Coming Out: Cheyenne Jackson Tells His Story
In celebration of National Coming Out Day (October 11) Gay.net 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.
Jackson 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.
Click below for more Cheyenne Jackson on Gay.net.
- Cheyenne Jackson's Sexy Out Cover Shoot
- Puppy Love: Cheyenne Jackson and His 'Best Girl' Zora
- Cheyenne Jackson's 'Drive' Video
- Attitude's Shirtless Photos of Cheyenne Jackson!