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Ellen DeGeneres doesn't always believe in the power of signs.
In her new Netflix comedy special, Relatable, DeGeneres joked how a person, after seeing a squirrel, could decide to end a relationship with a nonsensical string of logic: "Squirrels live in trees. Trees have leaves. I should leave him!"
However, the lesbian comedian opened up about how a dream offered a sign worth paying attention to -- one that ultimately led her to come out of the closet.
"I didn't even know that I was struggling with coming out," said DeGeneres, reflecting on the closeted years of her entertainment career. "Whenever you're closeted, you're always thinking about it. It's on your mind because you're worried that someone's gonna find out, you're worried that someone's gonna know and so it is on your mind. So subconsciously, we're aware of that. But I didn't realize that until I had this dream."
"I had a dream that I was holding a baby finch, like a little precious bird," DeGeneres recounted. "And it was my pet. And I put it back in its cage, which was this beautiful, multi-tiered, bamboo cage. And the bird became me when it went into the cage. And all of a sudden, it realized it was up against a window all along, and the window was open, and the bars were wide enough for the bird to fly out, and it had been the whole time."
"I looked at the bird, and I said, 'Don't leave. You're safe in here.' And the bird looked at me and said, 'I don't belong in here.' And flew out. And the next morning I woke up and I said, 'I'm coming out.'"
"Before I had that dream, I didn't realize I was in a cage," DeGeneres continued. "I had no idea I was in a cage. I had a great life. I had a successful sitcom. I had fame. I had money. I had everything that I thought was important. But I was hiding a part of myself. And whenever we hide anything from anybody, we're worried about what someone else is gonna think of us. And even though I knew that was going to be difficult, it was more important for me to be proud of who I was and live my truth than worry about what other people thought of me. "
DeGeneres, 60, made history when she came out as a lesbian at the same time her character came out in a 1997 episode of her sitcom, Ellen. The process was not easy; her show was canceled soon afterward and she suffered in her career in the short-term.
"My worst fears came true," DeGeneres, now the successful talk show host of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, admitted at the beginning of Relatable. "That's why people stay closeted. The same people who loved me overnight hated me because they knew I was gay. I went through a depression and people made fun of me. People were writing articles about me, dissecting the whole process and why I did it. It was just really a tough thing."
However, at the conclusion of the comedy special, DeGeneres said coming out was ultimately worth it.
"After I came out, it was really one of the hardest periods of my life, but it was the best part of my journey," she said. "It's when I realized how strong I was. It's when I learned compassion. It's when I learned that the truth will always win. That's when you grow."
"Everyone has a fear. Everyone's scared of something. But it's not until you've faced that fear head-on that you realize your power," she concluded.
Relatable is now available to stream on Netflix.