How Robin Roberts’ Coming Out Reflects on a New Way of Communicating

We’re not terribly familiar with Robin Roberts or her work on Good Morning America. More importantly, we don’t believe that her private life should be anyone’s business but her own unless she chooses to make it so.

That said, we do think that her decision to very nonchalantly reveal the fact that she has been involved in a relationship with another woman for more than a decade via yesterday’s year-end Facebook post is important enough to merit a comment.

Why? Because it reveals the changing nature of the relationship between public personalities and the people who know them by name.

You wouldn’t know it from all the Duck Dynasty nonsense, but a quiet sea change has affected both cultural norms and messaging strategies in this country. Gone (for the most part) are the days when the act of announcing one’s sexual orientation demanded a press conference, a formal statement, an apology and/or a resignation.

That’s not to say the new truth is universal: many gay men and women feel the need to remain “in the closet”, and for some especially famous figures a “coming out” may still be an event that needs to be managed carefully. But Roberts, like Anderson Cooper and Sam Champion before her, didn’t want to make the matter of who she loves into a “big deal,” because it isn’t. Hell, Gawker spent much of 2013 trying to “out” Shep Smith and the Internet responded with a yawn.

Right. But why do we care?

The primary purpose of Roberts’ post was to give thanks and celebrate the 100-day-anniversary of the bone marrow transplant that helped save her life this year. But the quiet mention of “long time girlfriend, Amber” in the fifth paragraph demonstrates fact that media people no longer have to worry about losing their jobs with such statements; in other words, the tide has turned for good.

Don’t believe us? Earlier this month, House speaker John Boehner told an interviewer that the GOP should always support openly gay candidates. This is a “big deal” coming from a party that continues to oppose same-sex marriage rights in its national platform—and it’s far more important than the details of any single man or woman’s personal life.

The fact that Roberts could let her fans know, in her own way, that she is a lesbian shows that the centuries-old stigma surrounding same-sex relationships has finally begun to fade for good.

Outliers remain, of course, and on that point we must take a moment to thank sister site TVNewser‘s super-friendly trolls for reminding us to never read the comments.