NEW YORK – Was it a proud revelation, or an impassioned case for privacy? A coming-out speech, or a why-should-I-come-out speech? Too little and too late or just enough?
Jodie Foster’s rambling, fascinating and intensely personal remarks at the Golden Globes were not merely the water-cooler moment of the ceremony. They were a big moment for the gay community, and many advocates – though not all – were cheering her Monday for finally referring publicly to her sexual orientation, albeit in her own particular way.
“She is to be congratulated, no matter how awkward or inarticulate it may have seemed to some. It took an awful lot of courage,” said Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group.
The moment that Foster, a 50-year-old Oscar winner for “The Silence of the Lambs” and “The Accused,” took the stage to accept the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, it was clear she wasn’t going to give a run-of-the-mill speech. The huge roomful of TV and movie stars fell rapt with attention.
“I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public,” said the actress and director, long known for being fiercely private. She suggested she had something to say that would make her publicist nervous.
“But, you know, I’m just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I’m going to need your support on this,” she said. Then, after a pause: “I am single.”
After some laughter, she added: “Seriously, I hope that you’re not disappointed that there won’t be a big coming-out speech tonight because I already did my coming-out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age.”
And then, more defiantly: “If you had been a public figure from the time that 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.”
The privacy argument has come up in other recent instances of celebrities coming out. Last summer, CNN journalist Anderson Cooper confirmed he is gay after years of reluctance to go public.
Soon after, when pioneering astronaut Sally Ride died, her orientation was disclosed posthumously in an obituary she wrote with her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy.
On The Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” page Monday, entertainment writer Deb Baer called Foster a “coward” and said she “could have helped millions of people by coming out years ago.”
The editor of “Gay Voices,” Noah Michelson, said Baer’s view was in the minority – most of his site’s followers were happy with Foster’s action, he noted – but that he himself had problems with her speech.
“She did it with a sort of bitterness, a hesitation,” he said. “It was almost like she was being pulled out of the closet, like she had to do it.”
It didn’t really matter, he said, that Foster was an intensely private person.
“I do think queer people who are famous should be out,” he said. “I have the same expectations of all people who are famous. People forget that gay kids today are still killing themselves. So we are not at a place where it doesn’t matter whether people come out or not.”
But Wilson Cruz, a former TV actor who came out publicly at 19 – he’s now 39 – and is a spokesman at GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said he viewed the situation as more complicated.
At first, he had posted a comment critical of Foster on Facebook. He spoke to The Associated Press after further reflection.
He added that Foster “has a level of stardom that I cannot imagine, so I can’t imagine the pressure. She also has children that she had to think about. She came out when she was ready. She did it her way.”