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Film Actors: Lesbian  
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Before Ellen's big announcement, however, Amanda Bearse made one of her own. In 1993, Bearse, a movie and television actress who appeared in films such as Fright Night (1985) and Protocol (1984) but is primarily known for her portrayal of Marcie D'Arcy on the television show Married with Children for over a decade, became the first prime-time television lesbian to come out. She reported that her announcement, prompted by a threat of "outing," had no negative repercussions on her career.

Bearse remained comfortably a part of the cast of Married with Children until its 1997 finale. However, in recent years she has more frequently worked as a director than as an actress.

Female bisexuality generally meets with more acceptance than lesbianism--especially for those bisexual celebrities who do not appear with female companions in public. For instance, former child star Drew Barrymore and current It-Girl Angelina Jolie are open about their bisexuality; however, both have married men. In contrast, Ione Skye, known for her romantic lead role in the film Say Anything (1989), divorced her husband in 1999 and soon after went public about her relationship with lesbian model Jenny Shimizu.

Comedienne/actress/singer Sandra Bernhard has also been forthcoming about her bisexuality--and about her involvement with superstar singer Madonna--for years. Popular comedienne and independent film actress Margaret Cho proclaimed herself bisexual in the late 1990s, just as she launched her one-woman show "I'm the One That I Want."

Independent cinema generally puts less pressure on actresses to remain closeted. Out lesbian Guinevere Turner, who co-directed the all-lesbian film Go Fish (1994), also starred in it. Turner went on to appear in more mainstream films such as Chasing Amy (1997), Kiss Me Guido (1997), and American Psycho (2000), which she also co-wrote.

Equally out Cheryl Dunye directed and starred in The Watermelon Woman (1997), and has gone on to direct Stranger Inside, an HBO movie that premiered in June 2001. Leisha Hailey, half of the out lesbian pop duo The Murmurs, appeared in a romantic role opposite Allison Folland--rumored to be a lesbian herself--in the film All Over Me (1996).

Many lesbian and bisexual actresses remain secretive for fear of bringing ruin upon their film careers. While some women simply want to maintain their privacy, or, like Tomlin, worry that they will become a "poster girl" for Hollywood lesbianism, the notion that acknowledging a same-sex preference will destroy an actress's chances for future (heterosexual) romantic or leading roles is no doubt also a reason. If an actress is publicly identified as a lesbian, then perhaps she will not be convincing (or even cast) in a heterosexual romantic role.

It is worth noting, however, that Anne Heche was cast in a romantic lead opposite Harrison Ford in Six Days Seven Nights (1998) after acknowledging her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. The film was relatively successful, and Heche received critical acclaim for her performance.

The most recent, high-profile coming out was that of actress/comedienne/talk show host Rosie O'Donnell. Tabloids had frequently published stories about O'Donnell's sexual orientation and her relationship with Nickelodeon executive Kelli Carpenter. But O'Donnell, who declared "I love you, Kelli," during her acceptance speech at the Daytime Emmys in 2001, refused to confirm the rumors, saying that her sexuality had no significance for her fans or her career.

However, as part of her advocacy for children, in order to give a human face to gay parents, who are often discriminated against by adoption agencies and state governments, O'Donnell declared in March 2002, on ABC's Primetime Thursday, that she is in fact a lesbian mom. The reaction from her fans was overwhelmingly supportive.

The Usual Suspects

Over the years, rumors of lesbianism or bisexuality have persisted about several Hollywood actresses--such as Catherine Deneuve, Kristy McNichol, Helen Hunt, actress and musician Queen Latifah, and actress and singer Whitney Houston. The lesbianism of newer actress Clea DuVall, star of the lesbian film But I'm a Cheerleader (2000), has also been rumored, but DuVall has made no public statement to date.

The multiple Academy Award-winning Jodie Foster occupies a special place in the hearts of many lesbians. She often plays relatively butch on screen, but refuses to discuss her private life at all. She has also remained notoriously close-lipped about who fathered her two children, but actor Russell Crowe mentioned that Foster influenced his band's song "Other Ways of Speaking," which is about "meeting somebody that you think [you] could easily fall in love with . . . but they . . . in fact play for a different team."

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