Actress and comedian Lily Tomlin has come out as gay in an interview with the New York City cable-access TV program Gay USA.
Tomlin also explained why in the past she has hesitated to say point-blank that she is a lesbian despite her frequent references to her long-term same-sex relationship.
Speaking to journalist Ann Northrop in late November, Tomlin said: "I'm not going to make a big national case of it which is what, really, everybody would like to do, or some people. But in most articles, most people refer to Jane [ Wagner ] as my partner or my life-partner or whatever. ... We've been around so long and been through so much and I always kind of took a lot of stuff for granted and I just never-;I also never wanted to be anybody's spokesperson or poster person. You know, I see what happens to too many people."
Tomlin said being labeled "gay" is limiting.
"I feel a much larger landscape than that for myself," she said. "I don't, uh -;just to be ident-;I don't-;I don't even know why anybody's identified, but, of course, I know politically why, and I know socially why, but, in my real heart, I don't feel anybody needs to be identified in any limited way, narrow, you know, some specific way. I don't even want to hear about somebody being heterosexual."
She doesn't relate to being gay, she said.
"So, I'm just saying, I, you know, I-;I guess I don't, uh, I guess I don't relate in those terms," Tomlin said. "First of all, I related as a woman and a feminist long before I related as a gay person. I didn't relate to the gay movement in that way, I related more to the women's movement because I felt it was more a woman's issue in general. I thought that we were still separated from the male community in so many ways. And, then, I just didn't, I just don't, I just don't see it that way. I have a hard time seeing it that way. I think it's-;anybody who's so didactic about anything, I have a hard time seeing."
In the interview, Tomlin also talked about the recent incident in which reparative-therapy posterboy John Paulk was caught cruising in a Washington, D.C., gay bar. "Reparative therapy" is Christian counseling designed to turn gays straight.
"I don't always agree with everybody's particular activist politics," Tomlin said. "I think people can get really righteous. Remember when the guy from Exodus was uncovered in the gay bar? I've argued with friends about it because even the people at the bar, they protected him from being photographed, which I thought was an honorable thing to do.
"Of course, everybody [ in the activist world ] is gleeful and excited over this [ Paulk being caught in the bar ] but in so many ways it's really kind of an activist, narrow point of view. It's like being a politician. It's partisan. They just want this to happen or they want that to happen."
Tomlin has sort of come out on several occasions, though not as clearly as in the Gay USA interview.
In the December 2000 Genre, she said, "The gay community, we just have a much higher sensibility."
She did not elaborate.
In September 2000, the Seattle Gay News asked Tomlin, "What turns you on?"
She replied: "Jane Wagner. Ha ha!"
At the 1997 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Awards in Los Angeles, Tomlin made reference to "my own personal in-house writer-; the beautiful, the brilliant, my beloved Jane Wagner."
In a November 2000 chat on CBS TV's Sunday Morning program, she said "yes" when asked if Wagner is her "partner in life."
And in a 1999 interview with the Denver gay newspaper Out Front, Tomlin said: "I never officially came out in any kind of really public way. ... I just always lived very simply and openly, but the press has never made a big fuss about me or said anything to me. ... In some ways I don't even identify myself in any kind of limited way. I don't want to. I wish none of us had to. I wish we were just people."
US Magazine interview
The New York Post reports that Tomlin has also come out in the mainstream-;in the new edition of US Weekly magazine, in an interview about the Broadway revival of her popular one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.
Tomlin discusses her 30-year live-in relationship with the show's writer, Jane Wagner. "I don't like to talk about my private life in any detail, but I don't disavow my private life," she says. "I also don't want to become someone's poster girl, either. And, you know, that's been somewhat difficult in terms of the movement. I've tried to be as simple and direct as I can without being exploited or tabloidized."
The Post notes that the question of Tomlin's sexual preference made news back in 1995, when Armistead Maupin claimed that she had reneged on a deal they'd made: that she'd declare herself in return for his writing the script for the documentary film in which Tomlin was involved, The Celluloid Closet.
The Post reports that Tomlin and Wagner got hooked up when Tomlin was recording her first "Edith Ann" character album.