Her Family Ties
BY Ross von Metzke
March 10 2011 4:20 PM ET
For seven seasons Meredith Baxter played mom to Alex, Mallory, Jennifer, and a generation of people who wished they could come home from school to a woman like Elyse Keaton. In the years that followed Family Ties, she carved out a career as the undisputed TV-movie queen, Emmy-nominated for her work as murderess Betty Broderick in Her Final Fury and for playing a lesbian mom in Other Mothers.
But it's her latest role as author, public speaker, and — yes — a lesbian that has endeared the 63-year-old actress to a whole new group of fans. In the 15 months since she came out in The Advocate, in People magazine, and on the Today show, Baxter has given new voice to gay issues and, in the process, found a whole new community of friends she says excites her.
With her new book, Untied, Baxter talks about coming to terms with being gay and why she felt like she was lighting herself on fire when she made her big television announcement. But it’s her frank and often emotional memories of being an abused wife that seem to have gotten the most attention.
Baxter talks to The Advocate about the person who claims he suspected she might be gay long before she did, how she really feels about her ex-husband, and why her partner, Nancy Locke, still brings a smile to her face every day.
The Advocate: You’re on quite the media tour this week.
Meredith Baxter: I know. It feels like it's been me, Charlie Sheen, and Gadhafi. I hope someone else has been in there, because it’s just felt overwhelming, too much exposure.
Well, I think you come across as the most stable of the three, so there’s that.
Well, you know, the bar has been set pretty low. It makes me look good.
It’s been about 15 months since you came out on the Today show. What has been the most rewarding part of the last year and three months for you?
In the most simplistic way, I’d say relaxation. How do I describe this? The image that comes to mind I’m sure wont be helpful at all. You know with Jello, if you’ve ever had squares of Jello, and they’ve been cut up and put in a container, there’s lots of air pockets. Well what came to mind was, all my squares of Jello have settled. I don’t feel like there’s undiscovered pockets in me, stuff I have to explain or be careful of or don’t understand. I have a lot clarity. Won’t it be fun if one day, even Marianne Williamson is saying, “When your Jello settles…” That will become the arbiter of how we feel.
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.”