In 2017, imagining a world in which Ellen is not publicly out as a cherished, lesbian television star is like imagining a straight Kristen Stewart, or a fumbling Simone Biles (read: unnerving.)
Still, when she came out on her primetime television sitcom Ellen 20 years ago, a full 68 percent of Americans did not believe same-sex marriage should be legal, and her brave decision to be herself was not without its consequences.
“The bullying I endured [in Hollywood] after I came out made up for the lack of it during my childhood,” she told Good Housekeeping in a revealing new interview. “I moved out of L.A., went into a severe depression, started seeing a therapist and had to go on antidepressants for the first time in my life.”
The effects of her on-air coming out were immediate. The episode mirrored her real-life coming out, and in response the show was evacuated due to bomb threats. Death threats were taped to her door. ABC cancelled the show just one year later.
“It was scary and lonely,” Ellen continued, “All I’d known for 30 years was work, and all of a sudden I had nothing. Plus, I was mad. It didn’t feel fair — I was the same person everyone had always known.”
She surprised herself by her resilience and her strength in herself.
“Eventually I started meditating, working out and writing again, and I slowly started to climb out of it,” she continued, “I can’t believe I came back from that point. I can’t believe where my life is now.”
Despite the bullies, she has come so far, even earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her historic bravery. In risking her career to be unflinchingly and unapologetically herself, she has paved the way for so many others to do the same. We will forever be in debt to her for that.