Sapphic Salon: Coming out is political, personal and, apparently, a "shocker"

Natalie Stein
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After actress Meredith Baxter came out to Matt Lauer on The Today Show this morning, the headlines began:

"Family Times" Shocker: Meredith Baxter says "I'm a Lesbian Mom"
Meredith Baxter reveals she's gay
'80s Star Admits She's a Lesbian


Congratulations, Ms. Baxter, but I hate to see the media utilizing words like "shocker," "reveals," "admits" or anything else that made it seem like coming out was a shameful secret that was finally addressed. The fact that Meredith felt like she had to come out publicly after living openly with her partner for four years is debatable enough (the public feels as if they are owed a statement, but the gay community can benefit from famous faces at the same time); but when her statement of "I'm a lesbian ... I'm happy ... I'm a mother" becomes something negative, it's as if any positivity of the situation gets turned into something less than.

Luckily, Meredith's decision to make her sexuality of public interest is, as she says, "political" as much as it is personal. She wanted to share her life "in her own words," which was something she probably felt more compelled to do when photos of her on a lesbian cruise ship showed up on earlier this week and speculation and gossip ran amok. But what I respect the most about the situation is her statement that "People who know homosexuals tend to be more accepting of them." I'm a firm believer in coming out, personally or publicly, and on your own terms. And I hope that the people who read reports on Meredith or others "admitting" they are gay will read the entire thing so they see more than just the headline.

Thank you L.A. Times, CNN, MSNBC and other media types who state the facts and let Meredith speak for herself.

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3 Comments Have Been Posted

Take a look at the comments

Take a look at the comments on most of those articles, though, and see just how far we have to go...Most of them seem to be along the lines of "why do 'those people' have to make such a big deal of it?" Presumably, these people have never watched romantic comedies or seen pictures from celebrity weddings in which heterosexuality is made into "a big deal," and the only valid expression of love. Because having the courage to come out and demand that your love be recognized is somehow vulgar or inappropriate only when it involves homosexuality. While straight people may not tell others their orientation, they don't need to--our heterosexist culture assumes straightness anyway.

A lot of others were commenting on Meredith's looks, and one suggested that the reason she's "coming out" is because she couldn't get a man. I wonder how many of those commenters have LGBT friends and family members, and if they'd dare tell a loved one that their sexual orientation was a "choice" or the result of looking a certain way.

"...she couldn't get a man."

I hear and see people say that about lesbians way too often, along with its flip, "You're a lesbian? But you're so pretty!" It's just offensive on so many levels:
1) the idea that women *choose* lesbianism, out of convenience.
2) the assumption that women are the back-up choice and lesbianism is an admission of failure.
3) the implication that a woman's looks are not only all-important, but not even really *hers,* only a tool with which to snag men.
4) perhaps most obviously: that lesbianism is the result of looking or feeling "like a man" or not "feminine" enough.
God, I could go on forever about all of those, but Bitch is one of the few communities I can expect to understand.
Still, I can't help but believe that people start to think through their prejudices a little more carefully when someone they know or admire comes out. Good for Meredith Baxter, even if we're a society that still accepts calling it an admittance, as if it's a politician's extramarital affair.

"Dirty Secrets"

The CNNon line story went even further, stating that Baxter has "come clean" to her kids.


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