“I never wanted to do it,” Baxter admits. “I thought it was no one’s business – it was the least interesting thing about me. I was on this lesbian cruise and got noticed. I was considering [coming out] but I didn’t know how. I went on the Internet looking. I was told the trades and rag sheets were going to write an expose, so I enlisted [celebrity publicist] Howard Bragman and we came up with a plan of attack. That seems to be how it is done these days.”
It was a scary proposition but she proceeded. After appearing on the “Today Show” and “Oprah” and speaking to “People” magazine, she knew her last vestiges of privacy were gone.
“It was a terrifying prospect,” she says. “I would have stayed in the closet, but I am now glad I did it.”
Her inner circle knew but she doesn’t think many others did. She laughs when asked if her revelation caught people by surprise.
“I think it did, but I have been told by some women that they always knew I was a lesbian, and I want to say ‘bullshit,’” she says.
Baxter has been married three times and has five children, all of whom are comfortable with her coming out. Her first same-sex experience was in 2002, a few years after her last divorce.
She and her partner, Nancy Locke, have been together since 2005. Locke has been out most of her life, so it was difficult for her watching Baxter deal with her own coming out issues in such a public forum.
“It was hard for her, but what was harder was me telling her not to hold my hand in public,” says Baxter.
In terms of whether celebrities are more apt to come out these days, she doesn’t really have an idea if Hollywood is easing up on actors remaining in the closet.
“I don’t have my finger on the pulse,” she says.
Yet she recently saw a newspaper article about actor Zachary Quinto coming out and marvels that it wasn’t above the fold material.
“It was mentioned in passing,” she says, which she acknowledges that she prefers.
Since coming out, Baxter has been drawn into activism, but she has her limits.
“I’ve become an accidental activist,” she says. “To a degree I’m willing to do all that, if putting a name to something makes it better. I’m not that knowledgeable about all the issues.”
She doesn’t want to be regarded as an expert, but instead as someone who has gone through a lot in her own life and can talk about those experiences. Her bouts with alcoholism and breast cancer have lead her to become a speaker around the country, which she has grown comfortable doing.
Even if she isn’t committed to being a full-time activist yet, she is vocal in her belief and support for LGBT rights, such as marriage equality and adoption.
“I can’t believe LGBT couples aren’t allowed to get married and adopt,” she says.
She believes there is still a lot of fear and lack of education about the LGBT community.
“But it seems the more we do, the more normal we become,” she says.
She hopes that her own coming out will help put another public face out there.
On the cruise Baxter was filming the web series “We Have to Stop Now” with actresses and life partners Jill Bennett and Cathy DeBuono. She had a great time being part of the second season and hopes there will be a third.
While Baxter has been in Atlanta before with her skin care line at trade shows, the line has since folded, so it’s been a while since she visited. She looks forward to meeting fans and getting feedback about the book. Travelling across the country with “Untied” has brought Baxter in contact with lots of people.
“It’s been such a resounding success,” she says. “It floors me. I love it. The support has been amazing, especially in the LGBT community.”
Top photo: Actress Meredith Baxter came out in late 2009 and discusses her decision in her new memoir, ‘Untied.’ (Publicity photo)