I spent a good portion of my day yesterday reading angry statements on The Huffington Post, Facebook and Twitter about Jodie Foster's acceptance speech for her lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. I grew increasingly frustrated as I read blog posts, Facebook statuses and articles that lambasted Foster for her speech on the grounds that she should have come out sooner.
Ms. Foster has been working in show business since she was 3 years old. For the last 47 years she has been in the public eye and likely under the control of a myriad of agents, publicists and production companies that have tried to control what she thinks, says and does. Having your own voice in that environment cannot be easy. Nevertheless, despite the ostensible homophobia and discrimination that exists in Hollywood, Foster has maintained an incredibly successful career as a respected actor and director, all while raising two children with a same-sex partner. And as far as I know, she has never lied about her sexuality publicly or maintained a false front.
Unlike most of her Hollywood contemporaries, Foster did not deliver the obligatory scripted speech thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and every agent, publicist and director she has worked with. Instead, in an apparently unscripted, raw and heartfelt speech, she took a stand for herself. She publicly declared her appreciation for her career, expressed her love for her children and their mother (Foster's ex-partner), made a heartfelt statement to her own mother (bringing most of us to tears) and proudly declared her sexual orientation to the world while articulating the value that she places on privacy, two issues that, for her, go hand in hand.
I don't care if it is 1913 or 2013; when someone takes a stand for himself or herself against societal expectations, that is a beautiful and refreshing contribution to the world we live in, a world that makes it difficult to be an individual, especially for closeted people in positions of privelege and power. She took a stand for herself and at the same time said what I interpreted as a "f#@% you" to those who think that it was somehow her responsibility to declare her sexual orientation publicly. As she said in her speech, she had been out for years to those who matter and never hid who she is.
Of course, I wish that Jodie Foster had come out publicly 20 years ago, along with every celebrity, politician or person in power who struggled with his or her sexual orientation during the time that I was going through a similar struggle. But it was not her time and not her journey. Thankfully there were others who did come out then and thus became role models to help me take the step out of the closet. I have no doubt that there are closeted people today who are moved by Foster's speech and, because of her strength, are feeling encouraged to take the courageous step toward cracking open that closet door.
Any statement of anger or resentment toward Foster for not making this statement years ago, especially coming from those who have been on a similar journey, is shameful, judgmental and self-righteous. Have you all forgotten about your own journey and the adversity that you had to fight against, and the courage it took to be true to yourself and to others?
With great privilege and power comes great responsibility, but that does not mean that everybody should conform to what we believe is the "right" path, because there is no "right" path, only our own individual paths. We are all on our own journeys, and we can only strive, as individuals, to live a life that is authentic. It is harmful to the LGBTQ community for any one of us to criticize somebody else's coming-out process. Whatever her reasons may be, Jodie Foster decided to take the time, during a great honor in her life and career, and in the most public manner possible, to make this declaration, and that should be celebrated.
I am proud of Jodie Foster for getting to this point in her journey, and I am so grateful that she did it with such grace and dignity. To lambast her for waiting this long, or for any other reason, is reprehensible. Ms. Foster should be praised for having the strength and courage to be authentic in a profession and society that values something quite different than authenticity.