An Open Letter To Jodie Foster on Coming Out at the Golden Globes

Categories: LBGT
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Dear Jodie,

I've always respected you, both as an actress and a director. Your performances in films such as The Accused and The Brave One were both inspired and inspiring. Little Man Tate, your directorial debut, was a piece of masterful filmmaking. Through your films, you've given people hope when they would otherwise be wallowing in despair.

And I get it -- no, I really do. You've been in the public eye since you were three years old, starring in commercials, then movies, even turning in a riveting performance as a prostitute in Scorsese's masterpiece Taxi Driver, when you were, what? Thirteen years old?

Okay, the public eye has always been on you. Always. And because of that, your life has been, as you referred to it in your speech at the Golden Globes, one long reality show.

I respect your need for privacy. I respect that you don't want to live your life as a Kardashian or a Honey Boo Boo. But I don't respect your refusal to think big -- bigger than yourself, bigger than your own small world -- and consider the world at large.

You came out of the closet. You did it, as you do most things, with a certain panache. But why, Jodie, did you not do so sooner?

Sure, privacy, blah, blah, blah. No one needs to know your personal life, yada, yada, yada. And to a certain extent you are correct. No one needs to know the details of your sex life. No one deserves intimate knowledge of your preferences, or the leaked sex tape footage that's become common among hungrier fame-seekers.

But the fact that you withheld coming out as a lesbian, that you neither denied nor confirmed being gay throughout your decades-long career, has an impact much farther reaching than any tabloid takedown.

Not coming out, especially when everyone already presumed you were a lesbian, made being gay seem somehow wrong -- something you were ashamed of, something that you felt needed to be hidden quietly away. When you exude such secrecy about such a basic part of yourself, you send the wrong message.

LGBT teens and children commit suicide because they feel ashamed and tormented about their sexual orientation. Part of the reason for that is that people like you still hide your orientation from the public. Such reticence works against equality twofold. One, it signals that there is something wrong with it -- if not, why all the secrecy? And two, it prevents the homophobes in mainstream society from recognizing that LGBT people are not all degenerate perverts -- some of them of our favorite singers, writers, artists, and actors.

When someone such as Wanda Sykes or Ricky Martin comes out publicly, it makes people reevaluate their beliefs. "Well, I love his music. I have all his albums. He's always seemed like a really nice guy. Maybe all homos aren't trying to pervert our children. Maybe they really are just like us."

"I love Wanda Sykes! She's so funny. Oh, she's a lesbian? Well, maybe that doesn't really matter."

The more celebrities and public figures that come out of the closet, the more palatable sexuality is to mainstream society. The more role models there are for kids, the less isolated and maligned they feel by the public. You do have a responsibility to those kids who grow up thinking that there is something wrong with them. You have a duty to show that you, a respected, Academy award winning actress, are also a big, ol' lesbo.

It may not be a duty you want -- and it is obviously a duty you shirked. But had you come out as a lesbian, proud if not loud, it would have had an impact on how homosexuals are perceived. It would have made it easier for kids to defend themselves, both against bullies, and their own nagging thoughts.

Congratulations on coming out, Jodie. I'm glad you are strong enough and proud enough now to no longer feel the need to hide. Hopefully, you can now give others that strength as well. I just wish you'd done it sooner.

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10 comments
edubb
edubb

Why do these actors owe us anything? I just wanna know when I pay $10 for a movie, I'll get a good performance. I could care less for what some overpaid, over glorified human lays her head down with at night.  

pat82405
pat82405

Wow, I had not thought of it that way. Sometimes in our limited view of our personal lives, we forget to look at the BIG picture. I was approached a while back by someone who asked me why I "hid" the fact that my daughter is gay. I said I did not "hide" it, I was simply careful whom I let know so that I could protect her from ignorant comments. I was then told, do you not realize that in her eyes it seems that you are ashamed & cannot tell everyone? 

I immediately told the WORLD! 
Sometimes we are strong people willing to do good, but just need to be made aware of another "perspective". 

