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