Yesterday, a tipster told us Jason Wu, who has been enjoying a publicity bump following Michelle Obama's appearance in one of his gowns at the inauguration, had been effectively outed to some of his extended family by his profile in the Times Sunday Styles section. Writer Eric Wilson's mention of Wu's boyfriend, Gustavo Rangel, was, we heard, the first some of his family members had heard about his sexual orientation.
Whether that's true or not, says Mr. Gabriel, his section did not "out" the designer.
During his reporting, Eric Wilson asked both Wu and his partner, Gustavo Rangel, if it was okay to mention in print that they were a couple. They both consented. (...) [I]t is wrong to leave readers with the implication made by your headline that The New York Times someone [sic] outed Jason Wu. We take this issue seriously here. We did no such thing.
It's also worth noting that Wu spoke about Michelle Obama's style and his experience designing for her to The Advocate for their issue of January 20; the piece was headlined "Michelle Goes Gay." Although Wu was not quoted discussing his sexuality with the magazine, both the text and the sub-headline referred to him as a gay designer.
There are clearly levels of in-ness and out-ness within almost any gay individual's life — especially so for anyone whose family comes from a more conservative culture, but who lives and works far away in the relatively tolerant bubble of New York City. Negotiating these levels of identity must be fraught at the best of times. Wu may even have thought it was 'safe' to speak to The Advocate, since his Taiwanese relatives wouldn't read it. But if he did give the Times positive permission to identify his and Rangel's relationship as a romantic one, then he wasn't outed — even if it's true that the news entailed some difficult family discussions. He outed himself. And good for him, because he has plenty to be proud of right now.