Coming Out: Cheyenne Jackson Tells His Story

By: Brandon Voss

In celebration of National Coming Out Day (October 11) will be sharing stories throughout the month from several members of our community who not only kicked down the closet door, but continue to inspire, encourage, and give us hope for a brighter future.

Readying to star in his sixth Broadway show, the porn comedy The Performers, Cheyenne Jackson is also a busy screen star, a rising pop star, and a happy husband, but the actor-activist's life wasn't always so charmed. While starring in Broadway’s campy 
hit musical Xanadu, Jackson first detailed his coming out in a 2008 cover story for The Advocate.

Jackson came out professionally in The New
 York Times during his breakthrough 2005 run of All
 Shook Up, an Elvis jukebox musical.
 “It wasn’t something I planned on 
doing, but I’ve
 been out to my family since I’m 19,” Jackson told The Advocate. “The interviewer 
kind of said, ‘And you’re gay, right?’ 
I didn’t even think about it and said, 
‘Yeah.’ I could’ve, in a frenzy, had
 people call him to retract it, but I thought,
 Let’s see what happens. People worry about someone
 who’s an up-and-comer and so open about it, but 
I feel like if I don’t make it an issue,
 it’s not going to be an issue.”

Jackson also shared that he often receives letters from small-town 
teenage boys whom he’s inspired to come out: “One of them asked me to send him a picture,
 and he said he held it as he told his family because 
it gave him strength. A couple weeks later when his friend
 was going to come out, he let the friend hold my
 picture. It’s kind of heavy, but at the same 
time if they feel support and strength just by the way I 
live my life, that’s great.”

Unfortunately, Jackson didn’t have an openly gay role model while he attended House of the 
Lord Christian Academy in his small, rural hometown of
 Newport-Oldtown on the Washington-Idaho border, where the only gay people were
 called “the dump dykes,” two 
butch lesbians who ran the local garbage dump. 
"The school would quote Scripture — ‘It is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord to lie down
 with another man’ — and I was told that I would be 
going to hell, so from a very young age I knew that it was
 something that I would have to deal with later in 
life,” he said.

 had many girlfriends in high school, but he revealed that his heart always belonged to Chuck, his 
best friend. “I was in love
 with him,” he recalled. “I truly thought
 that we would be together. If he got a girlfriend,
 I’d purposely make sure that my girlfriend was 
best friends with his girlfriend so that we could always do 
shit together. He was a Mormon, and right before he 
left on his mission, I took him to lunch and said,
 ‘Chuck…’ And he said, ‘I know. I’ve always known.’ And I was like,
 ‘You have? Oh, my God!’ To this
 day, he’s still a friend, but now he’s married 
and has five kids.”

Jackson found it more difficult to come out to his family at the age of 19. “We called a family meeting, and I said, ‘Well, I think families 
should be close and know everything about each other,
 so it’s time that you knew I was
 gay.’” Met with silence and tears, his brother began reading a letter that 
Jackson had written about his journey of self-discovery
. Jackson said that he and his family didn’t discuss the topic of his sexuality for about 
two years after that meeting. “I just separated myself from them,” he continued. “I
 realized that they had to mourn their ideas of what 
they thought my life would be. I wasn’t going 
to be the first to have kids, which they’d always 
thought, because I was a Sunday School teacher and the 
only guy on the block that babysat. So I had to give 
them time.”

Born-again Christians, Jackson’s parents
 encouraged him to enroll in the ex-gay organization 
Exodus International, but they soon dropped the subject. He added, “They’re people that you’d look 
at and think, Oh, they’ll never come
 around, but they did.”

Jackson next stars in The Performers, which opens Nov. 14 at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre.

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