I owe Jodie Foster's family an apology. Like a lot of people and virtually all the media last night and this morning, I missed the real significance of what happened at the Golden Globes.
It wasn't that Jodie Foster came out. That was all settled five years ago, at a widely covered Hollywood event, when Foster received a prestigious award and publicly acknowledged film producer Cydney Bernard as "my beautiful Cydney, who sticks by me through all the rotten and the bliss." A clip of that speech has been on YouTube for years. Their 15-year relationship was covered in December 2007 in an extensive article, also available online, titled, "Is the man who inspired Jodie Foster to 'come out' the secret father of her two children?" When she and Bernard split two years later, a follow-up story reported on that event, too.
Foster didn't just come out last night. She did something much more important, something new: She brought her family out with her, and that is huge. In the coming weeks and months it will quietly sink into the culture that Jodie Foster is more than another openly gay celebrity. She is a mother with a real family that was there with her -- smiling boys in dark suits, former spouse and all -- at an amazing moment in her life. In her own awkward way, Foster let the world see that gay and lesbian people have loving, supportive families just like everyone else.
A lot of us have great kids. Some of our relationships last a long time. Some end. Some last a long time and then end. Some last a long time and then end, but the ex-couple learns to remember the good times and gets along because both parents love the kids they had together and the kids love both parents, even if the family changes. It is another way that we are just like our non-gay friends, and that is so important right now, because a lot of people don't want us to have families. They claim to be for "family values" and then work as hard as they can to deny us the legal rights that support families. They tell awful lies about our ability to be parents, and they make hateful insinuations about why we want to raise children. They try to scare people who have never seen a gay family and pit our families against other families by telling non-gay families that we threaten them.
Most of the talking heads today will miss this part of what happened last night. They will find ways to start a quick argument with questions like whether it was appropriate for Jodie Foster to come out at the Golden Globes, or whether she was trying to have it both ways with her remarks about privacy.
I live in New York, a place where lesbian and gay people can legally marry, adopt children and serve as foster parents. I come from Texas, a place where we can't. That isn't an accident. I also have friends and relatives from my birth family who don't believe that I should have my own family unless it looks like theirs (or what they think theirs should look like).
What Foster did last night was much more than one adult thanking another adult for their adult relationship. Like a lot of people, I thought that was what was happening, because it is what I am used to seeing. And because of her history and the information available about her online, I was dismissive of her theatrics. But I see it differently today. Whether that was her intent, Foster did something amazing, and she deserves a standing ovation from anyone -- gay or not -- who believes that our society is enriched by strong, loving families, and that we all should have the right to be happy and have the families we choose.
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