When comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres came out, she intentionally made the biggest splash she could on two media fronts. She made history by coming out in an exclusive TIME cover story in April 1997, then had her fictional self come out on her semi-autobiographical TV sitcom. In the fall of 2006, DeGeneres had suggested to her sitcom’s producers that her character discover that she is a lesbian. After rumors about DeGeneres’ real-life sexuality churned for months in the media, the actress came out publicly in the TIME interview and revealed that she was in a relationship with a woman. “This has been the most freeing experience, because people can’t hurt me anymore,” DeGeneres said. The high-profile announcement and the media frenzy it prompted made DeGeneres a landmark figure in the history of gay rights.
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