And how did your coming out work out, because there was a gap between when you were outed and came out.
Yeah, I kind of said nothing until I was … when I was outed, I was too freaked out to talk about it. I knew I wasn't going to lie, so I just didn't do anything. I just sort of ignored it. I just waited for it to disappear.
The mainstream media wasn't interested at all in talking about sexuality. But it was years later when I began to dig in and look at it. The result of being "outed" was on the Internet there were kids everywhere and rumors I might be gay, so there were all these letters coming in from little closeted kids in Indiana and Missouri and God knows where, saying if I was gay that would be so exciting to them and blahblahblah.
And finally I thought, why am I not open? You know? I couldn't come up with a good enough reason not to be out, especially in light of the hopes and excitement I was getting from these kids, some of whom were desperate for somebody to relate to.
Did it freak you out that you being thrust into that role ahead of your time or did it inspire you to move into that role?
It definitely inspired me. It definitely inspired me. There were magazines and people who wanted me to come out right when I was outed years earlier and I was 20-21 years old, and I wasn't ready. I was a scared kid. And the biggest overriding thing at the time was 'Oh my God, they're going to take away my career.' That was all I'd ever known since I was five years old.
And then some time passed and I got a better perspective on things and I realized that even if I never act again, I'm going to be OK. I believe in myself enough to know that I'll be fine. So why not come out, because clearly there are these kids who need it. If you want the world to look a certain way, youbetter be willing to step into that role yourself.
'Be the change you want to see in the world.'
Yeah, and when I came out, it was the right time. I was ready, willing, and excited. Certainly not without fear, but willing and prepared to walk through the fear.
As far as the industry was concerned, did anyone think you were straight?
No, but still funny how few people know. For the average straight person, you really have to go and look… it's amazing how some people still don't know. (laughs)
They really have no excuse now. If they type your name in Google, you're gay.
I talk about it. I talk about it all the time. I talk about my life and my partner, you know. I'm out. I still get letters from girls who don't know, it's crazy.
"I'm your biggest fan, but I don't know you're gay…"?!
There are girls who fantasize about relationships and stuff, and they don't care.
Not about coming out, but personally when were you clued in that you were gay?
I kind of always knew. I never remember a time when I didn't have some sense of it, even before, in retrospect, I had a cognizance of sexuality. In high school, I knew I was attracted to the other boys in my class, instead of the girls. It probably wasn't until I was a senior in high school when I absolutely equated that to being gay and understood that there was something different about my sexuality.
But it seems that if you're doing series television, for most of the time aren't you just being tutored? And in public, there are a lot of managed events where you aren't really allowed to be yourself, so it always seems like that would make things more difficult.
I went back to my own high school a lot when I had days off. Even if I had just a small amount of time in between things, I would go back. So, I had friends, and I quit acting in my junior year of high school, so the rest of my junior year and the rest of my senior year, I was a regular student and that was my intent. I played sports and proved myself a confident human being in the eyes of my peers. Part of that was starting the process of reconciling my sexuality.. having those first, strange experiences and so forth… my last girlfriend.
And you're in a long-term relationship now?
Yeah, we've been together for over three years now. That's long term by my experience.
So, if you're in a long-term relationship and you live in California, is there pressure now… is it all "When are you getting married?"
(laughs) We're the couple our friends keep calling and ask 'When are you getting married?' I just say, 'I don't know, leave us alone, but we'll be sure to let you know. Thanks.' (laughs) My intention is let's make sure we get through November and the ballot initiative and all this nonsense, and he and I can figure the personal part out in our own timeframe. But it's not going to happen next month, I can tell you that.
Are we past the notion that if you're out, you can't play straight roles? Is there any truth to that yet?
There's still a bias. It's still difficult. We still don't have major movie stars who are openly gay playing straight roles. I still deal with stuff… it's better than it ever used to be, when I first came out, I couldn't get an audition for a television series at a network I worked for for over six years. I couldn't get them to even consider me.
And that's not the case anymore, but we still have some room to grow, for sure. But I just think that until the industry knows without the shadow of a doubt that they can bank financially on an openly gay actor and still draw in female audiences and/or male audiences without the sexuality thing being an issue, that's the last component.
So, we're getting there.
Oh, we're getting there for sure. Faster than I think we even hoped. Without question, it will happen.
Well, it seems like with T.R. Knight on Grey's Anatomy, Neil Patrick Harris playing a brazen heterosexual on How I Met Your Mother…
Yeah, the TV barrier is pretty much gone, I think. Now we're just talking about really big time movie stars.
Do you have any advice for gay youth are struggling with coming out? We seem to still get people who think they're the only ones, even when they're members of a site filled with other people in their exact situation, which I've never been able to figure out…
I think it's just because that voice that says 'I'm the only one' is a voice of fear and loneliness. They're afraid that even if they know they're not the only one, it sure feels lonely and scary. And I get the fear, and it's OK. It's OK to be afraid.
The coming out process is scary and just because we have a certain level of public acceptance doesn't make that any less personally scary. Except to say I get it, take refuge in the fact that we've been there before and when we say 'It's going to be OK,' we know what we're talking about.
And thank God we live now, when those of us who are gay can live out and have lives that surpass our wildest dreams. I mean I'm really happy, and I live this really cool life, you know? And I'm gay, so what?