Meredith Baxter Comes Out to the Advocate
A TV icon for many Americans, Meredith Baxter is best known as Elyse Keaton, the totally understanding hippie mom on the popular ’80s series Family Ties. She went on to become a frequent leading lady on TV movies, and she recently guest-starred on Cold Case. After living an out life among her friends and family for some time, she made the crucial decision to publicly come out as a lesbian after attending the Sweet lesbian cruise with her partner of four years, Nancy Locke.
Baxter, with her partner beside her, sat down to discuss the road that led Alex P. Keaton’s TV mom to realize she was gay and what coming out to her family, business associates, and now the public at large means to her. Read an excerpt from the exclusive Advocate.com interview below.
Originally published on Advocate.com
By Tracy E. Gilchrist
Since her TV career heyday in the 1970s and ’80s as a darling of the popular prime-time series Family and Family Ties, Meredith Baxter has mainly flown under the radar, with the exception of a few acclaimed turns in made-for-TV movies such as My Breast and A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story. That is until she boarded the Sweet Caribbean Cruise with thousands of other lesbians last month. If the woman who famously played Elyse Keaton, liberal mother to Michael J. Fox’s conservative Alex on the long-running sitcom Family Ties, thought she would go unnoticed amid generations of gay women who idolized her for her blond-haired, blue-eyed, all-American good looks, she was wrong…
When the 62-year-old actress realized that she and her partner of four years, Nancy Locke, a 54-year-old contractor, were making a splash on the lesbian cruise, Baxter decided to take control of the story she knew would follow when she came back to shore — and come out publicly. True to form for Baxter, who has been sober for 19 years and has spoken at engagements across the country about her battle with alcoholism, the Emmy Award-nominated actress wanted to make sure there were no skeletons in her closet.
The Advocate: Let’s get right to it. What has brought you to this point, where you’re coming out publicly?
Meredith Baxter: Well, to be honest, it was time. And promoted probably from the attention brought from having been on the cruise, I knew that something was coming from that. So I thought, Let me just beat them to it and tell it in my words instead of someone’s made-up words.
You were also at the Dinah last April, correct? Nothing seemed to come of that. Have you been hiding in plain sight this whole time?
Yes, I have. You know, I did reach a point where I thought, Am I invisible? But it was fine because we had friends at the Dinah who kind of paved the way for us and let us slide in. And my goal was to stay under the radar. I wasn’t prepared for anything at the time. And also, I know that I was flirting with the possibility, which was OK, ’cause it wasn’t going to last forever, and I didn’t really want it to. I’m a slow learner. It just took me a while.
When did you realize you were gay?
Thirteen years ago I had a short-term affair with somebody — a woman — who I just cared for tremendously as a person, [I] was not really attracted to her, but the best way to describe it, [a romance] seemed like the next natural step in our relationship just because I cared about her a lot. Not once — it’s probably hard to imagine — but not once did it occur to me that I was a lesbian. Not once. I just thought, OK, I don’t think so, and went off and got married again for a short period of time. And a couple years after that, I entered my next foray into being with a woman, and the penny dropped at that point.
And was that a revelation or just a slow aha! moment?
No, it was pretty much a revelation. The analogy I’ve used is a story [from] when I was a kid. I never could see very well and I said something to my parents and it kind of went unnoticed, or no one really responded to it. I guess I didn’t make enough noise. When I was 12 I tried on a [friend’s] pair of glasses and I was stunned with how clearly I could see. In truth, I used to think trees looked like lollipops because there was a solid stake and this solid ball. I didn’t know most people could see leaves. Oh, this is how the world is perceived? That’s kind of what having that second relationship made me realize — that this is where I want to be because I was dead to the world in many other ways. I’ve been married three times, and I have a slew of children, but I’ve never felt that kind of connection before in that kind of awakening. It was very profound for me.
To read more from the interview with Baxter, including her children’s reaction to the news, keeping in touch with her TV Family, and some of her most memorable movie of the week roles, click here to see the full article on Advocate.com.
Tell Us: When/how did you realize you were gay? Is there a difference between coming out at a young age versus an older one? What does it mean to you when celebrities come out?
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