Post submitted by Maureen McCarty, former HRC Deputy Director of Marketing

Sixteen years ago, on what is now venerated as one of Time’s best covers, Ellen DeGeneres boldly shouted, “Yep, I’m Gay.”

To come out in 1997 while earning her living as a television sitcom star wasn’t just brave, it was unprecedented, and it cost Ellen big in the beginning.

At the height of her sitcom Ellen’s popularity in February 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out on The Oprah Winfrey Show and then subsequently on her sitcom in April.

Her career puttered and stalled out for the three years following her coming out, only to bound back with another sitcom in 2001, The Ellen Show.

Two years later Ellen sashayed back into American homes with an award-winning daytime television talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Ellen’s journey through the coming out process kicked down previously bolted doors for LGBT actors and actresses. She cleared a path for shows like Will & Grace, Glee and Modern Family.  Today LGBT characters and openly LGBT actors and actresses pour in American living rooms daily.

While much work remains to bring full equality to the LGBT community, the arc of history is bent toward equality.

Filed under: Coming Out, Media

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