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As Pride Month begins, I find Jodie Foster being the first and last openly lesbian woman to win Best Actress concerning

Embrace who you are, always.

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Every sentient person in the queer community remembers exactly where they were, the moment that Jodie Foster’s name was announced at the 64th Academy Awards.

Of course, at the time, Foster was not out to the public, much like Katharine Hepburn — which we’ll circle back to later. Instead, news tabloids were simply playing the guessing game in regards to Foster’s sexuality, but she wouldn’t address the rumors once and for all until her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 70th Golden Globe Awards, where she came out publicly.

And while it’s absolutely true that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community weren’t alive during the pivotal occasion back in 1991 — or were simply still in the stages of infancy — there’s absolutely no denying that the aforementioned moment has since gone down in history as one of the most successful accomplishments for not just Foster herself, but for the queer community as a whole. But that’s not where the problem begins.

Queer actors and actresses have long been overlooked by the Academy and other prolific Hollywood film organizations. But perhaps no other sexual minority has been as overlooked as much as the lesbian minority. Yes, stars like Katharine Hepburn have been notoriously nominated and victorious in regard to an Oscar, but the truth of the matter is that her sexual orientation was never actually revealed to the public. Of course, this was undoubtedly done for the right reason — seeing as the industry was (and sometimes still is) crawling with an intense wave of homophobia. So when the time came around for Hepburn to accept the Best Actress award for Morning Glory, she was not out as lesbian at the time. In fact, the rumors of being lesbian and/or bisexual floated around her like a buzzing fly for the rest of her professional career. But she remained in the closet, publicly.

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But I know exactly what you’re going to say. Queer women have received Oscar nominations and wins over the years, and yes, you are correct. The most recent example arrived when the incredibly talented Ariana DeBose secured an Oscar for Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story (2021). As it stands, DeBose’s Oscar win is unequivocally a win for queer women of color all over the world, and should rightfully be celebrated as such. And while our highest victories surely shine like a beacon in the dark, our lowest losses continue to rear an ugly head.

I also know you’re probably thinking: “Foster wasn’t publicly out at the time of her win either.” While that’s absolutely true, it’s worth noting that Foster did come out during her lifetime, whereas Hepburn did not. And that’s not to shame Hepburn for never addressing her sexuality but rather to emphasize Foster’s divine courage despite the chance that her career could have been over. Instead, she proudly addressed the ever-present rumors, smiled in front of millions of people’s faces, and embraced who she is.

In an industry that consistently looks down upon women and frowns in the direction of the LGBTQIA+ community — behind closed doors, of course — it feels like the complete lack of appreciation, adoration, and respect for queer people — and lesbian women, specifically — is the driving force as to why an openly lesbian woman hasn’t won the Best Actress award in three decades.

Two lesbian characters in Lightyear.
Image via Disney

But that’s not due to a lack of worthy talent. There’s a plethora of gifted, seasoned actresses — Holland Taylor, Kate McKinnon, Lily Tomlin, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, to name a few — all of which are openly gay, and deserving of an Oscar after years of decorated work in the industry. And let’s not forget the wealth of current, young talent that would surely snatch up the Academy gold if given the chance.

And again, I know what you’re going to say. A handful of queer, pansexual, and bisexual actresses have secured Oscars in recent years, but all have not fallen under the scope of simply being lesbian. And seeing as today, June 1, marks the first day of Pride Month — this feels like an issue that needs to be addressed. “Lesbian” is not a dirty word. It is not the worst thing that you can be. It’s not a sick, twisted agenda that is trying to poison your children’s minds. Identifying as lesbian is an acceptance of love, individuality, and a declaration of personal preference.

With all that being said, I am hopeful that things will change. In my heart, I know that openly lesbian actresses down the road will follow in the footsteps of Foster’s big-time win — if they want to, of course, because nobody should ever be forced out of the closet. And, if I’m being brutally honest, and without contradicting myself, it’s none of our business. But for those who wish to be vocal about the changing times, I have no doubt that lesbian actresses will receive their flowers.

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