Nadine Smith

What were you doing when Ellen came out?

Filed By Nadine Smith | June 28, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Media
Tags: coming out of the closet, Ellen DeGeneres, fundamentalist Christians, just as hateful as we are, political extremist, The Ellen Show

In 1997 when that special episode of the Ellen Show was airing across the country, the local affiliate invited me and a small group of lesbians to watch the show alongside a group of far right homophobes.

1997_ellen_degeneres.jpgIn particular I remember a pastor and his wife. I remember them well for two reasons
1) because he referenced his wife in every single sentence just to be sure no one mistook either of them for gay and 2) because of what happened right after the show ended.

So there we all were on opposite sides of a big conference room table. Our side was laughing way to hard at everything and they looked like a lemon had been sewn into their twisted mouths.

During commercial breaks the news reporter would ask our reaction to the show.
They would say it was eroding the very foundation of society and we said it was very, very funny.

So afterward, the pastor's wife came up to me still scowling and took issue with me and everything I stand for. I told her the show was over and I'm talking to other people and I don't have any interest in listening to any more of her bile.

With that I turned my back and returned to my conversation. I could feel her bewildered rage percolating as she remained there behind me. Then she started poking me with her bony finger and said "You're going to listen to me."

I turned slowly and gave her a look that communicated that putting her hands on me was... unwise.

She stopped and I turned back to my conversation again but I could still feel her behind me fuming.

About a minute goes by and she's still behind me quietly blazing with rage. And finally she just erupts and screams at the top of her lungs:

"You are just as hateful as we are!!!"

It was surreal and oddly funny. But mostly I remember thinking: How arrogant that you think I have to listen to your poison whenever you feel like dumping it on me.
Begone, you have no power here.

Happy Pride Month

(Cross-posted here at Equality Florida's blog.)


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I lived in Evansville, Indiana and I thought Ellen was the bravest woman on the face of the planet and that people were so stupid for making a big deal out of it. After all, if it was no big deal, she wouldn't have to be so brave over something so relatively minor.

I was eleven years old, living in the Colorado suburbs, and just starting to figure out that I was gay. I also thought Ellen was the bravest woman on the planet. I was also shocked to see a gay person who was so NICE. I'd been carefully taught that gays were mean, nasty people - lesbians especially were angry and humorless. So to know that there was a gay person out there who was nice and funny made me feel more hopeful about myself. It was a very big deal.

slackwrdave | June 28, 2010 4:52 PM

I watched an Ellen variety-type show last night on cable and was thankful for her once again.

Also, Nadine, I think your handling of the pastor's wife incident was quite good. It would have been tempting to drop her like a bag of dirt, but it's good that you didn't. Your feelings about it afterward were helpful to me. :-)

Tab Hunter’s Ghost | June 28, 2010 9:21 PM

Wow Nadine! That brings back a memory or two. I was at my friend’s East Village apartment and we were filmed by Kurt Loder for MTV News. There were way too many of us crammed into this tiny efficiency apartment but it was such a celebratory moment. Thanks for helping me remember a good time with good friends. Happy Pride back at ya!

I was working. Her show wasn't on my watch list at the time (few television shows ever are) but my thoughts on it still ring true today.

I thought it was awesome. And I recall losing a friend at the time for saying so. Apparently I used my position (supervisory) to quell discussion that was negative and they didn't like that very much.

That they had stopped working and were just standing there pontificating was the reason, but of course they didn't want to deal with that reality.

Come to think of it, it was kinda cool -- those who thought it was cool could work and talk at the same time. Those who didn't would stop working and just talk, or not talk and just work.

Wow - That was a dark time...

I was 34 years old. I was deep in the closet. I had fallen in love with my roommate, but now he had a new girlfriend so that was gone. Outside of work, I was sitting at home crying, hating myself and being as apathetic as one can be. I spent most of my time gorging on food and watching television. I was a fan of her show and had watched every episode.

I couldn't wait to see the episode "coming out" episode, but it was the ones that followed that were more influential. She began to make it clear that she (and her character) was normal and experienced the same things everyone else does.

After months of this, I finally figured out that if I didn't do something, I was gonna end up dead.

So, I found a therapist. Started out our conversation by saying, "I'm gay, and we're gonna talk about that!". That was how it started for me.

Now I'm VERY out, happy and in a relationship with my husband of 10 years. Life is great.

I always tell people that Ellen DeGeneres SAVED MY LIFE. I'm never kidding.