Joel Grey comes out: Why it's important that the 82-year-old has publicly admitted he's gay

The Oscar-winning actor said if he was forced to 'label' himself, he would say he's a gay man

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Joel Grey, the actor who won an Oscar for his stunning performance alongside Liza Minelli in Cabaret, has just come out as gay. Here's why his admission is so inspiring.

Not pigeon-holed

"I don't like labels," Grey told People magazine, "but if you have to put a label on it, I'm a gay man."

His sexuality was not a secret to his friends or family, but this is the first time the stage and theatre actor has been prepared to discuss it publicly.

"All the people close to me have known for years who I am," Grey added. "It took time to embrace that other part of who I always was."

Intolerant generation

Grey's coming out is made all the more significant by the fact that his upbringing was so marked by homophobia. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, to parents who openly derided gay people.

Grey recalls "hearing the grown-ups talk in the next room, my mother included, talking derisively about 'fairies' and men being dragged off to jail and even worse for being who they were."

He eventually left Ohio to attend college in Los Angeles.


Fluid sexuality

Like many people, Grey has been attracted to both men and women. He said: "I came to realise, along with being attracted to girls, I had similar feelings for boys."

He was married to actress Jo Wilder, with whom he has two children. Talking about his 24-year marriage, he described it as the "happiest [time] of my life".

Support of his family

His daughter, Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey, told People: "I feel very happy for my dad that he has come to a point in his life where he feels safe and comfortable enough to declare himself in a public way as a gay man."

She added: "Mostly because the more people are free to own their true nature and can hopefully come closer to love and accept themselves as they really are, no matter what age, no matter how long it takes, to finally be free of the lies or half truths, it is freedom."