It is no secret that Meryl Streep has long been a supporter of LGBT rights and acceptance, and recently she’s been discussing the formative experiences that made her that way. At an LA press event for her latest film, Florence Foster Jenkins, she spoke of gay and trans teachers that gave her a different view on life.
As reported by The Advocate, she said, “My piano teacher and his lover lived in a little house in Berkeley Heights, N.J. And I would go once a week to have my piano lesson.”
She thought their house was a “magical… entry into exotica.” However, their sexuality was never discussed, even if it wasn’t particularly hidden either.
Streep said, “My mother, who was born in 1915, never said — ‘the boys,’ she called them — she never said ‘the boys are gay,’ or that there was anything that she disapproved of. But it was just that this is a different life, and … they were living under the cover of the love of the people who loved them. They were not acknowledged, and not free to be themselves (publicly)”.
She also had another experience as a child that taught her a lot, saying, “My music teacher in sixth grade in Basking Ridge, N.J., was named Paul Grossman. And… the next year he came back, and he was Paula. Who really did that then? “It was very, very unusual. And he came back to school. He had three kids and stayed married, but he was himself, and he led the chorus.”
Florence Foster Jenkins tells the true story of a woman who became renowned for singing off-key, but her indomitable spirit ensured she gained legions of fans. In the film her accompanist, Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg), is portrayed as a closeted man, but Streep doesn’t think Jenkins would have minded if he’d come out.
She says, “Greenwich Village, which was this place of complete freedom for people… filtered out into the enlightened suburbs. And the people who were disapproving of that lifestyle, as it was called then, would not associate. And the people who didn’t give a shit were in that world and loved it. So that’s the way I think Florence thought about Cosmé. I think she loved the art world. The art world has always embraced people of every kind and every manner of expression. The arts was where people could thrive. I mean, every other part of society, I don’t think was friendly. So I don’t know. I think Florence is someone who embraced that world so thoroughly; I can’t imagine that she would have disapproved of Cosmé or in any way not loved him as much as she did.”