POST-FINALE UPDATE (5/26/11): During yesterday's finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah played highlights of people who had come on the show and said things "they couldn't say to their own family members," including a young woman, named Juanita, who came out as a lesbian on the show. Later, during the show's final moments, Winfrey said to viewers, "I thank you for tuning in every day with your mothers, sisters, daughters, partners - gay and otherwise, your friends and all the husbands who got coaxed into watching Oprah." GLAAD thanks Oprah again for being inclusive of LGBT people from beginning to end of her remarkable 25-year run. “Our intention is – and has always been – to help people see things differently by giving a voice to those that might not otherwise be heard.” ~ Oprah Winfrey With those words, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey began her show on January 25, the subject of which was "25 Years of Gay Issues on The Oprah Show." During that episode, Oprah pointed out that The Oprah Winfrey Show – which today ends its historic 25-year run – has produced more than 120 groundbreaking shows devoted to telling the stories of LGBT people. Included among them was a 1997 episode in which Ellen DeGeneres told the world that she is a lesbian. That particular show, Oprah pointed out, was the first of seven (at the time; now eight) to be honored with a GLAAD Media Award. “…that’s the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation,” Oprah spelled out for her viewers.
In the four months since the January 25 show aired, Oprah has devoted even more time, during her farewell season, to raising the visibility and acceptance of LGBT people. In March, I was fortunate to attend a show in which Oprah welcomed out lesbian actress Meredith Baxter of Family Ties fame. Earlier this month, Oprah sat down with Chaz Bono, the only child of Sonny & Cher, whose transition is the subject of Becoming Chaz, a documentary that recently had its network premiere on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
Meredith Baxter tells Oprah about coming out and her journey toward self-acceptance (March 2, 2011).
“I think we can all learn something from him,” said Oprah, after taping her interview with Chaz. Of Chaz’s transition, she said, “It’s really about honoring the truth of who you are, and if you can’t do that, you die a little death every day…your willingness to be truthful about who you really are opens up enormous possibilities.” At the GLAAD Media Awards in New York on March 19, The Oprah Winfrey Show picked up their eighth GLAAD Media Award (Outstanding Talk Show Episode - "Ricky Martin Coming Out as a Gay Man and a New Dad"). With her own production company, the number one talk show for 25 consecutive seasons, a namesake magazine, radio channel and now her own cable television network, Oprah Winfrey has been dubbed “The Queen of All Media.” Her influence has proven capable of turning a book into an instant best seller, and yes, even changing the hearts and minds of her large audience. “For all of these years, after all of these shows, viewers from every walk of life told us again and again that our candid conversations had an impact,” said Winfrey during her show on January 25. Chely Wright came out as a lesbian on Oprah, Winfrey received this heartfelt message from a viewer named Kim, a mother in North Carolina:
Chaz Bono appears on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to discuss the documentary "Becoming Chaz" (May 9, 2011).
“When my 21-year-old daughter came out and told me that she was gay, I was completely in shock,” said Kim. ”I turn Oprah on and there’s Chely Wright, telling her story about coming out. It was the turning point for me in being able to accept my daughter for who she is.”Though her show has undoubtedly helped to foster much understanding and acceptance of LGBT people since it went national in 1986, Oprah also acknowledges that “we still have a long way to go.” She concluded her show on January 25 with the following:
“Over the past 25 years, we have seen some progress. Five states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriages…Congress just repealed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban…but we still have a long way to go. Hopefully today we helped open the doors just a little wider.”You certainly did, Oprah. GLAAD sends our heartfelt congratulations on 25 remarkable years of The Oprah Winfrey Show. We thank you, and your team at Harpo Studios, for a quarter century of unwavering dedication to telling the stories of LGBT people from around the world, and we look forward to all the important stories you will continue to help us tell in your next chapter with OWN.