Sean Hayes is known for playing out and proud Jack McFarland on the hit sitcom “Will & Grace” but his real-life journey to being out was a difficult one.
Hayes, 47, told People that when he was younger he kept his sexuality a secret from his family as he started to understand it.
“I kept it hidden, the fact that I was in high school plays, from my brothers and my family because this is 1986, being gay then was different,” Hayes says. “I kind of knew I was, but not quite yet. I associated, like society taught me, that theater was for gays, and it was for sissies, and things like that. Things that you were taught to be ashamed of.”
At 18 years old, Hayes worked up the courage to tell his mother over Thanksgiving weekend.
“My mom said I needed to go see a therapist. She wrote me a 10-page letter, both sides on legal pad size paper. ‘This is not what God …’ You know, the whole uneducated view of it,” Hayes says.
Eventually, his mother started to accept Hayes’ identity and supported her son.
“She became educated and had friends who [were] gay people,” Hayes says. “She was like, ‘Oh I see. You’re just like me,’ and all that. It became fine and wonderful, and then she became so supportive and awesome,” Haynes says.
The actor went on that coming out today is easier than it used to be with more gay representation in the media.
“If you don’t have the words to explain it to your family, you can say, ‘Like ‘Will & Grace,’ or ‘Like Ellen DeGeneres,’ or whosoever out in a public. There’s so many more examples now to help people and give them tools to communicate to kids and their families that being gay is a normal as being straight. There’s no difference,” Hayes says.
Hayes made first public mention of his sexuality in 2010. He married his husband, composer Scott Icenogle, in 2014.