there wasn’t better outreach to welcome you into the fabulous fold you so clearly needed. To teach you, as my friend Nicole said, the difference between preference and identity. And I don’t want you to think coming out – either in your approach or your exploration – were incorrect. There is no perfect way to come out. There are people out here who accept you for who you are and hear your whole heart. But retreat is not the answer.

If there are other bi+ folx out there (especially bi+ men) who feel hesitant after announcing themselves and are tempted, please: don’t follow Aaron back in there. You will not rebuke the stigma but instead internalize it further, swallowing the poison, instead of crushing the vial into the ground. You won’t feel right because you will not be authentic to yourself or to the world. The closet will suffocate you, if it gets the chance. I hope Aaron joins us back out here someday soon.

So Aaron, please know we love you and we’re happy to have you back when you decide to join us again. Thank you for finding the courage to tell the world what’s in your heart. I hope it will lead you back to those scary first steps into the blinding light again. We’ll be here when you blink at the brightness and decide to join us. Hopefully the world – straight and otherwise – will welcome you better the second time around, with open arms and loving hearts.

Sincerely,
Jennie

Jennie Roberson
Jennie Roberson is a comedic actress and screenwriter currently living in Los Angeles. She just finished her first novel (a bi coming-of-age tale, naturally) and hopes to share it with the world soon. When she's not busy binging on Star Trek or dreaming of her future cat army, you can find her occasional thoughts between mountains of re-tweets at her Twitter handle, @JennieRoberson.