Will Iam
Will Iam

Who cares! She thinks no one knew, please!

PrincessMartha
PrincessMartha

I don't agree at all with this letter....instead of saying would have, could have, should have....we should be grateful that a person of her fame didn't use her sexual preference as a way to land a cover of a magazine, book a coveted interview with Oprah or use it to sell her newest book....Her preference and sexual orientation is hers to keep, share and do with as she likes. If we keep pressuring people to do things on "our" terms, we are saying that their own emotions and choices of how and when to come out are not important.And that is THE most important aspect of anyone...how do they feel about their decision??As a community, I am not gay but I am a big supporter for gay rights and equality, we need to embrace, thank and respect everyone's decision to come out when they want.

ily.goyanes
ily.goyanes

@PrincessMartha Thanks for the comment. I did thank her for coming out, God knows, better late than never. And I did not suggest she should have come out via press conference or with highly manufactured PR fanfare. Quite the contrary. I suggested that she should have given the (accurate) impression that being gay, bi, lesbian, straight, queer, trans, or questioning, is of absolutely no consequence at all -- and by hiding her sexuality, she accomplished just the opposite. She made sexual orientation something dirty, shameful, secret. She could have come out as easily as thanking her girlfriend when she won the Oscar for The Accused. Anderson Cooper didn't make a big to-do about it, but I guarantee that there are a lot of preppy queer boys out there who feel a whole better about themselves. There are times when we have to think beyond ourselves and if her coming out ten, twenty, thirty years ago would have helped save one life, then that fact speaks for itself.

pattifink1
pattifink1

@ily.goyanes  You must be too young to remember with any visceral recollection at all what she went through with John Hinckley and her personal life scrutinized by the entire nation daily in newspapers and nightly on network news for over a year, or *why* she's been one of the most private people in Hollywood. Your oblivion about why privacy for anyone in the public eye is such a uniquely hot-button issue for Jodie Foster is glaring, and your judgmental rejection of her choice to speak about coming out to all of those important to her along the way and her pride-filled tributes to her ex-partner and kids reveals either (a) an ignorance of the basic owner of one's coming out (hint: Jodie Foster's journey is not your journey for her), or (b) you have contempt for other people's journeys that do not live up to your insistent expectations for their journeys. What a pile of catty bile.

ily.goyanes
ily.goyanes

@pattifink1 You and I are from different generations and have had different experiences. I ain't no baby dyke, but I didn't have to put up with the crap that you probably did in the sixties or seventies. I've found that some older LGBT people tend to be grateful when someone comes out, whether it's at 9 or 90. GRATEFUL. That's a sad reflection of days gone by when lesbians were practically forced into living butch/femme dynamic and gay clubs were raided by police. 

We don't live in that world anymore, and obviously some geographical areas are more accepting than others, but there are still people who are made to go through hell because of something as natural as their sexuality.

I never implied that Foster should be/should have been a role model. My point is that there is no reason for anyone to *hide* the fact that they are nonhetero. I never stated that she should be a Pride Parade Marshall or form an organization for LGBT youth. All I said was that she should not be ashamed of who she loves.

You will probably argue that omitting the fact that she is a lesbian does not equal shame, but that is what such reticence implies. Ideally, we should all be who we are and not have to make announcements or *admissions* -- but unfortunately, the truth is, that it does make a difference to kids (and their parents) when they have more and more 'socially acceptable' public personas who are openly LGBT to point to as examples.

And when you look back at history, when people set aside their justifiable fears, but still stood by what they believed in or who they were, it made life better for every one of us in the long run -- although it made life very difficult for them at the time. 

I'm all about free will and personal choice, but that is a two-pronged fork. It means that I acknowledge the fact that Jodie Foster had the right to take her "secret" to the grave if she wanted to. But it also means that I am allowed to opine that had she done so sooner, it would have made a difference, no matter how minute. 

