Have you ever come out?
Of the proverbial closet? As a vegan? As a former addict? As an addict? As a Scientologist? As someone in a polyamorous relationship? As someone who is 30 pounds heavier than they say they are?
If you have, you know that this event is difficult. Because, if you’re like me, you spent many years processing how it would all unfold. And before that, you underwent severe psychological anguish: people assuming you were it (whatever that was to you) before you were ready to tell them or understand it yourself; masturbating to gay porn, only to remind yourself that “you’re not gay, you’re not gay, dear God, I am so, so, so, so, sorry,” complete with a post-orgasm prayer; and wondering who in your life would support you when you dropped what you considered to be the most personally private thing about you. It is safe to say that the period before you actually come out is mentally fucked up, and if you somehow were able to avoid this mental game of ping pong, then you are a lot stronger than I am.
There’s a reason people keep being gay guarded. It isn’t because people like Jodie Foster are closeted freaks as some have suggested. It’s because people are fucking people. Last night at the Golden Globes, Foster came out to the world in her own way, advocating for personal privacy, and commenting on the generational need to live your life in public. She joked about this being a coming out party, since she had already come out so long ago: to her friends, family, and the people she had actually “met.”
Is she under any obligation to launch a campaign about being a gay celebrity? Nope. Has she hindered the progress of gay youth by suggesting she’d like her personal life to escape the gaze of 24-hour life-coverage? Nope. Is she responsible for killing young gay people because her speech wasn’t a lengthy It Gets Better video? Nooooooope. The backlash stems from this obnoxious need of people young and old who feel like they are owed something by a celebrity or idol. Fandom seems so conditional on whether a celebrity does everything right. Did she work with the right actors or the right writers? Does she hate Republicans as much as I do? Is her life a mirrored reflection of my own? Is she the right kind of gay? So, it stands to reason that, should a person want to live a life privately in front of an audience that lives its life so publicly, that there’s bound to be some loud, angry voices waiting. In the case of Jodie Foster, some took it as meaning she was advocating the closet.
But Jodie Foster doesn’t owe us anything. She’s a woman who has acted for 47 years, but who has also been “out” for just as long. “Out,” because the public willed it so. She was the longest-running lesbian joke in entertainment history, long before January 14, 2013, when she outed herself on the eve of her retirement from show business.
As I’ve said before, there isn’t a formula for being gay. There isn’t a right way to do it. If Foster chooses to maintain a close network of friends and family who know she’s a homosexual instead of being Ellen, Jane Lynch or Anderson Cooper, then that is her choice to make. Just like it is your choice to make who you tell and when you tell them. You may not see it, but Jodie Foster’s gay life really is just like ours. She had to deal with jokes about her sexuality, even before she was ready to tell her friends and family. She had to live a life in secret. She isn’t advocating a return to a closeted life—in fact, she’s doing the opposite, because she’s saying she has told the people she cares about, and that the people who care about her have supported her. The fans, the people who support her when a movie opens, aren’t priority one. When celebrities say their fans mean the most, they mean their fans mean most to their financial and professional livelihood. That doesn’t mean you are entitled to be part of their coming out story. Those who view this as a fuck you need to grow the fuck up.
The Complete Speech:
Thank you. Well for all of you SNL fans, I’m 50! I’m 50! You know, I need to do that without this dress on, but you know, maybe later. I’m 50! You know, I was going to bring my walker tonight, but it just didn’t go with cleavage. Robert, I want to thank you for everything. For your bat-crazed, rapid-fire brain, the sweet intro. I love you and Susan, and I am so grateful that you continually talk me off the ledge when I say I’m done with acting, I’m done with acting, I’m really done, I’m done, I’m done, I’m done. Trust me, 47 years in the film business is a long time. You just ask those Golden Globies, because you’ve been around here forever. You know, Phil, you’re a nut, Aida, Scott, thank you for honoring me tonight. It is the most fun party of the year, and tonight, I feel like the prom queen.
Looking at all those clips, you know the hairdos and the freaky platform shows, it’s like a home movie nightmare that just won’t end, and all of these people sitting here at these tables, they’re my family of sorts, you know. Fathers, mostly — executives, producers, directors, my fellow actors out there. We’ve giggled through love scenes, we’ve punched and cried and spit and vomited and blown snot all over one another — and those are just the co-stars I liked. But you know more than anyone else, I share my most special memories with members of the crew. Blood-shaking friendships, brothers and sisters. We made movies together, and you can’t get more intimate than that.
So when I’m here being all confessional, I guess I just 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 you know, I’m just gonna put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I’m gonna need your support on this. I am… single. Yes I am, I am single. No, I’m kidding. But I mean, I’m not really kidding, but I’m kind of kidding. Thank you for the enthusiasm. Can I get a wolf whistle or something? I hope you guys weren’t hoping this would be a big coming out speech tonight, 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, 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. 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 please don’t cry, because my reality show would be so boring. I would have to make out with Marion Cotillard, I would have to spank Daniel Craig’s bottom, you know, just to stay on the air. It’s not bad work if you can get it though.
But seriously. If you had been a public figure from the time 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. 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 three 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. That table over there, 222, way out out in Idaho, Paris, Stockholm, that one next to the bathroom with all the unfamous faces — the very same faces for all these years. My acting agent, Joe Funicello — Joe, do you believe it, what, 38 years we’ve been working together? Even though he doesn’t count the first eight. Matt Saber, Pat Kingsley, Jennifer Allen, Grant Iman and his uncle Jerry, may he rest in peace — lifers. My family and friends, here tonight and at home. And of course, Mel Gibson — you know you saved me too.
There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life. My confessor, ski buddy, consigliere, most-beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. Thank you Cyd. I am so proud of our modern family, our amazing sons Charlie and Kit, who are my reason to breathe, and to evolve, my blood and soul. And boys, in case you didn’t know it, this song, like all of this, this song is for you. This brings me to the greatest influence of my life, my amazing mother Evelyn. Mom, I know you’re inside those blue eyes somewhere and that there are so many things that you won’t understand tonight, but this is the only important one to take in: I love you, I love you, I love you. And I hope that if I say this three times, it will magically and perfectly enter into your soul, fill you with grace, and the joy of knowing that you did good in this life. You’re a great mom. Please take that with you when you’re finally OK to go.
You see Charlie and Kit, sometimes your mom loses it too. But I can’t help but get moony, you know. This feels like the end of one era and the beginning of something else. Scary and exciting, and now what? Well, I’m never going to be up on this stage again. On any stage, for that matter. Change, you’ve gotta love it. I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved: the greatest job in the world. It’s just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won’t be as sparkly. Maybe it won’t open on three thousand screens. Maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle. But it will be my writing on the wall: Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen, to be understood, deeply, and to be not so very lonely. Thank you, all of you, for the company. Here’s to the next fifty years.