Jim Parsons was thriving, playing the hilarious and brainy show-runner Sheldon Cooper in “The Big Bang Theory.” But little did fans know that behind the scenes, Parsons was hiding a huge part of his identity.
While he didn’t consider himself to be lying about this particular aspect of himself, Parsons didn’t have any intention at the time to talk about his sexuality. It wasn’t until 2012 — when an article in The New York Times by Patrick Healy discussed Parsons’ role as Tommy Boatwright, a young gay activist in “The Normal Heart” — that the public learned the truth: Jim Parsons is gay. “‘The Normal Heart’ resonated with him on a few levels,” the article read. “Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship, and working with an ensemble again onstage was like nourishment, he said.”
But “The Big Bang Theory” had been on since 2007 — that was five years of Parsons starring in an award-winning show while simultaneously avoiding the question regarding his sexuality. So why did he wait?
Jim Parsons avoid conversations about his sexual orientation
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2020, Jim Parsons explained why he felt the need to wait to come out to the public. “I was scared that it might cause trouble, quote unquote, for our big television show,” he confessed.
2007 was a different time when it came to LGBTQ+ rights. While it wasn’t uncommon for people to come out, there’s no doubt that there was always the risk that it could impact one’s career, entertainment or otherwise. Even as of 2021, while homosexuality is perhaps more socially accepted than ever before, there is still a risk that coming out may have adverse effects in both personal and professional settings.
“So I was scared,” Parsons elaborated. “I wasn’t scared about losing my job. And I wasn’t scared to the point of denying my sexuality. But I was scared enough to make it my mission not to talk about it,” per Out. But despite his anxieties, he eventually came out to the world — but in a rather subtle way. He recalled the interview in question with Healy at The New York Times that served as his official public outing. He recalled, “I can’t remember the exact question, but he asked about something to the effect of, ‘Was it more meaningful to be a part of ‘The Normal Heart’ being gay?'” as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. “I said yes. I remember leaving there going, well, I sort of just took the back door out, as it were. I remember thinking it was kind of poetically perfect.”
Jim Parsons used his relationship with Todd Spiewak as inspiration to come out to his family
By the time he had come out in 2012, Jim Parsons’ family had already been made aware of his sexual orientation. But telling them was a completely different challenge altogether. Parsons explained that his friends and fellow theater mates were all aware of the news, but he felt like he was missing out by not having his family in on it. Per a conversation with the “HFPA In Conversation” Parsons explained, “I had been able to push it off because partly the age I was growing up in, the years in which I could not have cared less,” he said. “I just didn’t consciously see the hole in my life by not having my family in on my sexuality. All my friends knew, any coworkers knew, any employers. I never was hiding it in my daily life that I could see” (via the Golden Globes).
It’s easy to imagine why he felt he was missing out. Parsons had begun dating producer Todd Spiewak in 2002, before his family had any idea of his sexual orientation. He shared that once he met Spiewak, it became obvious to him that he wanted to share his relationship with his family. “Family’s very important to me, both my family I was born into and my family I’ve accumulated over the years in friendships and things like that,” Parsons said. “To not be able to talk about my experiences with Todd with my mother [would be hard]” (via Cheatsheet).
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