Jun 25

“The Out List”: Public Figures Who Are Openly LGBT

On Thursday HBO will premiere a documentary directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders called The Out List, about well-known and/or should-be-known LGBT individuals who are publicly out. The 16 interviewees are Ellen DeGeneres, Wanda Sykes, Neil Patrick Harris, Dustin Lance Black, Lady Bunny, Cynthia Nixon, R. Clark Cooper, Wade Davis, Twiggy Pucci Garcon, Larry Kramer, Janet Mock, Suze Orman, Christine Quinn, Jake Shears, Lupe Valdez, and Wazina London.

The official description of The Out List:

Alternately humorous and poignant, The OUT List features a diverse cross-section of accomplished leaders from entertainment, business, sports and public service sharing intimate stories on childhood, understanding gender and sexuality, building careers while out and reflecting on the challenges still facing the LGBT community. Against the backdrop of historic Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage and financial equality, subjects recall joyous moments of acceptance and romance, along with painful instances of intolerance and discrimination, offering unique modern perspectives on being out in America.

Buzzfeed notes that watching this film is “almost as if you are peering into a therapy session. Neil Patrick Harris shares his thoughts on gay parenting, while Lupe Valdez explains how she found herself as the first openly lesbian sheriff in Dallas, Texas. Some of the anecdotes are humorous, and others are heartbreaking, but all reflect upon what it truly means to grow up ‘out’ in America.”

An The Out List trailer can be seen below:

Why is the Out List needed? Why is it important to hear from public figures who disclose their identity or orientation? One main reason is that it helps those who are still struggling with who they are. Other reasons are represented in the following quotes from some who’ve recently emerged from the closet (and aren’t in the documentary):

Anderson Cooper, journalist: “It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true. I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.”

Jason Collins, pro basketball player: “I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, ‘Me, too.'”

Lana Wachowski (MTF), producer and director: “…(W)hen I was young, I wanted very badly to be a writer, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I couldn’t find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others…If I can be that person for someone else then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value.”

Orlando Cruz, boxer: “I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

Megan Rapinoe, U.S. Olympic soccer player: “I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out. I feel everyone is really craving [for] people to come out. People want — they need — to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.”

And here’s what one leader and activist said way back in 1978, just months before he was assassinated:

Harvey Milk: “Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.”

Oct 29

Humorists and Mental Health: Mark Twain Prize Winners

Tomorrow night at 8 P.M. most PBS markets will televise the recently recorded presentation of Ellen DeGeneres: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize. DeGeneres is one of many humorists who has addressed mental health issues in one way or another.

This humor award has been given annually since 1998. When DeGeneres found out she’d be receiving it this year, she reportedly remarked, “It’s such an honor to receive the Mark Twain Prize. To get the same award that has been given to people like Bill Cosby, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell, it really makes me wonder…why didn’t I get this sooner?”

Besides the humorists mentioned in the above quote, the other Mark Twain winners have been Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, George Carlin, Lorne Michaels, Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart, Neil Simon, Whoopi Goldberg, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, and Richard Pryor.

Now, please indulge me as I make all of this pertinent to Minding Therapy….

Ellen and Neil Simon have had depression. And when Ellen’s character needed to address her coming out process on her sitcom, she used therapy.

Both Will Ferrell and Tina Fey have struggled with shyness. No, really.

Here’s Steve Martin describing his history of panic attacks: “(F)or those who have them or had them – I don’t get them anymore, thank God – but it’s a terrifying experience of disassociation from your own self, and it’s a morbid sense of doom and you feel like you’re dying.”

Whoopi Goldberg famously feared flying, apparently because of witnessing a mid-air collision many years ago. It’s been reported, including on segments of The View, that she’s overcome this with the use of a technique called Thought Field Therapy, or TFT.

Jonathan Winters admitted to having bipolar disorder.

Richard Pryor‘s substance abuse issues were well known.

As forever-producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels has overseen the work of many comedians in trouble with alcohol, drugs, and various mental health issues.

And if you thought that one was a stretch…

George Carlin once publicly denounced prayer as a form of mental illness.

Carl Reiner starred in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

And Bill Cosby as Dr. Huxtable on The Cosby Show represented the picture of emotionally healthy, if also comical, parenting.

Finally, several of the Mark Twain Prize humorists are known for their portrayals of shrinks or their potential patients:

Bob Newhart not only played Dr. Bob Hartley on popular sitcom The Bob Newhart Show in the 70’s, but a MADtv skit featuring his character’s special brand of brief therapy is also frequently watched. See it here on YouTube.

Billy Crystal, of course, is reluctant psychiatrist-to-the-Mob-boss in the movies Analyze This and Analyze That.

Lily Tomlin was Trudy the Bag Lady in Jane Wagner‘s play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Trudy: “I made some studies, and reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it. I can take it in small doses, but as a lifestyle, I found it too confining. It was just too needful; it expected me to be there for it all the time, and with all I have to do–I had to let something go.” More recently, on TV’s Web Therapy, Tomlin has played the wacky mom of wacky shrink Fiona Wallice (Lisa Kudrow), who admits her to a mental hospital.