Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Anne Heche: In an Exclusive Face-to-Face Interview, Anne Heche Answers the Tough Questions about Her Battle with Insanity, Her Relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, Her Sudden Marriage to Coley Laffoon, the Abuse She Suffered, and Whether She Still Considers Herself a Gay Activist

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Anne Heche: In an Exclusive Face-to-Face Interview, Anne Heche Answers the Tough Questions about Her Battle with Insanity, Her Relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, Her Sudden Marriage to Coley Laffoon, the Abuse She Suffered, and Whether She Still Considers Herself a Gay Activist

Article excerpt

In an exclusive face-to-face interview, Anne Heche answers the tough questions about her battle with insanity,, her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, her sudden marriage to Coley Laffoon, the abuse she steered, and whether she still considers herself a gay activist.

Everybody's dissing Anne Heche, especially after September 11. In one of fate's pranks, Anne told her story to Barbara Walters just days before the terrorist attacks. Now, against our uncertain future, our fascination with Anne and her memoir, Call Me Crazy, seems the very essence of our self-indulgent past. Yet Anne's journey still matters to gays and lesbians. When she fell for Ellen DeGeneres, she jumped into our lives as well, and she made twice the noise on our behalf that most gay women would have.

Many gays and lesbians feel that Anne is now trashing all she told us she believed. She came to fame in the gay movement; now she's talking about being raped by her closeted gay dad? She swore love for a woman; now she claims she was crazy at the time? Anne hotly denies that she means us harm, and she sought this interview to say so. She insists that she can't be held responsible for the prejudices and preconceptions people bring to her statements. Nor, as you'll see, is she free of those burdens herself.

Yet it's her own contradictions, rooted so deep she can't see them, that make Anne a perfect poster girl for America's fractured attitudes toward gays and lesbians. And crazy or not, she advanced our cause. Looking back at that swirl of time from Ellen's "Puppy Episode" to Anne's psychotic episode, we can see how Anne pushed Ellen further into activism than she might ever have gone alone. As a couple Anne and Ellen were brave--give them credit--to the point of recklessness. Whatever else they didn't do, they got us onto center stage and kept us there. We'll never be quite so invisible again.

Some of this stuff we have to talk about is difficult, but please know we're not here to give offense.

Absolutely. I have been looking forward to this interview and a reintroduction, obviously, since I broke up with Ellen, to be able to talk to people.

How do you think the gay community is feeling about you? Do you feel people are angry with you?

I haven't felt that, no. Are people angry with me?

Some are.

Well, sure, anything you do in your life, people are going to be angry at you. People were angry at me when I was in love with Ellen, when I broke up with Steve Martin, when I left the soap opera. When you make choices and you're a public figure, people have reactions.

You were very visible as a gay activist. How has that changed?

When I was with Ellen, I was telling people, "If you come out, it's gonna be better for you." But I honestly don't know that, and I used to say I did. I stood in front of the gay community march in Washington [the Millennium March on Washington in April 2000] and I said, "As a straight woman that I was before I met Ellen, I had so many gay friends, but they never told me. You must tell your straight friends, because then we can help you."

Straight people can help you what?

Help you embrace yourself. Help the rest of the straight community understand you. Help spread the word that everybody should be accepted as equal. In order to come out, you have to embrace yourself. My activism now would be more about, "Go in there with a therapist or a friend or whoever; look inside yourself and say, `Where is the shame? What does it come from? I need to heal it.'" Then I think the steps will naturally follow for you to come out.

You know that some of our readers feel it's very important to the way they're perceived that they didn't make a choice. They've been this way since they were born.

I understand that. I've done my life differently. I chose to be in a gay relationship. Whether you think you were born with it or not, I believe it's empowering to think that every day we make choices, and that's our right as human beings. …

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