January 14, 2013

Jodie Foster Owes You Nothing

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Last night, Jodie Foster won coming out — by not specifically coming out.

Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes, Foster finally addressed unrepentant rumors of her homosexuality with dignity, grace and a thesis on the importance of privacy. In 2007, Michael Musto took the most direct pot-shot at Foster in an article for the cover of Out Magazine wherein he implied she was in a “glass closet,” out but not out, living her life but not placing herself front and center as an LGBTQ role model or appearing on People Magazine with “I’m Gay!” splattered in yellow font.

Musto encouraged celebrities who are technically closeted but living obvious gay social lives to just come out and say the words already, quoting Cynthia Nixon as saying, “If someone is chasing you, stop running.” The article mentions Foster and her face is used on the cover. Until last night, Foster had never acknowledged her sexuality.

And last night we found out why. Jodie Foster owes you nothing. She’s been in the public eye since she was three years old. She’s given you her childhood, her teen years, her whole life basically. Why should we also get to know every detail of her relationships? And sure, you can say she chose this life so she deserves the speculation in exchange for the fame and money we’re super bitter at not also having. But there’s something deeply problematic about looking at another human and saying, “Well, they deserve it.” Cynthia Nixon’s words bother me. It’s not the chased’s job to “stop running;” It’s our job to wonder why they’re being chased at all.

Until recently, I used to very strongly feel that everyone in a position of power should come out. In a very Harvey Milk sense, I thought we owed it to ourselves to show people exactly how many of us there are. I thought we all had an obligation to be visible and to help the cause and to use whatever platform we had to be role models to young LGBTQ kids and to help push the issues that affect our community. But I think it’s more complicated than my young, militant self originally thought.

We are not machines. We are not one big mass of gays with one mindset and one goal. We are individuals. We are people. We have had some of the same experiences and that binds us, but we have also had many, many different experiences and I think I was being insensitive to sweep those under the rug in favor of some kind of LGBTQ army that all does what I think is right, or what I would do — and have chosen to do — myself. Who am I to judge? I wasn’t always out. I wasn’t always brave. “Everyone should just come out” is easier chanted than done. I’ve done some immensely cowardly things in the name of staying closeted, things I’m still working through and am still ashamed of.

In my case, I very badly wanted acceptance. I wanted to be able to point to people in the spotlight and claim them for “our side.” But it’s not that black-and-white, is it?

And last night, Jodie Foster perfectly explained why my insistence that everyone even a little bit queer put themselves in the public sphere for it was short-sighted. She said:

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. You know, you guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child. No, I’m sorry, that’s just not me. It never was and it never will be.

…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.

“Oh my god,” I thought sitting at the bar where I was watching her speech. “She’s right.” As a young queer person, what better message is there but to treat your sexuality as a non-issue? To speak about it if you want to, or not if you don’t. To thank your partner in your speeches, to show up on the red carpet with a same-sex date, to get married and have children and never stop and explain something that shouldn’t need explaining by now anyway. Are we post-People Mag announcement? Maybe we should be.

Look, I’d still prefer celebrities on the LGBTQ spectrum to come out and be “proud,” but my definition of “pride” was skewed. Coming out isn’t a commodity or a career move. Foster’s spot on about the actor’s method of doing so, the expectation for them to be on our — the public’s — schedule for it, and how damaging the speculation can be on the psyche. It’s not up to me to decide when Jodie Foster comes out or what her definition of coming out is. Just as I’d prefer she not be friends with Mel Gibson, (LOL, sob) none of that is my decision.

Last night, Foster said:

Someday, 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? There are a few secrets to keeping your psyche intact over such a long career. The first, love people and stay beside them.

The full transcript of her speech can be found here. TC Mark

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