Ellen Came Out On 'Ellen' 18 Years Ago Today

by Jaclyn Anglis

Today is a pretty big day for Ellen DeGeneres and her fans. It's hard to believe, but 18 years ago on April 30, 1997, Ellen DeGeneres' character came out as gay on her sitcom, Ellen. It is worth remembering that this moment happened just a couple weeks after DeGeneres herself came out publicly in real life. This of course happened on the historic Time magazine cover that showcased a simple yet powerful headline, "Yep, I'm Gay," on April 14, 1997.

Since then, DeGeneres has become a strong force to be reckoned with, not just within the gay community, but with a huge and seemingly ever-growing audience made up of fans of all different sexual orientations, gender identities, races, religions, and backgrounds. Of course, it is worth applauding DeGeneres for helping to pave the way for representation of gay people in entertainment and on television. But it is also worth considering what a big impact she has had on people remaining true to themselves in general. It cannot be denied that her work in social and political activism has helped change the conversation about being gay in America. So, let's take a look back at some of DeGeneres' best moments of gay pride since that amazing April 30, 1997 moment, and appreciate all the great work she's done.

Condemning Anti-Gay Violence

After the tragedy of Matthew Shepard, a young gay Wyoming man who was beaten to death by two homophobic men in 1998, DeGeneres bravely made her way to Capitol Hill to speak out against the violence and discrimination. You can hear the emotion in her voice (beginning at minute 14:26) as she makes the personal connection to Shepard and how she'd hoped her coming out would help put an end to this type of hate crime.

Showing The Changing, Powerful Face Of America

At the 2001 Emmy Awards, DeGeneres added some much needed humor after the tragic events of September 11. She said, "What would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?"

Her Wedding

In 2008, DeGeneres married her longtime love, Portia De Rossi. Their wedding album made the front cover of People magazine and showcased the two beaming brides. "I'm the luckiest girl in the world," said DeGeneres.

Speaking Out Against Anti-Gay Bullying

In 2010, following the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi, a young gay man who reportedly killed himself after being teased for his sexuality, DeGeneres took it upon herself to raise awareness on her talk show about the devastating effects of bullying. She made it personal by saying, "I want anyone out there who feels different and alone to know that I know how you feel. And there is help out there."

Addressing J.C. Penney Critics

In 2012, DeGeneres became J.C. Penney's spokesperson, and a group called "One Million Moms" publicly criticized the company since it went against "traditional family values" for hiring a gay person. J.C. Penney stuck by her and DeGeneres upped the ante by shutting "One Million Moms" down on her show. Her best line? "Not that there's anyone counting, but for a group that calls themselves 'Million Moms,' they only have 40,000 members on their page, so they're rounding to the nearest million."

Continued Support Of Marriage Equality

DeGeneres, of course, has been a steadfast public supporter of marriage equality rights for many years, but it is wonderful to see that she wants to see everyone get the same chance she did. It's good for her to recognize, like she did with the overturn of Prop 8 in 2013, that just because she has been able to love whoever she wants to does not mean that everyone has had that shot just yet and there are still changes to be made. Inspiring!

Her Sixth Wedding Anniversary

Amidst breakup rumors, DeGeneres proved in 2014 that her marriage to De Rossi was stronger than ever. How strong? Sky-writing strong.