“The Puppy Episode”, which was the name of Ellen’s coming out episode, aired on April 30, 1997. It was my 18th birthday and I came home from the multicultural festival held at my high school in Brampton to watch it.
My parents were vehemently against gays and during the show disparaged all of the ‘faggots’ who wanted to normalize being gay.
Now picture the scene. It’s me, my two parents and my three brothers ridiculing gays, basically me, during a monumental television event, something, that for a young gay man, meant a lot.
My dad kept going on about how there isn’t any homosexuality in the animal kingdom and I interjected to say that he was wrong. There’s plenty of evidence that wild animals engage in homosexual and/or bisexual activity.
Everyone in my family was bullying me. Laughing at me during that episode. My brothers were telling me to fuck off whenever I defended Ellen. Then they’d call her a ‘dyke’.
I went to bed that night in tears but determined more than ever to escape that house. A year later, after 3 years working 44 hours a week at Tim Horton’s and the IGA grocery store, while also studying to earn high enough grades to be admitted to every single one of my university choices, two of which gave me partial scholarships, one a full scholarship, I moved out.
In addition, during that period, I had to drive my brother, a drunk, who had lost his drivers licence, to and from his factory job from Monday to Friday. Meaning I would have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, drive him to Milton, then drive to school then after school drive back to Milton to drive him home and then go to work until 11 at night. No one in my family cared.
When I decided to move out of that house to attend university my dad said to me, “don’t think you’re better than any of us.”
Ellen was a symbol of hope for me. I knew if I could just get through this, if I could think of her, and what she went through, and how she persevered, I could make it to freedom.
And I did. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. What Ellen did, in 1997, took courage. She was the first, because there aways has to be a first. And those people get ridiculed, made fun of, but they pave the way for all who follow.