Meredith Baxter: “Why I Came Out” on SIRIUS XM’s “The Frank DeCaro Show”
In a radio exclusive, Meredith Baxter explains why she chose to “come out in a very big way” on SIRIUS XM’s The Frank DeCaro Show. The Family Ties star, who met OutQ host Doria Biddle on a cruise, explains why she decided to make her lesbian relationship public.
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW:
Why she decided to come out, why it had to be “my voice instead of someone else’s, my words instead of someone else’s” and what gave her the strength to say “Yes, I’m a lesbian. I’m here…[I’m] part of your community.’
FRANK DECARO: You’re coming out in a very big way.
MEREDITH BAXTER: …. I was on a lesbian cruise…having a great time …. working, and having a great time…(laughing)…I am in such need of help right now [with this interview].
DORIA BIDDLE: You didn’t just stumble on the cruise by accident, let’s just say.
MEREDITH BAXTER: No … I was actually working on the cruise.
FRANK DECARO: Researching a part?
MEREDITH BAXTER: No, I actually was filming a couple of episodes of the web series We Have to Stop Now…so I had a reason…to be there.
FRANK DECARO: … who’s this lovely lady to my left here?
MEREDITH BAXTER: That would be my partner Nancy. Nancy Locke. She’s my partner and…the reason I’m here…I’m…saying ‘Yes, I’m a lesbian. I’m here…[I’m] part of your community.’
FRANK DECARO: What was the moment that said you know what I’m going to come out? What made you decide to do it?
MEREDITH BAXTER: … I was sort of courting that when we went on the cruise…we live a very open life at home…anyone who is a friend of mine, anyone who knows and cares about me is certainly aware of my…[sexual orientation.] It’s no secret that I’m gay [to my friends and family], but it has been to the greater world.
MEREDITH BAXTER: … I have always been a private person…it’s not something I share. But I realized that being on a lesbian cruise, whether it was for work or the pleasure part of it, which was great, I had a great time… that was going to be something I was going to have to contend with. So I thought let it be my voice instead of someone else’s, my words instead of someone else’s.
DORIA BIDDLE: … what’s interesting is I have actually seen you at…an Outfest event, and various events around town, and so in L.A. it wasn’t really a secret.
Does it surprise you that … there wasn’t more speculation that … somebody else didn’t out you already? Because I find that the gay community, especially in Los Angeles, we don’t tend to do that to people. We let people work at their own pace. But, in a way you were hiding in plain sight…were you ever concerned or worried about being outed?
MEREDITH BAXTER: You know, frankly…it was always there in my mind. And I think for some reason I felt carried, I felt protected…why nothing happened, I don’t know.
I wasn’t aware that there was … that … code of silence, and that people deal with in their own terms but..it’s wonderfully respectful, and I’m quite grateful.
· “I probably felt some shame for not having figured out anything earlier but…we don’t know what we know until we know it…”
· No one balked when Baxter played a murderer in the TV movie classic “A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story,” but she says some were shocked when she played a lesbian mother on the 1993 afterschool special “Other Mothers.” (she describes playing a lesbian back then as just “a job”)
FRANK DECARO: …do you consider yourself a ‘late-in-life lesbian’ or ‘a mid-life lesbian?’ I think ‘mid-life lesbian’ is a nicer term.
MEREDITH BAXTER: (laughing) You’re so kind, you are the political diplomat.
FRANK DECARO: Or was it something that was kind of always there? Because you’ve been married…three times and you’ve got kids and you’re a grandma and everything?
And gorgeous …we should always say grandma and gorgeous next to each other.
MEREDITH BAXTER: … by the way it’s not ‘Grandma,’ it’s ‘Grammy,’ as in the award…you know, it’s a late in life thing, and I think I probably felt some shame for not having figured anything out earlier, but…we don’t know what we know until we know it….it’s really only been about seven years.
