Ellen celebrates 20 years since coming out as gay

US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has commemorated the two-decade anniversary of the moment both she and her TV show character came out as homosexual.

Through the 1990s, DeGeneres had a thriving sitcom called Ellen - but after four seasons without any relationship, the show's producers were putting pressure on for her character to find someone to love.

However DeGeneres pushed back, refusing to be in a heterosexual relationship on the sitcom and petitioning for her character to come out as gay on the show.

DeGeneres was honoured with a Medal of Freedom at the end of last year for the bravery involved, and has over the last week invited guests onto her talk show to discuss the impact of the episode - including Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.

The comedian-turned-TV host announced she was gay on April 30, 1997, on an instalment of her sitcom entitled 'The Puppy Episode' - which earned its name on account of a producer saying he would rather DeGeneres' character get a puppy than do something as controversial as coming out.

She had come out to Oprah Winfrey and spoke to Time magazine a fortnight earlier in an effort to open up about her sexuality, and because of that there was plenty of interest in 'The Puppy Episode', which attracted 42 million viewers - one of the largest TV audiences ever, at the time.

It also made history for marking the first time there had been an openly gay leading character on television - and with any radical change comes contentious debate over its merits, which is what ensued immediately afterwards.

Advertisers pulled ads during times when the show aired, while religious leaders and conservative media personalities slated her for the move. ABC also put a parental advisory warning on the show, and the sitcom was eventually criticised for being too serious and pulled in May 1998.

Watch Ellen's full package on coming out.


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