I did not for one second say that she is directly responsible for ALL the kids who have killed themselves rather than face a bully one more day. But she is indirectly responsible for furthering homophobia, as is anyone who refuses to own their sexuality. 

If we went by your logic, and everyone came out at their own time, when they felt all warm and cozy about it, we'd be living in a VERY different world, one where we'd still get beaten up for walking down the street holding our lover's hand, one where not even one state in the US would perform legal same-sex marriages. And I know for some it's harder than for others. But like I said, there is a time to think about one's personal comfort level and a time to think about the bigger picture. I thank God that we've had grander-thinking people throughout history working towards everything from the right to vote to the right to marry who you love.

If everyone waited until the time was right to do what's right, everything would be so much more wrong than it already is. 

I'm not sure if you just really love Jodie Foster or your complacency has dulled your objectivity, but if you read my article objectively, you would recognize that there is no vitriol or venom directed at Jodie Foster. I do and have always admired her as an artist (although I'll never get back the time I wasted watching Panic Room). Maybe you came across my post after reading a hundred bitchy posts about her coming out and you just lumped mine in with the rest of them. My piece is not mean-spirited. I simply state my opinion that the sooner those of us in the public eye come out, the better it is for everyone. 


pattifink1
pattifink1

@ily.goyanes  Well, there's certainly a power in seeking therapy, and I've sought it out willingly at many points in my life, and perhaps you have too. And while therapy may help one build strategies to cope with past, present, and future events, it really does nothing at all for taking steps to protect one's physical safety from moment to moment.

Hinckley read in People magazine that Jodie Foster was starting at Yale in the fall of 1980, and he moved there to stalk her, enrolled in a class to get full access to the entire campus, and went from mailing his psycho love letters to sliding them under her dorm room door and calling the direct number for her dorm room phone. She went through a year of the FBI sifting through every personal detail of her life, much of it splashed in the news, testified at trial while Hinckley glared at her for hours a few feet away, and in full OJ/Casey Anthony style the whole nation gasped at the verdict which prompted Congress and most states to act practically overnight to change laws so that it could never happen again, and at age 20 Foster knew that her physical safety was seriously at risk for the rest of her life, especially after a tabloid published a poem from Hinckley describing in gory detail *how* he will kill Jodie Foster when he gets out. Add others who have stalked with a loaded weaspon intent on killing her, and you get a brilliant talented actor who shut down any release of personal information about herself and started building a space between personal safety and practicing her craft so that she would not be another Rebecca Schaeffer or John Lennon.

But go ahead and expect her just to "get over it" since someone has attempted to kill you and the President of the United States as "the greatest offering of love in history" just for you. And while you're at it, step out in even more media spotlight and talk about your own sexuality while you're still trying to figure out how to be a gay adult in the world.

You are judgmental in your column. In fact, you hold her choice not to come out on YOUR terms and timing *personally responsible* for the pain, suffering, and deaths of LGBT people everywhere. By your logic, every person who has not yet come out - and every celebrity who did not come out before whatever imaginary deadline date that lives in your perceptions - is also personally responsible for LGBT suffering and have also made being gay a shameful negative thing. Please do point me to all of your other columns where you aim this same rationale and venom at other LGBT people who have come out after your self-defined deadline. By your logic, Rock Hudson could have single-handedly saved the entire LGBT community from all future anguish and death had he simply and proudly come out in 1956. In fact, your rationale also blames Ellen DeGeneres for the struggles for LGBT equality because she did not come out even earlier. In fact, your logic places the blame for all LGBT hardships on Walt Whitman and Peter Tchaikovsky. I don't know where your imaginary self-defined deadline date lands on the time continuum, but we could play this all day...there are millennia of LGBT pawns to move around the board..

