Out Magazine finally released the OUT 100 list for 2013! It’s no surprise that marriage equality advocate Edie Windsor, director Lee Daniels and actors Jim Parsons and Wentworth Miller took top honors among others.
Edie Windsor is part of a couple with a love story that helped change America. When Edie Windsor met Thea Spyer in New York’s Portofino, the attraction was no less spontaneous. That was in 1965, four years before Stonewall and 50 years before their relationship became a cornerstone for the federal government’s acknowledgment of same-sex marriages.
They were married in Canada in 2007, but when Spyer passed away in 2009 after suffering from multiple sclerosis, Windsor was made to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes simply because their union was not recognized by the United States. To help her get out of that situation, she had help from lawyers, judges and a spry platinum blond octogenarian.
When the Supreme Court ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional on June 26 this year, Windsor received a congratulatory phone call from President Obama and she then headed to the Stonewall Inn to celebrate. In stark contrast to 1969, they celebrated with even more people from all walks of life who went there to celebrate.
“The next generation is so far advanced over us,” says Windsor. “I love that a lot of younger people now come out that would never have come out in the old days. Of course, they are born into a community already. They just have to discover it, whereas we were still building it.”
Jim Parsons was fresh from his third Emmy win for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for the Big Bang Theory when he said “I was very conscious in 2013 to try to enjoy every month, every week at a time, as much as I could.” With his busy schedule, we couldn’t blame the award-winning actor if he wants to slow down and smell the roses.
Becoming an actor is Paron’s childhood dream and he’s been working hard ever since. He’s even confessed to sitting in front of the TV more than he should have, just like any kid. “In my case, it turns out I was learning something that I’m putting to use. When I said I don’t need math, I meant it. Give me Three’s Company.”
In a recent New York Times profile, Parson’s sexuality was only casually mentioned. “I didn’t think it was still that much hoopla, and that was really kind of rewarding. That’s progress – progress I’m really happy to be a part of, making what was extraordinary ordinary without being boring, for God’s sake.”
Lee Daniels was studying the history for his movie The Butler when he made a simple observation: the slaves who were laughing on the boats from Africa and on the plantations where the ones who survived. “That’s how we made this movie – by bringing laughter into ordinary places, because that’s how we see life.” In The Butler, scenes of suffering are interspersed with moments of levity and camp that punctuate the tension.
Daniels stands a cut above most of his contemporaries. He has become unique in his discovery of a cinematic language that can speak to both black and white audiences. Growing up in Philly, he experienced both worlds first-hand. First as a beat-upon gay kid in an underprivileged community and then as a beat-upon black-kid in an advantaged white neighborhood. “I learned to train my bowel movements, my piss, so that I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom all through school,” he says. “And then I’d run home.”
Dysfunction and struggle are not foreign concepts to Daniel during his childhood. His hard life is in itself worthy of a movie. He recalls being beaten by his father when he was caught in his mother’s red pumps/ He watched lovers die of AIDS in his arms, hit rock bottom on crystal meth and came by his two adopted kids in an unlikely manner.
But even he’s come so far, he doesn’t feel comfortable with the culture of Los Angeles. “In L.A. they make you feel insecure, like you’re always looking at the stars and you feel like you’re not one of them,” he says. “You feel like ‘I’m nothing’. It was what my father told me I was, and I knew I had to get out of there.”
Although he has already won Oscars, Daniels knows his insecurities are an inseparable part of his talent. “I have to be really aware of it and always talking about it – and be truthful about it to the point of ugliness so that it keeps my ass in check.”
Wentworth Miller probably has one of the most elegant coming-out statements in history. In a letter declining invitation to be honored at the St. Petersburg International Film Festival, he considerately stated “As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes. However, as a gay man, I must decline.”
Like most people, Miller had been reading reports online about the goings-on in Russia. “So when the invitation arrive, I thought ‘There’s no way I can say yes’”, says Miller. “Then it occurred to me that if I made my response public, it might help draw additional attention to the situation. It felt like the right move at the right time.”
Last September, Miller appeared in an event for the Human Rights Campaign in Seattle, where he opened up about his attempt to end his life as a teenager, concluding with a powerful statement: “Let me be to someone else what no one was to me. Let me send a message to that kid, maybe in America, maybe someplace far overseas, maybe somewhere deep inside – a kid who is being targeted at home or at school or in the streets – that someone is watching and listening and caring, that there is an ‘us’, that there is a ‘we’, and that kid or teenager or adult is loved and they are not alone.”
Check out other inspiring stories on Out Magazine’s Out100!