Wentworth Miller on why he had been reluctant to embrace LGBT community
'I was filled with fear, anger and a stubborn resistance that had built up'
Wentworth Miller is opening up about his journey from closeted TV star to openly gay man speaking out for equality.
Miller, who shared with an audience at an Human Rights Campaign dinner in Seattle that he tried to commit suicide as a teen, also spoke about how his experiences growing up and his sudden fame kept him firmly closeted until last month.
He joked that he was ‘just your typical All-American boy next door’ growing up as a gay kid of mixed race and no sense of belonging to a church or larger group of any kind.
That resulted in a ‘me’ instead of ‘we’ mentality and kept him from feeling a part of of the LGBT community even after his hit TV series Prison Break ended in 2009 after four seasons.
‘I’ve had a complicated relationship with that word, (community),’ he said. ‘I’ve been slow to embrace it, I’ve been hesitant, I’ve been doubtful. For many years I could not and would not accept that there was anything in that word for someone like me – like connection, support, strength, warmth.’
He added: ‘It’s been natural to see myself as an individual. It’s been a challenge to imagine that self as part of something larger.’
Prison Break as not only a hit in the US, but also internationally and the then-closeted Miller found he had fans all around the world – fans he did not want to know that he was gay.
‘I was traveling to Asia, to the Middle East, to Europe and everywhere in between,’ he said. ‘And in that time, I gave thousands of interviews. I had multiple opportunities to speak my truth – that I was gay – but I chose not to.’
Miller said he ‘chose to lie’ because of the possible consequences to the career he had worked so hard for.
‘I was filled with fear, anger, and a stubborn resistance that had built up,’ he explained in a quiet voice.
Then in 2011, he decided to walk away from acting and turned to screenwriting. His script for the movie Stoker, about a teenage girl who must deal with a mysterious uncle following the death of her father, was made into a feature film released earlier this year.
He gave up ‘the scripts and sets that I’d dreamed of as a child – and the resulting attention and scrutiny that I had not dreamed of as a child.’
His involvement with a group called the Mankind Project led to his becoming involved with the Human Rights Campaign and a decision to come out publicly.
‘I thought, "Let me be to someone else what no one was to me,"’ he said.
His announcement came in the form of a letter declining an invitation to appear at a film festival in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the letter, which was made public, Miller took issue with Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law.
‘I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly,’ Miller wrote in part.
Below is Miller’s HRC speech in its entirety: