Ellen DeGeneres tells Time she's a lesbian
'I don't have to be fearful,' actress says
April 6, 1997
Web posted at: 11:08 p.m. EDT (0308 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Saying she was speaking up "for my own truth," comedian and television star Ellen DeGeneres said in an interview that she is a lesbian.
"I always thought I could keep my personal life separate from my professional life," DeGeneres, 39, said in an interview in the latest issue of Time magazine. "I mean, I really tried to figure out every way to avoid answering that question for as long as I could.
"Now, I feel completely comfortable with myself, and I don't have to be fearful about something damaging my career if it gets out, because now I'm in control of it -- sort of."
DeGeneres has long been the subject of rumors that she was gay. The Time interview marks the first time she has discussed her sexual identity with the media.
Throughout the current television season, producers of her ABC sitcom, "Ellen," and network officials had been wrestling over whether to have DeGeneres' on-screen alter ego, Ellen Morgan, come out of the closet.
DeGeneres' TV character comes out April 30
The decision was finally made to have the character acknowledge she is a lesbian during the April 30 episode of the show.
"When I decided to have my character on the show come out, I knew I was going to have to come out, too," DeGeneres told Time. "But I didn't want to talk about it until the show was done.
"I never wanted to be the lesbian actress. I never wanted to be the spokesperson for the gay community. Ever. I did it for my own truth."
The decision to disclose the on-screen Ellen's sexual identity has not been without controversy. In the forefront of the criticism has been the Rev. Jerry Falwell, former head of the Moral Majority.
In Time, DeGeneres was asked about a recent report that Falwell had referred to her as "Ellen Degenerate." She said it was a sobriquet that she had heard before.
"Really? He called me that?" she said. "I've been getting that since the fourth grade."
The actress told Time that coming to terms with her sexual identity as a lesbian has been a long process. As a young woman, she dated men but stopped about the age of 20.
"I liked guys. But I knew that I liked girls, too. I just didn't know what to do with that," she says.
DeGeneres says she recently met a woman with whom she hopes to foster a lasting relationship.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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