LGBT Activists Cringe and Praise Jodie Foster Coming Out

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Wilson Cruz, First to Come Out on TV

Wilson Cruz starred in "My So Called Life" as a gay teen.

Wilson Cruz, the 39-year-old actor who who played "Rickie Vasquez – the first openly gay character in television -- in the 1990s show, "My So-Called Life," said Foster's speech "sent a message to millions of young people around the world that you can be an openly gay person and someday receive such an honor. It's a really powerful message."

Cruz, who is an advocate for gay youth, came out to his parents at 19. His father threw him out of the house. He spent months living in a car and staying with friends until he went to Hollywood to seek work as an actor.

"It's a big moment when anybody states their truth and Jodie had an amazing opportunity last night when she accepted the award on the largest stage in the world," said Cruz. "I applaud her. It's a difficult moment for anybody."

Foster won the Academy Award for best actress in 1989 for playing a rape victim in "The Accused" and, in 1991, for her performance as FBI trainee Clarice Starling in "Silence of the Lambs."

She has fiercely guarded her privacy throughout her long career. Only singer Queen Latifah has so deftly danced around the issue of sexuality in the celebrity world. Others like singer Clay Aiken of American Idol, 'N Sync's Lance Bass, and Broadway's Ricky Martin have come in splashy and orchestrated publicity events.

"It's a big party -- I don't know how much of it was completely scripted," Cruz said of Foster's speech. "I think she was speaking from the heart as much as she possibly could. She has always been a very private person and trying to balance her history of need for privacy and what she clearly saw as an opportunity to make a statement. She was straddling both."

CNN's "60 Minutes" anchor Anderson Cooper came out with a little more clarity last summer, but with criticism that he used it to relaunch his talk show.

In October, the 45-year-old commented on a statement he sent to blogger Andrew Sullivan: "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."

"Everybody in my life ... since I've been an adult and since I was a kid, I mean, I came out in high school," he told co-host Kristin Chenowith when she probed. "I told my friends, I told my family, I've always been out to my coworkers and stuff. It's just not something I talked about publicly because as a reporter I didn't think it was appropriate. It didn't seem part of my job."

Actor-activist Cruz said that earlier in Hollywood's history, admissions by gay actors were groundbreaking -- Harvey Fierstein, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir John Gielgud. "They risked their careers."

"I think it's a personal decision," he said of celebrities using their soapbox to advocate for LGBT rights. "There is no timeline when one should or shouldn't come out."

"My decision was a personal one, based on the fact that so many young people were watching the show," he said. "But that doesn't mean everyone has to do it that way. I am an activist at heart. Not every actor has the freedom to do it that way."

As for Foster's moment on the stage, Cruz said, "I think it was a huge moment for LGBT -- I don't think anyone can deny it. A woman of this caliber to stand on a stage in front of millions and say that. It's a powerful moment."

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