Married... With Children’s Amanda Bearse on Stonewall 50: ‘We Must Make Room for Everyone to Be Loved’
The ‘Married.... With Children’ star recalls making a PSA for National Coming Out Day, in which she declared: ‘I am not a straight person, I just play one on TV.’
In this special series, LGBT celebrities and public figures talk to Tim Teeman about the Stonewall Riots and their legacy—see more here.
Actor, Married With… Children
When/how did you first hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of it?
I was turning 11 at the time of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Over the years, I became aware of the protest, having seen some of the still photos of the arrests of the patrons, always connected to Judy Garland’s memory.
I still want the duet she did with Barbra Streisand (“Happy Days are Here Again/Get Happy”) to be played at my memorial, if I have one. I guess I’m part gay man, too.
By 1994, on the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, I had come out professionally, and marched up 1st Ave at the head of the parade along with some of the original patrons/protesters.
It was an exciting day, culminating in Central Park. Speaking from the stage in front of the vast crowd of the LGBT community is a moment I’ll never forget. My daughter had just turned one, so I felt I was representing our family, as well.
HRC decided to launch its acquisition and re-branding of National Coming Out Day, and they asked me to be the first ‘poster child’ for the campaign, which was announced at that time.
I made a PSA for them: “I am not a straight person, I just play one on TV.” I later passed the NCOD torch on to other performers who came out: Dan Butler, Chaz Bono, Mitchell Anderson and Candice Gingrich; then along came Ellen!
What is the Riots’ significance for you?
The campaign for National Coming Out Day was incredibly significant at that time in our collective social history. Putting a face to our community (with each of our stories), made coming out as queer a tangible and accessible action. It propelled many LGBT people to do the same, and I was honored to be a small part of our history.
I’ve stated before that coming out was the most personal political statement a gay individual could make, and that it was each person’s own journey as to when and how they chose to do it.
How far have we LGBT people come since 1969?
The journey has been immense, full of iconic coming out moments; full of incredible strides in medicine to combat HIV; full of legal battles—marriage equality among them; full of inclusivity—adding more initials along the way.
Personally, it was important to me to be a part of television history a second time, launching a new network (Fox/Logo). I remain very proud of The Big Gay Sketch Show and never thought there would be a gay network in my lifetime (or career).
Following my ride on the LGBT publicity wave, I lived a private life where I raised my child in different parts of our country. We were living a life of inclusivity and integrity, coming out to every one of her teachers (and parents and neighbors, et al), hopefully setting an example that we are just like everyone else…not to be feared or reviled. We may be ‘other,’ but we are the same.
What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?
In Pete Buttigieg we have a Democratic candidate, who is an out gay man, running for President. That, in and of itself, is demonstrative of where we all headed for the future, especially given that his sexual orientation is not the key topic in describing him.
But there will always be challenges—it’s the nature of our collective humanity. We as a human race must make room for everyone to “live out loud” and be counted. And loved. After all, that’s why we’re here on the planet.