Life in the Rapp family

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 14 1997 12:00 AM ET

Anthony Rapp Born: October 26, 1971, Chicago Raised: Joliet, Ill. Age when you came out to self and parents: 19 Occupation: actor, writer, director, photographer Favorite Broadway show: Angels in America

What’s ironic to me about being on the cover of this magazine is that I have never actually come out as a gay man; I resist labels and their limits. In fact, I’ve been publicly out only by virtue of the fact that I’ve thanked my various boyfriends in my bios for plays I’ve been in. And that’s how I came out to my mother (my parents divorced in 1974): I told her that I had a boyfriend. It’s an important distinction to me, and it’s what fuels me in being open about my sexuality: I wanted my mom to know that I loved someone, and that someone was a man named Keith. I wanted her to be happy for me for being in love. This was when I was 18.

She was confused and hurt and saddened, as I was by her reaction. I spent the next seven years trying different ways to get her to understand and accept and love me as I am. Mostly, I attempted to share with her my relationships with my boyfriends I’ve had since I came out to her: Keith, Peter, Gabriel, and my current boyfriend, Josh.

This quest for her understanding became terribly urgent when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1995. On my visits home in the last months of her life, I talked about Josh more and more each visit, and she became more and more receptive to hearing about him and about the two of us together. If she hadn’t been bedridden, he would have come home for a visit.

My mom passed away in May of this year, and I will always be comforted by her words that she shared with me during one of my last visits: “I used to think there was something wrong with your sexuality, but I know now that it’s no different than the color of your eyes or your height or your voice. It’s just the way you are.”

Douglas Rapp Born: November 8, 1940, Chicago Raised: Chicago Occupation: computer specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs Favorite Broadway show: “Without question, it’s Rent.

Anthony: Did you know I was bisexual before I told you? Douglas: No.

How did you really feel when I told you? First of all, OK, and not surprised, because of who you are: bright and sensitive, being around show-business people for so very long. Being around creative types. And from my own experience of being around gay men when I was younger, teaching ballroom dancing, I found them to be delightful men. We had enlightening conversations about that lifestyle. Plus, I had a couple of personal encounters after that that weren’t unpleasant. I was approached myself, and I wasn’t interested at the time, but I left the possibility open. And that’s the background that I came to when you told me. I think I still wanted to hold out the possibility that you’d have children someday. I wanted to be a grandfather.

Do you now know that that is very much a possibility? From my conversations with you, you mean? It still is a possibility to you, I gather, from what you have told me.

Who was the first person you talked to about my sexuality? I think I mentioned it to [my wife] Sandra.

Did you feel responsible? Yeah, I think in a positive way. I’ve always encouraged you to express yourself. I always felt it was OK to pursue happiness in relationships however or wherever or with whomever that path took you.

How do you feel about me today? I love you very much. I’m grateful that you share your current love relationship with me. Your humanness. Especially seeing [Josh] at your mother’s funeral. He’s part of the family. It’s no different than if you had brought a young lady that you were very committed to.