In an emotional speech, comedian Kate McKinnon says the only thing that made being a lesbian less scary when she was younger was seeing Ellen DeGeneres on television.
McKinnon was not in the closet. She has been open about being a lesbian for years. She joked about it with Jerry Seinfeld on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and played lesbian characters with tongue-in-cheek authenticity in skits on “Saturday Night Live.”
Even so, her sexual orientation has not been talked about as much as that of some other famous actresses, particularly Ellen DeGeneres, to whom McKinnon presented the Carol Burnett Award on a Sunday night earlier this year at the Golden Globes. The award is a lifetime achievement accolade for her contributions to television.
In her speech, McKinnon spoke candidly and with humor about being gay and the role DeGeneres played in her understanding of herself and what it means for L.G.B.T.Q. people to see themselves represented onscreen.
“In 1997, when Ellen’s sitcom was in the height of its popularity, I was in my mother’s basement lifting weights in front of the mirror and thinking, “Am I gay?” And I was, and I still am. But that’s a very scary thing to suddenly know about yourself. It’s sort of like doing 23andMe and discovering that you have alien DNA. And the only thing that made it less scary was seeing Ellen on TV.”
“She risked her entire life and her entire career in order to tell the truth, and she suffered greatly for it. Of course, attitudes change, but only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change. And if I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would have thought, “I could never be on TV. They don’t let L.G.B.T. people on TV.”