Jodie Foster Reignites Debate About Coming Out
Well, thank you, Jodie Foster! In the past few years, the raging battles over ending "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell," adoption laws, bullying and especially marriage have overshadowed the most important aspect of being gay: the act of coming out.
Like Tolstoy’s unhappy families, everyone’s coming out story is different, and every one is dramatic. For all of us, it’s a traumatic experience, and even these days of much greater acceptance, and even in the most liberal enclaves like San Francisco or Ann Arbor or Manhattan, the act of coming out still takes courage. If you don’t believe that, go into a hook-up site and see all of the young men who insist they’re straight or on the down low or mark "Out/No."
Foster’s discursive (some have said rambling; others, incoherent) acceptance of a special award at the Golden Globes ignited debate and refocused attention on the act of coming out and what it signifies.
As unique as each coming out is, I would roughly divide the process into two distinct camps.
There is the declaration. People who use this tactic have decided to make a clean breast of it. They notify family, friends, perhaps a cleric, teachers, co-workers. The best celebrity examples I can think of are Neil Patrick Harris, who issued perhaps the definitive "declaration" statement when he said he was gay and happy and that was the end of it; and, of course, Ellen deGeneres, whose simultaneous coming out in real life and on her eponymous television show was a media sensation.
In Harris’ case, he handled it beautifully. By basically telling the media there would be nothing to sensationalize, reporters have left him alone. As a result, he has been able to hone his image as a heterosexual horn dog on "How I Met Your Mother" and to hilarious effect in movies like "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (in which, as I recall, not only does Harris bag a prostitute, he also brands her).
In contrast to that is the "soft" coming out. These people ease out of the closet slowly. They give off hints or strew a few bits of information to those close to them (who inevitably tell him or her "Oh we knew it all along").