In an exclusive interview with TIME, Ellen DeGeneres talks about coming out, staying in and not wanting to be “the lesbian actress”

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TIME : So, for the record, are you yourself gay?

Ellen DeGeneres : Yes. You’re the first person that I’ve–I mean I knew that I was going to–that was one of the things when I decided to have my character on the show come out, I knew I was going to have to come out too. But I didn’t want to talk about it until the show was done. And you know, I watched my friend Melissa [Etheridge] come out, and she became “the lesbian rock star.” I never wanted to be “the lesbian actress.” I never wanted to be the spokesperson for the gay community. Ever. I did it for my own truth.

TIME : Why now?

DeGeneres : I don’t think I could have done this a long time ago, and I don’t think people would have accepted it as readily as they do now. Now I feel comfortable with myself, and I don’t have to be fearful about something damaging my career if it gets out, because now I’m in control of it–sort of. No one can hurt me now.

Read the full interview here: Time