scorecardAnne Heche was an LGBTQ trailblazer, but said her career suffered as a result of her openness
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Anne Heche was an LGBTQ trailblazer, but said her career suffered as a result of her openness

Erin Snodgrass   

Anne Heche was an LGBTQ trailblazer, but said her career suffered as a result of her openness
LifeInternational3 min read
  • Anne Heche was declared legally dead on Friday following a car accident earlier this month.
  • The actress often spoke about her status as an early LGBTQ trailblazer and relationship with Ellen DeGeneres.

Doctors declared Anne Heche legally brain dead on Friday, even as the actress remained on life support so her organs could be donated following a fiery car crash earlier this month.

The 53-year-old was oft open about her mental health and addiction struggles throughout her decades-long career in Hollywood, never afraid to discuss the childhood abuse she said she suffered at the hands of her father, or her self-described psychotic break in the early aughts.

But in recent years, Heche also spoke frequently about another important aspect of her legacy: her status as an LGBTQ trailblazer.

At the 1997 Vanity Fair Oscar party, Heche locked eyes with Ellen DeGeneres, sparking a love story that would serve as many Americans' first exposure to a celebrity lesbian couple. The two women went public with their relationship shortly thereafter, and courted controversy and media frenzy throughout their three-and-a-half years together.

"Our time was a beautiful part of my life and one that I wear with honor," Heche told Mr. Warburton magazine in 2020. "I was a part of a revolution that created social change, and I could not have done that without falling in love with her."

Heche had never previously indicated that she was gay, and as such, many members of the public and media accused the actress of seeking attention or trying to further her career by way of her newfound relationship.

But in subsequent years, Heche made clear that her relationship with DeGeneres did the exact opposite. Sharing her love with another woman may have won her tabloid publicity, but she believed it torched her career as a leading lady. Despite being a working actress for decades, Heche only had three starring roles in feature films — all three of which were deals secured before she came out.

Heche also spoke openly about her traumatic childhood, talking about the lifelong struggles she faced as a result of being raised by a devoutly Christian mother and a father who she said sexually abused her throughout much of her childhood before he died in 1983 as one of the first known victims of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

"The impact that has on a child who grew up with such shame about who she was, who her father was, the disease he died of, the hatred my mother had for anything gay," she told The New York Times in 2009. "And I got to participate in a loving truthful celebration of the way I thought the world should be. How could that destroy my career? I still can't wrap my head around it."

Heche in interviews and podcast appearances often recounted the story of the premiere for her 1997 film "Volcano."

"I was told by Fox Studio executives that if I brought Ellen to the premiere, my contract would be terminated," she told Mr. Warburton. "I brought Ellen despite those threats, and we were escorted out of the theater before the lights came on by security and not allowed to attend the premiere party because they did not want any photos of us together."

Heche in 2021 on the "You Might Know Her From" podcast said she was the first leading actor to bring a same-sex partner to a premiere, and as a result, didn't make another studio picture for ten years after the premiere.

Heche married two men following her relationship with DeGeneres. She and cameraman Coleman Laffoon wed in 2001 and had one son together before filing for divorce in 2007. In 2008, Heche married her "Men in Trees" co-star James Tupper, with whom she had a son. The couple separated in 2018.

"I think that when I was in a same-sex relationship, it was hard for people to separate my message from the person I was with," she told The Times. "The message of my life has stayed the same. I think I was a wonderful spokeswoman for the right to love."




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