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1997 Out100
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Yep, 1997 was all about Ellen, Elton & more

Ellen DeGeneres dominated headlines in 1997 when she came out on the cover of TIME magazine with the simple and now-iconic cover: "Yep, I'm Gay."

Ellen DeGeneres dominated headlines in 1997 when she came out on the cover of TIME magazine with the simple and now-iconic cover: "Yep, I'm Gay." She was also one of the many trailblazers honored on the Out100 that year.

The comedian was barely three years into her sitcom, Ellen, when she finally confirmed what fans had long suspected. Perhaps just as impactful was the decision to have the titular character come to terms with her own sexuality in an episode that aired the same month. A lesbian actress playing a leading lesbian character on a network sitcom would still make waves today — and it certainly did in 1997, as well.

DeGeneres faced considerable backlash following her coming out. Sponsors pulled their advertisements, and there was a notable decline in ratings for her show, despite the coming out episode drawing more viewers than any other episode of the series and going on to win a GLAAD Media Award. Ellen was canceled the following year.

Still, the show wasn't alone in trying to push for more LGBTQ+ representation on TV at the time, although none managed to be quite as splashy. Beverly Hills, 90210, Roseanne, ER, and even Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman all featured episodes with overtly queer characters that year. Elton John appeared as himself in an episode of The Nanny, and Dateline featured a report on intersexuality.

Mainstream movies and television still have miles to go, even now, but we've come a long way since the '90s. And DeGeneres deserves a fair amount of credit for helping break those barriers down, even at the expense of her own career.

It wouldn't be until 2003 that she started to get back on her feet with The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Reinventing herself as a host and television personality rather than an actress, DeGeneres went on to appear on American Idol, Ellen's Game of Games, and hosted the Emmy Awards across multiple years.

Hosting a popular daytime talk show that ran for nearly 20 years meant a lesbian was regularly being broadcast into the homes of millions of Americans, adding to the way DeGeneres helped shape mainstream media and push society towards a place of acceptance, just by showing up as herself.

"Before this show, I had a lot of insecurity," DeGeneres told Out in 2016. "I wasn't sure if I was going to work again, and although I was out, I was still trying to alter myself — not dressing the way I wanted to dress or wearing my hair the way I wanted to. I slowly gained the confidence to be authentic, and what I've learned about other people is that they strive to be authentic, too. So whether they fully support me, love my lifestyle, or love that I'm married to a woman, I think they like that authenticity, and they're drawn to it."

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Step into the Out100 Vault & celebrate 30 years of history-making LGBTQ+ folks!
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Step into the Out100 Vault & celebrate 30 years of history-making LGBTQ+ folks!

It's been 30 years since the annual Out100 list started highlighting the best and brightest of the community. To honor that milestone, let's take a look back at the many LGBTQ+ people who have changed the world.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Out100, Out’s storied annual list of LGBTQ+ people who have changed culture — and the world.

In celebration of this milestone, we are so proud to launch the official Out100 Vault, which highlights the Out100 covers from our archive as well as fresh essays and insights from past honorees.

The preservation of the LGBTQ+ past has never been more important, as the recent right-wing attempts at queer book bans and censorship demonstrate. For over three decades, Out has fought against mainstream erasure, telling the stories of the artists, warriors, and changemakers who made our history and our movement. Looking to the future, we hope you find inspiration from them in the ongoing fight for visibility and equality.

And if you, or someone you know, deserve to be on this list, please let us know through the Reader’s Choice submission page. Your stories and accomplishments need to be heard, and Out as always is here to tell them.

Sincerely,


Daniel Reynolds

Editor in chief, Out Magazine

Raffy Ermac

Editor in chief, Out.com

See All 2023's Most Impactful and Influential LGBTQ+ People
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Rachel Kiley

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.