Social media was buzzing last night over Jodie Foster’s Golden Globes acceptance speech in which she supposedly outed herself as a lesbian. I say “supposedly” because for many of us that’s old news. The actress has always been cagey about her private life, but as early as 2007 she was referring to her then-partner of 15 years, Cydney Bernard (who she left for writer/producer Cynthia Mort in 2008). So it’s not like it was a big secret.
Secret Gay Identities
Today actor Victor Garber (“ALIAS” and “Argo”) announced that not only is he gay but he’s been with his partner, artist Rainer Andreesen, for thirteen years. Garber is also quiet about his personal life and said that he doesn’t really talk about it, “but everybody knows.”
This is reminiscent of when Anderson Cooper finally came out this past July, and we learned what we already knew about his relationship with Benjamin Maisani. The two have been together since 2009.
What I found most curious about both announcements was that both couples were said to be “dating.” I’m not sure what world these writers are in, but if you’ve been with the same person for more than a couple of years, you’re not “dating.” You’re a piece of paper away from being legally married. I know heterosexual couples whose relationships haven’t lasted as long as Cooper and Maisani’s.
The Emperor Is Naked
The uncomfortable fact is that for as accepting as our society is finally becoming of the LGBT community, there’s still a fundamental disparity between how our relationships are perceived. Gays casually date and have fleeting relationships. Heterosexuals get married and have stable families. So it’s schizophrenic to see a couple who has been together for thirteen years described as “dating,” as if tomorrow Rainer could leave Victor for some cute young twink he ran into down at the local gay bar.
It’s disappointing but not surprising then to see the media pretending not to squirm when talking about same-sex couples. Nobody wants to say it. Marching orders and talking points are marriage equality and pro-gay rights. But deep down, the people who run the networks and sign off on the headlines seem uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in a loving and committed relationship. And they seem to think the majority of Americans will be uncomfortable with it too, and stop watching and reading.
How ironic then that it was ESPN who recently referred to the man Scott Norton kissed on the air as his husband, and not “partner” or “boyfriend.”
Stop Seeing “Gay”
There are no “gay” couples. There’s no such thing as “gay” love or “gay” marriage. We need to stop seeing sexuality as a society, just as we’re trying to stop seeing race and gender. Until news media portrayals of same-sex couples align with the message that love (and not gender) makes a marriage, it will be that much harder for the majority of Americans to stop seeing us as “gay” and embrace us as “neighbors.”