When Daily Xtra journalist Graeme Coleman asked actor Tom Hardy about celebrity and sexuality during a TIFF press conference for the film Legend, he didn’t expect it to create a media firestorm.
“Your character [in Legend] is very open about his sexuality,” Coleman asked, “but given interviews you’ve done in the past, your own sexuality seems a bit more ambiguous. Do you find it hard for celebrities to talk to media about their sexuality?”
After an awkward back-and-forth, Hardy eventually shot the question down with an unceremonious, “Thank you.”
But Hardy’s hostile non-response to the query ignited a polarized media response and sparked a conversation about how we can and can’t talk about sexuality publicly.
Coleman, a graduate of the joint creative communications program at Red River College and the University of Winnipeg (and a former Uniter contributor), says the media response has been frustrating and disappointing.
“So many headlines praised Hardy for dismissing my question,” Coleman says. “They actually distorted my question and my intentions behind it. My actual question was simply about sexuality. I left it open on purpose so he wouldn’t have to discuss his own if he didn’t feel comfortable.”
Coleman has been a full-time employee of Daily Xtra, a Toronto-based LGBT news outlet, for the past year. Hardy’s sexuality has been a topic of public speculation since a 2008 interview he gave to Attitude Magazine. In the film Legend, Hardy plays openly bisexual gangster Ronnie Kray.
“I wasn’t trying to get a rise out of him,” Coleman says. “I have no idea what Tom Hardy’s personal truth is. But being ambiguous is part of his image whether he likes it or not. I don’t think people need to be completely transparent, but it’s nice when a public figure can be open, honest and authentic with their fans.”
Coleman describes the public shaming he endured when video of the incident went viral as “a huge struggle.”
“I believe I’m a good, compassionate person,” Coleman says. “The way the Internet initially reacted made me really feel like a bad person. It crushed me to see an overload of hateful comments and tweets. It felt like it was a struggle to get up and face the world.”
However, Coleman’s friends, family and favorable reactions from TIME Magazine and The Huffington Post gave him perspective.
“I realized that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Coleman says. “I asked a tough question and clearly it hit a nerve. Even if it cost me my happiness for a few days, I’m stronger than before. I have a thicker skin. I’m a better journalist now.”
Coleman hopes the conversations the incident sparked lead to positive change.
“We work so hard for sexuality to not be taboo,” Coleman says. “But if sexuality was irrelevant today, why are LGBT youth still committing suicide more than their straight peers? Forty per cent of homeless youth are LGBT. We still have an uphill battle to climb, and we won’t get there by being silent.”
Published in Volume 70, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2015)