Complexities of Coming Out: The Jodie Foster Edition
I remember the first time I said it.
It was late on a Saturday night and I had just taken a shower and was staring at myself in the bathroom mirror and I said, "I am a lesbian."
I had never been attracted to a woman and had never questioned my sexuality but then I was and I did and that's how I found myself looking into that mirror, alone with my realization.
I spent a little time bargaining...maybe it was just this woman...maybe I was just lonely...maybe I was bored.
I gripped the sink and bowed my head before taking a deep breath, looking back into the mirror and saying, "I am a lesbian."
I just knew.
This was 1990 and there were no out lesbian actresses or musicians. I had never even met a lesbian before going to college. The word itself conjured up every stereotype and slur I'd ever heard but still I knew.
Within six months, I had told everyone who was important to me. My friends stood by me. My sister gave me unconditional love and support. My mother threatened me and then told me that I was no longer her daughter. A beloved aunt stopped speaking to me and I will be forever grateful to my other two aunts who stood by me. My stepmother disapproved and it put a greater distance between me and my young half-brother. I've been harassed by co-workers and by strangers.
And yet I have no regrets because I could not bear keeping the truth from the people in my life.
But that is me.
Coming out is a deeply personal decision.
Tonight, I sat on the couch with my partner of nearly 20 years and watched Jodie Foster's acceptance speech at the Golden Globes and held my breath when it was clear that something was coming and was stunned when she finally came out. It was awkward and painful and brave and inspiring and long overdue. I cried when she acknowledged her ex-partner and co-parent and talked lovingly about her family. As if all of that wasn't good enough, she ended with this:
"...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."
And this is what it's all about. In speaking the truth, we claim ownership of our own stories.
It was an imperfect but beautiful speech made by a woman who has said little about herself over the years.
Do I wish she had come out years ago? Of course. But we do not yet live in a world in which coming out doesn't matter so the night was a win.
I was teary and on a little Jodie Foster high until I saw tweets criticizing her for not being direct enough and people calling her a coward for not doing it sooner and people saying that her speech was horrible and, while I usually go to place of sadness in those moments, I was angry.
Have we really become so entitled that we have lost the ability to see the pain in another's struggle?
Have we become so bitter that we sit in judgement of the words someone chooses or how awkward they appear when speaking their truth?
Have we lost all compassion and perspective?
Have we really become so cynical?
We do not know Jodie Foster. We don't know what it's like to grow up without privacy. We don't know what it's like to have your personal life dissected in magazines and by strangers. We don't know anything about her life.
I will not judge her and will simply be thankful that she came out.
And I'll also be thankful for her arms.