Meredith Baxter Talks with The Advocate about Coming Out Late in Life, True Love and More
Actress Meredith Baxter came out publicly in November of 2009 in an interview with the Advocate, People and on The Today Show. Recently she’s been making the rounds at The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, among others, to discuss her memoir Untied. The beloved TV star of shows including Bridget Loves Bernie, Family and Family Ties gave an exclusive to The Advocate in which she chats about the allegations of abuse at the hands of her ex husband David Birney, coming out as a lesbian late in life and what it’s like to have found the love of her life.
Actress Meredith Baxter came out publicly in November of 2009 in an interview with the
Advocate, People and on The Today Show.
Recently she’s been making the rounds at
The Today Show
The Oprah Winfrey Show
, among others, to discuss her memoir
The beloved TV star of shows including Bridget Loves Bernie, Family and Family Ties gave an exclusive interview to The Advocate in which she chats about the allegations of abuse at the hands of her ex husband David Birney, coming out as a lesbian late in life and what it’s like to have found the love of her life.
Here's Baxter on whether or not others knew she was gay prior to coming out:
Did anyone ever say to you that they suspected you might be gay before you yourself knew?
Well, if you make the mistake of reading the comments after some of the articles on the Internet, a lot of people have said, “Oh, I knew she was a lesbian.” I love it when people don’t know you at all but they know very clearly what was going on with you. I really wish I could say I had some intuition, that I was more in touch with myself. But the sad truth is I wasn’t. I was a total mystery to myself. The other day I was reading some of the letters women have sent me, saying, “I didn’t know. I did what I was supposed to do. I got married. I was a good girl. That’s what I knew, that’s what my family had shown me. For better or for worse, you get married and you have kids.” So that’s what I did. I didn’t stop to question whether this was right or wrong, I just did it. And I never did anything because it felt like the right thing to do — most things were done in some kind of rebellion or a “fuck you” thing to my parents — but it was not because I felt like I was doing something that was true to me. I had no idea what was true to me. In some sense, I understand. People want to understand it, and if they don’t understand it, they make up their own story and say, “That’s what’s true.”
Here she is on coming out late in life and then in the public eye.
So much attention is paid in the media to this notion of “late-in-life lesbians.” You came out, Kelly McGillis came out, and that’s how the media sold it. What’s your take on that label?
I think that kind of phrase helps feed this idea of “She couldn’t find a man. so she had to go to women.” Or “She failed at men, now ... ” It doesn’t have a nice feel to it.
Going into your appearance on
you said you felt like you’d just set yourself on fire. Looking back, do you have any regrets about how it was handled?
I would have done it differently, but I don’t what that would have been. I don’t know what that would have looked like. I read one thing, it says: “Couldn’t she have just come out as bisexual?” [ Laughs ] OK, if that had been the truth, but even then, how do you do that without making some kind of an announcement? I write in my book that my sort of playful idea was “Can I put like a birth announcement in the paper?” So if I didn’t do it on television, what was I supposed to do? I guess just start telling people gradually. That makes sense if someone’s not after you, which is what it felt like for me. I didn’t want someone else to run and make something up.
On meeting her partner for the first time...
I love the part in the book where you describe meeting your partner, Nancy, for the first time. I think it’s really interesting that your first interactions with her were related to your sobriety. Do you think meeting her in that way and on those terms helped to set the stage for what would become your relationship?
You know, it just occurred to me as you were asking this, for me personally and how tentative I am in going into relationships, that it unfolded in the perfect way because we weren’t having social chats. She was talking about her issues and I was only talking if I had some advice to give or to talk about my own experiences. I wasn’t talking about myself. So I got to learn lots of things about her ...
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