The Uncivil War over Jodie Foster

We all need to talk about what ''coming out'' means in 2013, but first we have to stop the vituperative attacks on each other

Rather than my usual rambling preamble I’ll jump right in because I have limited space and this topic inspires a vomitous number of words: Jodie Foster did not come out during her rambling speech at the Sunday night Golden Globe Awards.

She came out in 2007 when she acknowledged her partner in another acceptance speech. I remember when she did it because I pulled the quote at the time to include in ”Last Word” for the magazine.

That doesn’t mean we’re not arguing about whether Foster is out, came out or stayed in. Despite the central tenet of the LGBT movement that coming out is the most important thing each of us can do, we all have differing expectations as to what coming out actually means, especially when applied to movie stars, politicians, athletes and other famous people.

I fall on the side that publicly announcing to the world you have a same-sex partner, as Foster had already done, means you’ve come out. If we were to award merit to that coming out, she would only earn a ”C” — but that’s still a passing grade. The idea that Foster, one of the few remaining defenders of notorious anti-Semite and anti-gay bigot Mel Gibson, would make a great role model for young LGBT people has always been far-fetched, so a ”C” is better than anyone should probably hope for.

The first problem about the speech has been the reaction of the LGBT community — not that some loved it and some criticized it, but that the debate over it got real ugly, real quick. One gay Hollywood executive’s Facebook rant against Foster critics was widely shared: ”I find it truly disgusting that the same faggots who want to stone Miss Foster are the same MEAN GIRLS who NOW ENJOY all the civil liberties that all of us over forty have fought or created so they can enjoy.” A well-known D.C. activist took aim at the same people in the same forum: ”all the bitchy queens pissing all over her speech need to shut their traps.”

There was some similarly intemperate language from the opposite direction and reading all of it makes me realize that there are a whole bunch of other columns to be written on the lingering self-hatred and misogyny among gay men who launch into arguments by playing the ”mincing faggot” card. But, to stay on point, I’ll just say that as a 45-year-old faggot who lived through the ’80s and ’90s, I didn’t do the work I did just so we can all tell each to shut the fuck up when we disagree. We need to have these discussions about where the line is for coming out; knife fights on Facebook won’t help.

Which hits the second problem with Foster’s speech, her attack on those who’ve chosen a more public path to being open than she has: ”… 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 know, you guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child.”

Foster is entitled to her privacy, as well as her right to not engage with the broader LGBT community. But to make snide remarks on the coming-out efforts of some of her fellow stars — and there are more openly LGBT people in that Beverly Hills ballroom than ever before — reeks of privilege and disdain. And for such a groundbreaking woman to defend her need for privacy after her experience as a child star by taking a barbed swipe at a 6-year-old reality show star displays a lack irony or compassion on Foster’s part. Or worse, both.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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