Ellen DeGeneres’ Queer Talk Show Legacy

As we prepare to say goodbye to Ellen DeGeneres’ long-running and uber-successful talk show, GLAAD is looking back on some of the most memorable moments where the talk show host used her enormous platform to uplift and celebrate the LGBTQ community.

In a time where openly LGBTQ people in televsision was scarce, having an out and proud lesbian on such a mainstream platform provided representation for so many. Ellen’s bravery to come out on national television helped pave the way for queer people around the world. Ellen’s charitable efforts and work as an activist even earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

JoJo Siwa on How She Feels Being a Gay Icon

In April of 2021, pop star and dancer JoJo Siwa made the brave decision to come out publicly as pansexual. Soon after, Ellen invited Siwa on the show to talk about “how she feels being a gay icon.” 

The 18-year-old said “it feels amazing” and talked how it was her suggestion for Dancing with the Stars to include same-sex dance partners in the competition.

DeGeneres reminded Siwa “what a difference” she has made by coming out to her huge audience of young people. Siwa said she’s been told by adults that “they wish they had someone like me when they were little” which is why she’s so grateful to be that person for kids to look up to today.

Dwyane Wade’s Candid Talk About Supporting His 12-Year-Old's Gender Identity

Professional basketball player Dwyane Wade spoke candidly on The Ellen Show in 2020 about embracing his 12-year-old daughter Zaya’s gender identity. He shared that he and his wife Gabrielle Union made it a priority to educate themselves about the LGBTQ community to ensure their daughter has the opportunity to be her best self.

Ellen praised Wade and Union for doing what every parent should be doing, “unconditionally loving their child and supporting their child in whoever they are.” 

Sam Smith on Coming Out 

In 2014, Ellen sat down with singer and songwriter Sam Smith. She complimented Smith for their beautiful voice and courage to come out publicly. Smith said “It didn’t feel like a coming out, I came out when I was like 4 years old. My mom said she knew when I was 3.” 

DeGeneres went on to say how important it is to have queer people in the public eye like Smith because “There are a lot of people out there who are struggling, so it’s nice to have someone [saying] look, I’m successful, and I am who I am.”  

Ellen Meets Trailblazing Actor Asia Kate Dillon

Billions and Orange is the New Black star Asia Kate Dillon came on the show to educate the world on what it means to be non-binary. They explained that “non-binary is a term used by some people, myself included, who experience their gender identity falling somewhere outside of the boxes of man or woman.” They went on to explain the difference between sex and gender identity. 

Ricky Martin Opens Up 

In 2010, singer, songwriter, and humanitarian, Ricky Martin came on the show to talk about his decision to come out as gay in his memoir. He spoke about how it was impossible to tell his story without acknowledging the role his sexuality played throughout his life, including being pressured to come out. Martin and DeGeneres agreed on the importance of waiting until one is ready to come out. “It doesn’t matter if it takes ten or fifteen years, it’s a moment when you realize and understand who you are.” Martin said. 

Laverne Cox Has High Hopes for Change with New U.S. Administration

In early 2021, Laverne Cox joined Ellen via zoom to talk about her excitement about the new administration’s potential to create real change for the LGBTQ community and beyond. 

Cox also talked about her critically acclaimed documentary and winner of the 2021 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary, Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen. Cox mentioned a GLAAD study that suggested “80% of Americans don’t personally know someone who’s trans and most of what people know about trans people comes from the media.” DeGeneres agreed on how important proper representation in TV and movies is and talked about how “[LGBTQ] dehumanization is what makes it so easy to hate.”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson is Engaged!

In 2012, Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson came on the show to celebrate his engagement to now husband Justin Mikita. He revealed that he proposed while in Mexico for co-star Sophia Vergara’s birthday party, where she got engaged as well. Ferguson’s role on Modern Family was groundbreaking at the time as it was one of the first mainstream shows to depict a happily married gay couple with a child. 

The Sensational Schuyler Bailar 

In 2016, Ellen invited swimmer Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender man to compete on an NCAA Division 1 sports team on the show. The Harvard student said that while going through his transition he knew “he just really wanted to swim.” He expressed his gratitude for his coaches and teammates who accepted him with open arms. 

He told the story of a time he competed on the men’s team and got 16th place, he said “It was as much glory as I ever would’ve gotten getting first place, probably more because I was myself.” 

Jane Lynch

At the height of her Glee fame in 2010, Jane Lynch joined Ellen to talk about everything from being mistaken for each other to coming out. Lynch said “I never made the choice to hide that I was gay.” DeGeneres reflected on how lucky the both of them were to be able to come out and maintain their level of success when so many people in their position may not be able to. Lynch said Ellen’s coming out “blazed a trail for her. It really did.” 

Ellen Chats with Transgender Military Couple Logan & Laila Ireland 

Shortly after Donald Trump banned transgender people from serving in the military, Ellen found Logan and Laila Ireland, a transgender couple who both served in the military. Ellen thanked them for their service and reminded her audience of millions that transgender people are just people. Logan expressed his gratitude for Ellen’s response to the ban on Twitter that stated “We should be grateful to the people who wish to serve, not turn our backs on them. Banning transgender people is hurtful, baseless and wrong.” 

The ban would force both of them into unemployment, so in classic Ellen style, she surprised the couple with a check for $25,000. 

President Obama and Ellen Discuss the Road to Equality

At the end of his presidential term, Barack Obama sat down with Ellen to discuss the road to equality. DeGeneres starts the interview by saying “I can’t thank you enough for what you have done for the gay community.” Obama revealed that legalizing same sex marriage in all 50 states and repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” are some of his proudest achievements as the president.

Obama went on to say that as much as he and his staff have been able to help the community with laws and supreme court decisions, when it comes to “changing hearts and minds, I don’t think there’s anyone who’s been more influential than you Ellen.” 

In the talk show’s 19 season run, Ellen made us laugh, cry, and most importantly feel seen. The series finale of The Ellen Show will air Thursday, May 26th on NBC.

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