FRANK DECARO: … I feel really naive because my reaction was ‘no way!”….do you think most people’s reaction is going to be ‘oh my god!’
MEREDITH BAXTER: Yeah. Probably. I know it’s not the image that I’ve …accrued over the years.
FRANK DECARO: … I think it was 1993 [when] you played half of a lesbian couple in a…school break special on CBS [On Other Mothers Baxter played a lesbian parent to a teenager].
Were you thinking ‘Oh my god, I’m playing lesbian and I have urges,’ at that time or not at all?
MEREDITH BAXTER: It was a job…but it’s funny, I’ve seen stuff online now…[in my] bio… they say ‘She even played a lesbian.’ You know no one balked when I blew people away…and played Betty Broderick [in the TV movie A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story] and killed people, but [they say] ‘she even played a lesbian…’
FRANK DECARO: … it’s a shocking thing that someone would love a member of the same sex as opposed to … killing people …
· On hoping to lend her “familiar face” to help diffuse fear misunderstanding surrounding LGBT people and issues
· “I didn’t run from being a lesbian, I embraced that and I thought ‘OK, that feels really right for me.’ But what I feared was judgment.”
FRANK DECARO: What impact do you think your coming out is going to have?
MEREDITH BAXTER: … you know…I don’t know…I can only hope…I go around the country and I do speeches, and I have a line of skin care products and I meet the public.
I work with the public a lot. And I’m always thrilled with the kind of reaction I get, the recognition…I haven’t been on primetime in twenty years, so to have the kind of recognition still is very…moving for me.
And I guess I’m hoping that because so much of the research indicates that people who know a lesbian or a gay guy…will, when they have to address political issues…when they have someone gay or lesbian in their lives…they think a little more openly about these issues, and they tend not to vote peoples’ rights away.
MEREDITH BAXTER: … I am hoping that if I am that familiar face and you kind of like me, and I say, ‘OK…I am the same person and I am a lesbian, hello,’…maybe I make it a little less scary for them. There’s so much misunderstanding and…fear around issues that they don’t know that maybe I can help…[them] cross…over [that hurdle]…in some way, give someone the courage to say, you know I’ve been thinking about that too and I’ve been afraid.
MEREDITH BAXTER: I was afraid for a long time…I didn’t run from being a lesbian, I embraced that and I thought ‘OK, that feels really right for me.’ But what I feared was judgment.
FRANK DECARO: … [because] in our business…it’s…[about] wanting people to like you…[that’s] really part of it. I mean that’s really a lot of it. And I would assume that you always hope that everyone’s going to adore you.
FRANK DECARO: [Your coming out] is a big deal for us, thought, because you’re like TV royalty…we’re like, OK, TV royalty has joined the ranks now. And I mean that from my heart. I really do. Because…we’ve seen you on TV for so long…and I did my research, and your mom [actress Whitney Blake] was…[on the TV show] Hazel… [She] was Hazel’s employer.
MEREDITH BAXTER: Yeah.
FRANK DECARO: I nearly died when I read that.
DORIA BIDDLE: (laughing)…that’s what it takes to impress Frank.
On coming out publicly vs. coming out privately to her family:
DORIA BIDDLE: … how does it compare…coming out in a public way [as opposed] coming out in a more private way to your family, your loved ones…is it more [or] less intimidating?
You’ve already been through this process once…but on a smaller scale, on a more personal scale.
MEREDITH BAXTER: Terrifying in its own right, to be sure. My kids were the first ones I presented it to, and I have to say they were all fabulous. Very supportive and loving….my mother died just a little bit before that, and my stepfather [who] I was very close to…I was concerned about telling him. He’s an old comedy writer [and] producer [Allan Manings] and I said ‘Allan…Allan, I’m dating women.’ He said ‘Ohhh…so am I.’ And that was the extent of it…he was so lovely…and I was like ‘OK, well that’s done.’
