For every time I feel frustrated at people who reject equality, there's another time I get inspired by the people who are talking about it and being themselves — even in the face of adversity. The latest brave person to bear their soul to the public is Joel Grey who opened up about his sexuality to People magazine. The 82-year-old Broadway legend is best known for his role in Cabaret, for which he won an Oscar in 1972. Now he's telling his story to the public for the first time.
"I don't like labels," he told the magazine. "But if you have to put a label on it, I'm a gay man." Although Grey was married to actress Jo Wilder for 24 years, he says he's known he was attracted to guys since he was a child. But, being born in 1932, it was a different time back then, especially in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Grey said that his household was not the most gay-friendly place: "[I remember] hearing the grownups talk in the next room, my mother included, talking derisively about 'fairies' and men being dragged off to jail and even worse for being who they were."
It's a stark reminder of how bad things were for the LGBT community not long ago — and how far we've come. It's wonderful that Grey feels safe enough to open up to the public about his sexuality. It's the first time he's done so, though he says his close family and friends have known for years. "[Yet] it took time to embrace that other part of who I always was," he said.
His daughter Jennifer Grey (of Dirty Dancing fame) couldn't be more proud of her father and the changing tide of acceptance in the world. She spoke to People about his decision to come out publicly.
I feel very happy for my dad that he has come to a point in his life where he feels safe and comfortable enough to declare himself in a public way as a gay man. Mostly because the more people are free to own their true nature and can hopefully come closer to love and accept themselves as they really are, no matter what age, no matter how long it takes, to finally be free of the lies or half truths, it is freedom.
We have come a long way since jailing people in America for their sexuality, but the fight isn't over yet. The public needs to continue to learn to accept people for who they are, be they gay, bisexual, transgender, or anything else. A lot of progress has been made for the LGBT community over the past few decades, but there's still so much more work to be done. Hopefully one day soon everyone can be as happy and open with themselves as Joel Grey finally is.
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