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Kevin Spacey thought that coming out was a good way to respond to a molestation charge. Hollywood did not agree

A two-time Academy Award-winner and acclaimed star of film, theater and television publicly comes out as gay for the first time. In 2017, that would seem like a triumphant moment and cause for celebration in the LGBTQ community.

But when Kevin Spacey finally ended decades of speculation by declaring in a late Sunday night tweet that “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man,” the announcement drew widespread condemnation on social media.

At issue was the timing of his announcement — just hours after Buzzfeed had published a report in which actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Spacey made a sexual advance toward him at a party in 1986, when Rapp, then a rising star in the theater world, was just 14 years old. (Some also objected to Spacey seeming to characterize being gay as a choice.)

In his Twitter statement, Spacey denied any recollection of the incident with Rapp, who starred in the original Broadway production of “Rent” and can currently be seen in the CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery,” while issuing a conditional apology. “If I did behave then as [Rapp] describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” he said.

But since he first rose to fame in the 1990s — a time before “Ellen,” when being out in Hollywood was less accepted — Spacey’s private life has been the subject of near-constant speculation, rumor and innuendo. A 1997 Esquire cover story ran with the teasing headline “Kevin Spacey has a secret”; two years later, Spacey brushed off the rumors and told Playboy magazine that they’d actually helped him with straight women eager to “turn” him. And in 2000, on the cusp of his second Oscar win, he told Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” that he was in a relationship with a woman named Dianne Dreyer.

Spacey’s reluctance to be more forthcoming made him a controversial figure within the LGBTQ community. While “outing” is generally frowned upon, Spacey’s continued evasion on the matter — even in the face of growing acceptance of same-sex marriage and the mainstream success of out-and-proud actors like Quinto and Neil Patrick Harris — was seen by some as self-serving cowardice rather than an effort to maintain privacy.

“I still get enraged when I think about [Spacey] talking about being in love with that woman on ‘60 Minutes.’ Come out, sir,” wrote Bravo host Andy Cohen in his 2014 memoir.

Now that controversy, and that rage, has taken on a whole new aspect.

Yvonne Villarreal and Geoff Berkshire contributed to this report