It’s none of your damn business

By Kaley Fowler

Jodie Foster’s almost coming out speech during the Jan. 13 Golden Globes left many viewers wishing she hadn’t brought up her romantic inclinations at all. No one would have been surprised if the notoriously secretive actress avoided addressing rumors about her sexual preference that have followed her for decades. Instead, she ambiguously alluded to her sexuality, inciting waves of backlash and confusion, ultimately raising the question of what it actually means to come out of the closet.

As she gave her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, Foster, who in 2007 announced she was in a relationship with actress Cydney Bernard without identifying as a lesbian, spoke highly of her former partnership with Bernard and their “modern family,” but she did not use terms like “gay” and “lesbian,” omissions that have triggered some criticism.

Although Foster’s sexual orientation may be one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood, she shouldn’t be expected to broadcast that she’s a lesbian simply for the sake of labeling herself. The decision to come out of the closet is unnecessarily dramatized and often expected to result in some grand production signifying one’s open devotion to the LGBT cause. But that shouldn’t be the point. As Foster emphasized during her speech, coming out is a personal announcement that should be made on one’s own terms before an audience of that person’s choosing.

“I hope 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, in those very quaint days when a fragile, young girl would open up to trusted friends, and family, and coworkers and then, gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met,” Foster said.

In a Jan. 14 post on Advocate.com, an LGBT news organization, Editor-in-Chief Matthew Breen condemned Foster’s refusal to blatantly announce her lesbianism, arguing that celebrities can only be considered out of the closet once they announce their sexual orientation in a public forum.

Despite having the ability to address the public on national television, the validity of a celebrity’s coming out cannot be measured by the span of his or her audience, contrary to Breen’s assertion. Just because one has the platform to confide an intimate secret to the world, it doesn’t mean sharing is an obligation. While Foster’s celebrity status certainly makes it difficult to keep such details of her personal life private, she shouldn’t be heckled into sharing for the sake of keeping the public’s curiosity at bay.

Karen Ocamb, news editor of Frontiers magazine, an L.A.-based LGBT publication, said in a Jan. 14 post on her news blog, LGBTpov.com, that Foster lacks humanity for not seizing the moment as an opportunity to come out to raise awareness about the gay movement and to inspire confused LGBT youth. Regardless of the potential outcome of her speech, Foster shouldn’t be judged or patronized for not volunteering to be a poster-child for LGBT advocacy.

While Foster serves as the latest example of a celebrity charged with failing to adequately draw positive attention to the LGBT movement by coming out, she is certainly not the only one.

Other public figures, like musician Ricky Martin, American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken and CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper, have outed themselves in recent years after enduring relentless tabloid speculation and fielding rumors about their homosexuality. While all three men eventually confirmed they are gay, they did it on their own terms when they believed the time was right, not because they thought it was their duty to raise awareness.

“This was not supposed to happen 5 or 10 years ago. It is supposed to happen now,” Martin wrote in a March 2010 blog post on his website. “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”

Ultimately, coming out of the closet is a fragile announcement that shouldn’t be rushed by outside influence, nor should it be unnecessarily emphasized. Heterosexuals aren’t held responsible for publicly announcing their sexual inclinations, and LGBT persons shouldn’t be, either.

As society gradually adopts a policy of equality for all, the expectation of an elaborate coming-out speech should be phased out as well. If people are truly concerned with promoting tolerance, then it’s time for the cultural fascination with who’s gay to become a trend of the past. Though people don’t choose their sexual orientation, they certainly can choose whether or not to share it.

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