It's hard to imagine, now, a world in which we didn't know that Ellen DeGeneres was a lesbian. But such a time existed, way back in the 1990s. (Remember them?) In those days, she starred on the show Ellen, playing a fictionalized version of herself. Coming out was scarier back then, but it's hard to remember exactly how much and in what way. DeGeneres had no idea the amount of hate she'd face for coming out, she told the AP via JustJared.
"I was doing just fine. The show was a success, my career was a success and there was no real reason for me to do it other than I did some work on myself, some deep soul-searching, and realized I was really carrying around a lot of shame," she said. "No matter how many times I tried to rationalize that I didn't need anyone to know, I knew that it was a secret. And I knew that there was a possibility that people would hate me for the simple fact that no matter how much they loved my comedy or my show, but they might hate me if they knew I was gay."
DeGeneres said that being true to herself became more important than any other part of her career.
"It became more important to me than my career. I suddenly said, 'Why am I being, you know, ashamed of who I am just to be successful and famous in society's eyes?'" she said "…And then I thought, the character on the show is clearly struggling. There's no relationship. It was pretty clear it would be an easy transition for her to realize she was gay, which was why her relationships with men weren't working out."
Though DeGeneres was scared, she didn't know that she'd get the blowback she did.
"I had no idea the amount of hate," she said. "I had no idea that there would be death threats or a bomb scare. It was a really scary time."
Even now, we applaud her bravery. All the gains we as a country have made in advancing LGBTQ rights are in part because of celebrities like DeGeneres making it normal. We feel like she's our friend, and it's hard to discriminate against a person you feel is your friend.