Hypocritical attacks on Jodie Foster over her Golden Globes speech from within the LGBT community have been difficult to understand
Former child actor and double Oscar-winner Jodie Foster and I are exactly the same age, and she’s always been one to watch (on so many levels) at every turn my entire life, always someone I could relate to, and I’ve always understood her to be gay.
And so it was with great joy that I learned that she had “come out” while accepting an award at the Beverly Hills Hilton. No, not this past Sunday during the Golden Globes — I’m talking about in December 2007 when she thanked “my beautiful Cydney who sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss,” referring to Cydney Bernard, her then-partner of 14 years and co-mom to their two sons.
In June of that same year it was disclosed that Foster had donated millions of dollars over many years to The Trevor Project in honor of her best friend, the late Randy Stone, who co-produced the 1994 Oscar-winning short Trevor and co-founded our nation’s premier effort to prevent LGBT suicide.
In July 2007, when the aquatic pavilion that she wholly funded at a facility for aging actors opened, she donated plaques of her young sons’ handprints bearing their names: Kit Bernard Foster and Charles Bernard Foster.
In September 2007, she said of her acting career to the Denver Post, “I need to have something that doesn’t belong to my mom, doesn’t belong to my kids, doesn’t belong to my partner,” and of her Tiffany ring to More magazine, “It’s an eternity ring and I never take it off.”
That year alone was a bonanza (also one of Jodie Foster’s acting credits) of unapologetic unsolicited “outness” from an A-list, household-name celebrity who also happens to be gay. And yet the U.S. media largely ignored not only her hefty philanthropy but also the almost-conversational normalcy of her personal life as an out lesbian comfortable in her own skin.
This is exactly how my everyday interactions sound as well — I rarely “say the words” (“I’m gay” or “I’m lesbian”), unless it’s to strangers in an activist setting. To people around me I just speak openly about my life in normal, unfiltered ways (“my partner and I …”) and people get it.
People know exactly what I’m telling them if they didn’t already know — they’re not stupid. And I don’t think that Foster believed she was speaking to stupid people either when she was just living her life in 2007 or this week when she accepted a coveted lifetime achievement award for her 47 years in the industry.
LGBT people tell LGBT people that “coming out” is a lifelong process, a very personal journey that you and only you take, on your own terms in your own way in your own timing to whomever you choose — it’s your life, your risks and rewards, your story, your journey.
We vigorously applaud, cry like babies and cheer when LGBT people young and old come out, and we stand on our chairs in proud unified ovation when the scary people they come out to embrace them with warm welcoming love and acceptance. We also stomp our feet and cry tears of sorrow when the scary people ridicule, disown or reject them, and we stand on our chairs with bullhorns and angry signs when anyone vilifies them with hell threats, physical violence or worse.
And yet I’ve watched in heartbroken horror this week as many in the LGBT community viciously turned on Foster because she came out on
Sunday. “Too little too late.” “Privacy is a lame excuse.” “Not good enough!” “She didn’t say the words.” “What a coward.” “Did she come out or not?” “She didn’t do it right.”
The catty, petty bile, the willfully playing dumb, the angry judgmental condemnation, the naked hypocrisy from every corner of the LGBT community this week — it’s been breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it.
A virtual flash mob of LGBT people shamelessly shredding one of our own. Bullying? We’re the best of the best at it. To all young, closeted LGBT people out there: Do not fear the usual scary people if and when you come out; you should brace for the special, extra-mean, laser-focused venom awaiting you from LGBT people who will have plenty to say about your journey.
And I honestly do not understand it at all. Especially the many so-called LGBT “leaders” inciting from the front. This new “It Gets Bitter” project inexplicably aimed just at Foster is bizarre at best, shocking and shameful at worst. The bitter have made a parlor sport of parsing each other’s multifaceted armchair critiques of Foster’s journey, while condemning those who simply support her.
I must’ve been watching a completely different speech. I cried, applauded, laughed with her, cheered, recalled with renewed horror the unique personal ordeal that she endured before, during, and after a would-be assassin shot the president of the United States and three others as “proof” of his “love” for her, felt my heart sing when she so eloquently paid tribute to her ex and her family, and wept when she spoke directly and lovingly to her mother who is in the fog of dementia. And I thought about how she’s transformed herself from family breadwinner at age 7 to an extraordinarily accomplished life with her partner, having kids, surviving a tough break-up while remaining on excellent terms as a family, and beyond to living openly as an out lesbian. And in between she’s taken huge heat for her unwavering faith in old friends who very publicly screw up, famously fortified the firewall between her work and her personal life to restore the daily peace of mind robbed from her 30 years ago, and won two lead actress Academy Awards.
So she was nervous, giddy even, rambling away from the speech she’d written for the teleprompter. She openly mocked the eager-to-tell-every-personal-detail world we all live in now as naively foolish for anyone in the public eye and cautioned her peers to hold on to their privacy in this new landscape lest the elusive privacy genie escape their lamps forever, and she came out (yet again) — on her own terms in her own way in her own timing to those she chose.
Still, while the world of our advocates and adversaries watches, it seems that some in our community are turning the “coming out” rite of passage into just another hypocrisy that is right for me but wrong for you.
So, some part of the when, what, why, how, where and who of it all wasn’t “perfect” in your eyes? Get over it! It was not about you, or your journey or our journey.
We’re better than this. We’re so much better than this. I, for one, choose to stand on my chair and applaud Foster’s quirky, loving celebration of her own “modern family.” Let’s simply rejoice and be glad in it. Who’s with me?
Patti Fink is president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, co-host of Lambda Weekly on 89.3 KNON-FM and past co-chair of the HRC DFW National Coming Out Project. She can be reached at PattiFink@Gmail.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 18, 2013.