What does a brown, disabled, working-class man have in common with a wealthy, white woman like Ellen DeGeneres? We’re both gay and will never again apologize for speaking our truths.
Furthermore, Ellen helped me come out.
I remember that during the third grade, I was watching Ellen after school at my family’s Pinoy specialty food store. On her talk show, she had a guest who discussed how his mother, a strict Roman Catholic woman, stated that she would rather not have a son than for him to be gay and how the audience reacted with sadness and empathy right after he recounted that experience. Little did I know how close to my own experience that account would have been in my life. Not only did my mother disapprove of my queer identity, but my father did as well. In fact, I was told by my brother that maybe my being gay was the source of our series of economic hardships that we would face in the course of my adolescence and he would consistently criticize me about making my mother cry because she didn’t want her son to be gay. During the course of eight years, from when I realized I was gay until the day I finally decided to come out (July 7, 2013) I struggled. I was lost. I honestly thought that death would have been a better fate than just going through the motions. Worst of all, I was forced to be dishonest to myself.
Almost four years after the day I made that Facebook rant where I unintentionally came out because the feelings of depression, of anxiety, of suicidal ideation and hopelessness were so overwhelming that I just had to share, we are at the twentieth anniversary of when Ellen, in her sit-com, came out to the world.
It is an understatement that the world has, indeed, changed because of Ellen and others like her who were given opportunities to tell their stories, to be brave even when they didn’t have to, and even risked their careers in doing so. This is not a post that will focus on the fact that Ellen does have relative privilege in this society, this is a post about how she impacted the world, means the world to me, and how her experience was crucial for my own coming out.
Without Ellen, queer representation in the media would not be the same as it is today. She broke the barrier for queer people on TV. Once more, through her sit-com and subsequent talk show, Ellen was instrumental in allowing queer people to see that we exist, that we are in this world, that we shouldn’t be alone. Ellen helped many of us come out!
During this period of eight years wherein I felt lost, I could always watch Ellen. I could always see how much she helped others, made people laugh, basically made America feel great with the one-hour time-frame she had to host her talk show every weekday. Ellen is one of the people who helped me the most in realizing that it’s not only okay to be a queer person, but that you could also be a good person and be queer. In spite of my circumstances, Ellen showed me the value of being a good person, one of the most valuable lessons I could have ever learned. Yes, I have multiple levels of consciousness when it comes to power dynamics, probably more so than Ellen in some ways. Nonetheless, her example led me to believe in myself. Even when I was attending a Christian school wherein homosexuality was only cast in a negative light, I had Ellen. Even though my entire family seemed to be against me, I had Ellen. Even when I couldn’t see the light, Ellen was there.
Ellen likely saved my life. She is up there with my art in helping me realize that I must fulfill my purpose.
Ellen is one reason why I came out, and for that, I am truly and forever grateful.
Thank you Ellen, you are one of our many treasures in the queer community.