Yes, you are contemptuous of the journey of others, and personally bitter that Foster did not come out on your terms and your timing. Though one's future physical safety cannot be solved in a therapist's office, it would be an excellent venue for you to explore your pesonal feelings of anger and disappointment toward Jodie Foster. She did not shirk any "duty" when she came out in 2007 and she didn't shame the entire LGBT community before that or on Sunday night. She owes *nothing* to anyone. It's her life, not yours. And that is the crux of our disagreement in opinion - you feel entitled to judge her coming out choices, and I do not. Indeed, we don't know how many thousands or even millions of LGBT lives she's helped and saved through her multi-millions in sustaining donations to the Trevor Project over the years, but I see that you give her zero points for that at all, not good enough.

BTW, you know an argument is a giant paper tiger when Godwin's Law is invoked in the first reply, and that was a hallmark to me that your personal emotion has seriously overtaken your objectivity.

I've been an out lesbian all of my adult life and an activist for a long time, and my observations about your judgmental view of Jodie Foster's inadequacies as an trailblazing LGBT role model are the same for you as they are for other people in the LGBT community who are bitterly whining that in Foster's case (but not anyone else's) it's just way too little way too late. As I said in my own column about it in the Dallas Voice issue out today, I simply applaud her and welcome her and support her on her journey and see it as nothing but a good thing for her and for our community, and I think it's gobsmacking that you and so many others can't simply let go of your unfulfilled plans for her life and just applaud that she's out now.

ily.goyanes
ily.goyanes

@pattifink1 Actually, I was in elementary school when Hinckley's obsession with Jodie Foster got 'out of hand.' Besides, I think we can agree that you don't have to be present during an event to feel something about it -- I don't know about you, but the years leading up to the Women's Suffrage movement still get my goat.

It seems that you're inferring that Ms. Foster may have some form of lack-of-privacy-related PTSD due to the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. There's this service called therapy which does wonders for such issues. I'm sure she has no problem affording her co-pay. 

You state that my post is judgmental. I challenge you to quote any judgmental passage in my post -- you won't be able to. "Judgmental" means to "criticize harshly" -- which is far from what I did. Trust me. 

Your next two points are that I am ignorant about coming out and contemptuous of other's journeys.

Cough, excuse me as I wipe away the tears of laughter. I've figuratively held the hands of dozens of people through the coming out process. And, lo and behold! I have come out as well! I know how hard it is to tell someone, even a best friend or a parent, that you are gay. It can be one of the most difficult and terrifying experiences in the world. Especially when there are no positive, mainstream LGBT role models. I didn't have the luxury of pointing to Ellen DeGeneres and saying, "Isn't she great, mom? I'm just like her!" 

As far as being contemptuous of other people's journeys, perhaps I am a tad contemptuous of people who are so self-centered that they completely disregard the impact that their actions (or lack thereof) have on others. Maybe I am slightly contemptuous of someone in a position of power who turns a blind eye to the fact that kids are being bullied every single day because of their sexual preference. I may be a bit contemptuous of a person with a high level of visibility who seems to think that their privacy is more valuable than the lives of the hundreds of children who kill themselves because they can't stand the discrimination and prejudice and fear and torment that they suffer simply because they're gay.

You must be so highly evolved, so enlightened, that you are way beyond feeling judgment or contempt. You obviously respect people's choices and journeys, regardless of the damage it causes others. You can intellectualize to the point where you are able to accept people and governments turning a blind eye to say, oh I don't know, genocide? I guess the journeys of the people who looked the other way during the Holocaust are A-OK with you, huh? I admire you for being able to completely distance yourself from "visceral reactions" when it comes to pain and suffering, but I try to temper a balance between emotion and intellect. Thankfully, you being so enlightened and all, I know you'll respect my journey.

On a personal note, and I apologize if I'm mistaken, but perhaps you should turn that genius intellect towards your own journey. Being a self-hating homosexual is a sad, sad experience. 

P.S. They have therapy for that too. 


pattifink1
pattifink1

btw, Jodie Foster did thank her partner while accepting a lifetime achievement award in that same hotel in December 2007. You're just bitter that she didn't do everything the way you planned for her or when you planned for her to do it.

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