Monday, January 14, 2013

Jodie and the Coming Out

I did not watch the Golden Globes last night.  I do not have a television.  I did, however, before the night was through, see the video of Jodie coming out. 

And today, I have the pleasure of reading the hype and the backlash.  Woo hoo!

For most of us, it was no surprise.  Like, "Okay, tell us something we didn't know..."

For her, it was clear, it was something she'd been struggling with and debating with and even then, kind of did it in a round about way.  Even debating, apparently, with her publicist. 

I sent a link of the video and to a news story to a friend, and she texted me last night asking what Jodie was coming out as.... I said merely a woman who loves another woman.  Many are angry, apparently, that she didn't give herself a label. 

My friend then wondered why it even came up?  I mean at first she was confused if she was winning an award - which I clarified - and even still, why it came up. 

I explained that she wanted to thank the people important to her, and that this included her ex-partner and co-parent.

My friend replied "Oh."

But it is part of an ongoing conversation I have been having lately about why come out and I guess, even, when or if or how you should come out.  I addressed it in the recent post about Dear Abby coming out... except Abby wasn't really the one coming out.  And it has been an ongoing offline conversation I have also been having.

That conversation or discussion, frankly, is two-fold.  One is about "ordinary" people coming out and "celebrities" coming out. 

I came out originally about 25 years ago, now.  Click on that coming out label over there and you'll see several posts I've written on the subject, including a little about my own coming out.  (Note that unless you are a celebrity or live in a very small area where everyone just knows you're the resident dyke and you never move, you are always still coming out or choosing not to.)

Is coming out political or personal?  The problem is there are an ardent number of rabid folks who think it's political.  Who think it's necessary and required.  Who have done it themselves, possibly suffered for it, and (A) are angry at those who seemingly avoid such consequences by hiding, and/or (B) believe sincerely that the more people come out -- especially celebs -- the easier it will be for the next generation.

And really 25 years IS a generation, and I can say it is overall easier for this generation than it was for mine.  Often the response you'll get is "so?"  Much, in some ways, the response was to Jodie last night.  And that is great.

I do believe in doing things that make it easier for others to do things, but I do not feel that anyone else has an obligation to put themselves out there and take a risk simply to make it easier for someone else to do so.

Gay teen suicide is real.  Consequences for coming out HAVE been and remain real.  I've written about some of that already.  I am ecstatic that we are at a place now where we can go "So?"  And I am appreciative of those pioneers who came out earlier.  Not just Ellen - although she's done an incredible job - but those who came out before her when it was even harder.  Yes, it was harder than it was for Ellen.  God bless them. 

And I sit on the fence about outing people who are publicly homophobic.  It is one thing not to help, it is another to harm others like yourself. 

Personally, I believe that coming out is a personal decision.  And who you choose to come out to and when you choose to or not to come out is your personal decision.  I do not, as clear from the last paragraph, condone using homophobia as a misdirect - but many folks who do that are currently, sadly, hating themselves and so... I do feel a tiny bit sad for them. 

But my friend's question from above is quite a pertinent one:  "Coming out as..." because that is part of the short-sightedness in those who feel the need to compel people to come out.  They feel the need to stick them in some kind of box.  Some kind of label.  And who are they - the outsiders - to decide what label is appropriate for someone else? 

That hasn't stopped many people today from filling in the blank that Jodie did not fill in.  And I think that's a shame that people feel such a need.  She's just Jodie who had a fabulous woman in her life that she wanted to thank for her support and her co-parenting.  Why isn't she allowed some measure of privacy?  Why is who she loves anyone's business other than the person whom she loves and her own?

To bitch today and say that Jodie wasn't a proper role-model dismisses everything else that she did and everything else, frankly, that we, as consumers, have done to her.  She has been in the limelight since she was 3 years old. 

There are two excerpts from the transcript of her speech that I feel are important to share:

"because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now I’m told, apparently that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show."

She came out to everyone she actually met, everyone who knew her.  She didn't hide in the closet.  She just didn't feel the need to have a press conference.  I mean do other people have press conferences to announce they are straight?  She led an honest and open life.  God bless her!

And the other excerpt clarifying what has been her life:

"But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else. Privacy. Some day, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.  I have given everything up there from the time that I was 3 years old. That’s reality-show enough, don’t you think?"

Yes, she received benefit from being a celebrity - payment for her movies, etc., but at a cost that at THREE years OLD - or even at thirteen years old - she was not capable of rationally choosing for herself.  It is one thing for someone who seeks attention and who has chosen a public life during adult hood to expect them, perhaps, to share certain details.  It is another for someone who was made a star at three years old and acted throughout her childhood constantly in the public eye and to not allow her to create something that IS hers? 

This isn't that well organized.  I appreciate that.  But I think, at the end of the day, what we need to give Jodie Foster is just what she politely and kindly asked for: 

"I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public. So, a declaration that I’m a little nervous about but maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now, huh Jennifer? But I’m just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I’m going to need your support on this."

Rather than trash her, let's give her the support she asked for.  And not spend time as Monday morning quarterbacks questioning her choice to live her life as she chose and now chooses.  Instead, let's focus on our own lives.  :)


  1. Simply, well said, and I agree. I grt so tired of people needing to lzbel others in every way. Can't we all

    1. Exactly! Now to be clear, if someone wants to label themselves, I support that, too. But for all these people supporting choice and freedom to express yourself, etc., so many still feel the need to criticize others' choices and expressions... Ah well... Not a perfect society by a long shot! :) We can just strive to improve..

  2. Kind of like when Anderson Cooper came out. I think most of the world already knew, and most of the world doesn't find it overly important. Anderson Cooper is just Anderson Cooper. So why the hell can't we just let Jodie Foster be Jodie Foster? Why does she have to be "Jodie Foster, lesbian"? We don't try and pigeon-hole Brad Pitt (or McDreamy, or Taylor Swift, or Helen Mirren) as "Brad Pitt, straight actor" or whatever. Fuck, man, we're all just people. Period.

    1. I was kind of pleased reading George Takei's blog about the same topic and his similar reaction that in a sense it's nice that people say "so", but also reflecting that in some ways it's a powerful statement that also deserves more appreciation for how difficult it was. He also reminded me of a point that I remembered AFTER I hit post, but before reading him, about the other *fun* Jodie had to deal with in life - being the reason for a psychopath taking a shot at the President.. I mean talk about a good reason to want to maintain a private life!

  3. I love that I was there 25 years ago for your coming out party, and I didn't even know it was happening... Also, this is the first I have heard about the particulars of Jodi's speech. I didn't watch the Globes, and my only exposure was through FB; all of the blabber was about her date Mel Gibson (I think?). Please devote a post (or two) explaining that friendship:)

    1. Ah asking me to explain anything about Mel Gibson assumes that I picked up much greater Hollywood insider detail when I lived in So.Cal, than I did. Although I imagine any insider would have a hard time explaining Mel Gibson... ;) Ask me for a topic I might have more success in writing about! :)