On Jodie Foster and "Coming Out"

Now that it's 2 weeks old and its relevance all but gone, I thought I'd get into my much overdue thoughts on Jodie Foster's speech at the Golden Globes. (Really, every time I tried to finish this post after work, drowsiness took over and I chose sleep over all else.) In case you missed it:

The reactions I heard to the speech were generally positive, but some found it "bizarre" and "confusing." I get that. It sort of was. But my own reaction was decidedly: "AWESOME!"

No, I'm not a celebrity and my privacy isn't something I have to guard, but I identify with Foster's slow, selective approach to coming out. This particular quote rang especially true:

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, co-workers, and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now, apparently, I’m told 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.

Jodie Foster, you’re in my head.

By “coming out” publicly, she joins numerous a handful of famous high-profile lesbians. Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Jane Lynch, Rachel Maddow and… and… no. There are so few publicly visible lesbians compared to the number of publicly visible gay men. I thank her for officially joining that small but growing roster. But mostly, I thank her for coming out on her own terms.

My own coming out process over the years has been very Jodie Foster-esque. I'm not “loud and proud” in life, and I’m not “loud and proud” in coming out. Some friends and coworkers can attest to the fact that I waited MONTHS to mention I even had a girlfriend. They’d talk about what they did that weekend with their significant other – their husband, fiancé, boyfriend. I’d tell them about my weekend, excluding details of who I was spending it with. I probably waited over a year to tell the guy who cuts my hair, despite the fact that he works in a gay industry. I hate mentioning it to employers. And I don't feel any obligation to tell the majority of my family members (I realize this may unique to the workings of my own family). Perhaps they'll find out via wedding invitation or Christmas family photo.

It’s not that I’m scared of what people are going to say. It’s not that I assume they can’t already tell from the way I talk, act or dress (I have an affinity for pants and an aversion to skirts and dresses). It’s just not who I am. I’m not in the business of letting everyone know me intimately, and that’s what coming out is for me. I’m letting you in on my life, and you have to earn that.

That’s how I interpreted what Jodie Foster was saying. Yes, she had a partner of many years. She started a family with her, and she thanked her publicly in a speech years ago. But she was just living her life, and that is distinct and separate from coming out.

For years, Jodie Foster was criticized by the gay media for not coming out  -- for living in a "glass closet." (Let’s ignore the fact that she starred in and directed a movie called The Beaver.) On a much smaller scale, my experience has been similar. I’ve been called out by a gay acquaintance or two for not embracing “my community.”

Let’s put some facts on the table: I will never like rainbow flags and stickers. If you know me, this is the least surprising thing I’ve ever revealed. While studying abroad in London, I tried going to a lesbian strip club. I lasted one drink before asking my friends if we could please leave. I’ve gone to lesbian bars where I had an ok but not great time. I’m not a fan of marches or rallies, even if I believe in the cause. I cannot stand Ani DiFranco or slam poetry -- a fact I once thought meant I was decidedly straight. And finally, I have very few gay friends. In college, this bothered me immensely and I tried to seek out more. But a few years later, I stopped seeking them actively. Gay friends are not a commodity to be sought, and being gay -- by itself -- is a weak foundation for friendship. I also realized I already had incredibly rewarding friendships with a number people who happened to be straight. Who could ask for more?

Perhaps this post has been as rambling as Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe speech, but my point is, “You do you” (also the slogan of Autostraddle.com). In a world where it has become expectation for LGBT people to be “loud and proud," defy expectation. Just be yourself.