We should all realize how important Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out 20 years ago on national television was now that Donald Trump is our president, more than ever.
When former President Obama offered Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, he had to mention “just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago.”
Obama had to remind everybody “just how important it was not just for the LGBT community, but for all us to see somebody so full of kindness and light — somebody we liked so much, somebody who could be our neighbor or our colleague or our sister — challenge our own assumptions, remind us that we have more in common than we realize, push our country in the direction of justice.”
“What an incredible burden it was to bear, to risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often,” Obama stated at the time.
Although today same-sex marriages are legal in the United States of America, 20 years ago, her journey of acceptance was not easy in the slightest. In fact she risked everything! Her career could have gone down the drain but instead, after a few weeks of low ratings she managed to turn things around and show her strength and determination. People loved and respected her for it, often regardless of their opinions on homosexuality.
Nowadays, however, the threat of an unequal life is looming over the LGBTQ+ community, which fears that things might change for the worst under Donald Trump’s reign.
Antigay politicians have already started to call for “religious freedom” as a new wave of discrimination and hate crimes have started sweeping the nation.
For many people, Ellen is the living proof that acceptance can be done.
Jim Halterman, TV Guide Magazine’s West Coast bureau chief, remembers how significant DeGeneres’s coming-out was to his life.
“I wasn’t out yet. Stars weren’t coming out then. Personally, it was something to admire and really wrap my head around, [thinking], Maybe that’s something I can do.”
“We have to remember there are people that don’t [know many out people] because they don’t live in L.A. or New York and are in small towns,” said Halterman who talks about the importance of gay stars being public and open about their lives. For instance someone like Neil Patrick Harris posting Instagram photos of his husband and kids. “Hopefully somebody sees that and goes, ‘That’s great. There’s a family, and it just happens to be two men or two women,’ and it’s not such a shock.”
“The more you see something you don’t understand, the more you’ll understand it,” said Halterman. “My only hope is the stories continue to be told, even if the world changes around us.”