I had two other fears, and that..[was] in the work arena, because I’m not…in a regular job right now…my major concern was…[my] skin care company…I’ve had these business partners for eleven years. And I adore these people. They’ve been darling and helpful and supportive and great…great partners for all these years. And I never said anything to them.
And I realized that making this public step I was going to have to say something to them ahead of time so they weren’t blindsided…and what I got back from them was the most loving letter [saying] ‘…we’re there for you, we’re going to have a great [year] next year.’
MEREDITH BAXTER: And…I have my own fears. I have my own fears and attitudes and assumptions about how people are going to respond…and I think we’re all just…running scared so much of the time so we don’t say what’s on our mind.
FRANK DECARO: (laughing)…the skin care line now has a brand-new audience as well….there are…lipstick lesbians who are going to be like ‘Oh boy, I have a new product that I can start telling all my friends about.’
Could there ever be a “‘Bridget Loves Bernadette” or “Bridget Loves Bernice?”
FRANK DECARO: … this was my idea…can there be a…Bridget Loves Bernadette?…now think about this, this could be our new show.
MEREDITH BAXTER: … I was thinking it was going to be Bridget Loves Bernice.
FRANK DECARO: (Laughing)…that would work too.
MEREDITH BAXTER: Or both of them, just to make it more interesting …
FRANK DECARO: We need that now, with the way television is…you’ll be torn between the two of them.
· Advice to people on the cusp of coming out: “If you aren’t out, come out…”
DORIA BIDDLE: …having gone through this now, what would you say to somebody else…who…is in the same predicament…sort of on the cusp of coming out?….do you feel better having done it on the personal level [first]…and…[then] having made the decision to do it on the public level…is it freeing?
MEREDITH BAXTER: Yes. I have to say it is…in…manners that I hadn’t expected. …it had always been…that any time I put my arm around Nancy I’d be wondering, ‘…who’s behind me? …who’s behind me that knows me?’
And I hate that…having to second guess my behavior…I think that’s still going to be with me but perhaps not as much….but more than anything, what I just want to say….
[comedian] Suzanne Westenhoefer said it best from the stage…on the cruise…when she was closing…the last [night’s act]…she said ‘If you aren’t out, come out,’…that ‘The more people that come out, the less we’ll have to deal with this, the less secrecy there is, the less we will have to deal with people actually having to come on a radio show and say ‘OK…I’m out.’
How many people come out and claim their…heterosexuality? …that doesn’t happen.
FRANK DECARO: … it’s not a big burden but you can either get a pair of designer shoes or change the world, and I think you’ve chosen the latter. And I think that’s a pretty terrific thing and thank you for doing that…and can you now make it so that…the triumvirate…when people come out…is People magazine, The Today Show, and The Frank DeCaro Show? Could you tell people to do that?
MEREDITH BAXTER: I will work on that.
FRANK DECARO: … we would appreciate that a lot. Thank you so much. It’s a real joy to get to meet you. And…[good luck] on your adventure…and I promise you this: you will sleep better tonight than you have ever slept in your whole life. I promise you that.
AUDIO CLIPS AND SELECT QUOTES BELOW.
EMBEDDABLE AUDIO CLIP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O2W18pfShA
“I’m a lesbian, hello!” Meredith Baxter on SIRIUS XM’s “The Frank DeCaro Show”
Meredith Baxter describes the impact of her coming out on SIRIUS XM’s The Frank DeCaro Show. In a radio exclusive, the actress tells SIRIUS XM listeners that she hopes that her “familiar face” will lead to greater understanding of lesbians and gays.
EMBEDDABLE AUDIO CLIP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK0_m3huUO0
Meredith Baxter’s Advice: Free Yourself, Come Out on SIRIUS XM’s “The Frank DeCaro Show”
What would Meredith Baxter tell those still in the closet? “If you aren’t out, come out…”
EMBEDDABLE AUDIO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P99lXI6Ws60
More info and a free seven day trial at http://www.sirius.com/outq.