by Jessica Mason McFadden
When it comes to coming out, I’ve been there, done that, probably hundreds of times. To me, there’s nothing to it. I’m one of the least closeted people you will ever meet. My erotic identity is as much a part of my representative identity as is my name, age, hometown, or date of birth. If you meet me, you’ll meet it. Except I won’t call it “It” – I’ll give it a name.
Hi. I’m Jess. I’m twenty-eight, I live in the Midwestern United States, I am a graduate student, I am one of two mothers of two precious daughters, I’m a poet, and if I could I would carry a basil plant in my purse. Yep, I said two mothers. I’m a lesbian.
That’s right: sometimes I have to repeat myself or clarify the two-mothers detail. Does it always feel good and liberating to out myself on someone who isn’t expecting it? No, not always. Sometimes I get that twisted, bewildered expression in response. Or, worse, a total lack of comprehension. Most of the time, however, this beautiful part of myself slides out as naturally as would any other. Who doesn’t like sharing a joyful and important part of their lives with people they meet? I hear about other people’s spouses and kids all the time. I have the same inclination to spread the love.
And the thing is, most people have this inclination: to be oneself and share oneself freely. We’re born ready to be led by our inclinations as we form or take apart our identities. So what happens? Why do so many of us, whether we identify as asexual, bisexual, polyamorous, homoromantic or queer, experience discomfort and fear when it comes to sharing? Because so many of us are taught at a young age that we must fit in some small identity box or another in order to be accepted and loved. And who doesn’t want to be loved? But even more than that, who doesn’t want to be herself, to roam happily and freely and not have to fear ridicule, rejection or harm?
Everything I have shared here is what you already know – it calls upon the common sense within you. We just want to be ourselves, move at our own paces and be accepted. Simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, as humans, we’re far more complicated and far too contradictory for that. It seems, instead, that we’re more often than not conflicted, anxious or divided when it comes to, well, most anything. And in particular when it comes to human sexuality – orientation, identity, and choice. Heck, we’re so spread all over the place that we’re even opinionated and divided about the timing and manner in which someone, one single person, comes out of the closet. Since when did we ever judge a white, male heterosexual for the way in which he shared his heterosexuality? I don’t seem to recall any news coverage on that issue.
I do, however, know about social media news coverage on the issue of Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe moment of ??? Of what? Of Glory? Of Relief? Of WellIt’sTheHellAboutTime? I’m sure we can come up with several thousand labels for it.
Twitter and Facebook were loaded with opinions and responses. Even I chimed (no, Tweeted) in with a heartfelt but bogus public pat on the back for Ms. Foster. Like she needed my approval. Even if she did, the larger question is: why it was that I needed to give it to her?
When I began writing this article, I assumed that I was going to write about Jodie Foster’s coming out speech, but I have since changed my mind and decided that I don’t want to do that. I don’t want this to be about Jodie Foster coming out. I want to use my little soapbox moment to respond to the issue rather than to the person— to share myself with all of you and to respond, not to Jodie Foster, but to her respondents. After all, what does it matter whether Jodie Foster comes out to all of us or not? Should she be living her life according to our visions and timetables? Of course not!
It has taken me a long time to realize this, in my own life, because I, too, have looked to my idols for validation. And that’s just what we, as a community, are doing with Ms. Foster: we are looking to her to stand by our sides, to validate and accept us.
See, it’s not really about her and her identity: it is about us and ours. We’re taking things way too personally here. Jodie Foster’s coming out choices do not have anything to do with us or even with the way she feels about us; they have everything to do with her and the way she feels in her own life. I’m sure she has her reasons for her life choices, just as we have ours. I’m sure we could validate or tear apart her reasons just as easily as she could validate or tear down our reactions. It’s an endless cycle of banter. But there are simple, productive, solutions.
Either way, whether you scorn or praise Ms. Foster for her choice, if you turn your attention back onto yourself, you will get the same, positive result.
This is a larger life lesson, one I am still trying to follow in my own life. It is this: you cannot control the choices of anyone but yourself. Tearing someone or someone’s personal choice down does nothing positive or productive to further your cause, regardless of the nature of your cause.
The reaction to Jodie Foster’s speech has little to nothing to do with Jodie Foster. It has to do with us. Not gays, not lesbians, not bikers, not artisans— but us. All of us. My advice, though not asked for by you, is advice I, myself, need to hear:
Give out the acceptance you wish to receive. Give it to yourself, first and foremost, and then to others. When you find yourself feeling rejected, abandoned or misrepresented, simply take the lead in your life. You have just as much power to make a difference in your own life as Jodie does in the lives of her fans and the LGBTQIA (andall) community.
As for me, I’m Jess, and I’m delighted to call myself a lesbian. I’m probably one of the most demonstrative lesbians that you will ever meet. I don’t know whether that hurts or helps your cause, but it sure does help mine.
Now that I’ve told you something about me, is there something you would like to share about you?