Actor Sean Maher, 36, has for the first time publicly confirmed that he is gay and that he and his partner of 9 years are raising two children — but this happiness has come after years of being “miserable” about feeling he must remain in the closet.
Speaking exclusively to Entertainment Weekly Maher, who during his 14-year Hollywood career has never before spoken about his sexuality even while appearing on popular shows such as Joss Whedon’s Firefly, said that he has never openly lied about being gay because he was never directly asked about his orientation, but that he cannot deny he perhaps painted a different picture of himself in the past so as to guard his private life in the way he had been led to believe was necessary.
Maher, in the interview, also tells of how at the start of his career his then-manager and then-agent put pressure on him to appear with women publicly. Maher admits he even tried dating women, but the pretense took its toll.
I had my manager tell me: ‘You need to get a girl on your arm or people will start talking.’ I remember telling him: ‘I’m gay.’ He had no idea. And he said: ‘All the more reason to get a girl on your arm.’ My agent was also like, ‘It’s best if you keep your options open. Maybe bisexual?’”
But being in the closet tormented Maher. “It was so exhausting, and I was so miserable,” Maher says. “I didn’t really have any life other than work and this façade I was putting on. So I kept my friends from college [where he was out] separate from my work friends, and that was very confusing. I just kept going on and on painting this picture of somebody I wasn’t. I didn’t have time for a personal relationship anyway. And you just don’t realize that it’s eating away at your soul.”
Having a family is what ultimately what made Maher want to be honest about his sexuality. “I have these beautiful children and this extraordinary family,” Maher says, “and to think in any way shape or form that that’s wrong or that there’s shame in that or that there’s something to hide actually turns my stomach.” Maher kept thinking about what daughter Sophia would say when she realized he was closeted professionally. “What would she think if I said, ‘Oh honey, you can’t come with me to work because they don’t know I have an adopted daughter and they don’t know that I’m gay.’ My children and our family, I’ve really never been as proud of anything in my life. I couldn’t be happier at this point in my life, and I feel like we’ve created this pretty extraordinary family.”
Maher goes on to say that he decided now was the time to be open up about his private life after being offered a part in NBC’s The Playboy Club which was rather synchronous with aspects of his own life. In the show Sean plays a closeted man of the same name. His character is married to lesbian Playboy Bunny Alice (Leah Renee Cudmore). The story that Maher’s character goes through is something that Maher thinks deserves to be told, and as such it inspired him, he says, to have his own “coming out ball.”
Hollywood still finds itself lacking high profiled out LGBT actors. Though there have been several stars coming out in recent years, such as Grey’s Anatomy’s T.R. Knight (where a fellow actor’s homophobia prompted the Knight to come out) as well as Luke MacFarlane, Anna Paquin, Chaz Bono and Portia De Rossi, a normative climate still exists where actors are told that in order to get anywhere in the business, especially in film, they must conceal their identity if they are not heterosexual or gender conforming.
It is, therefore, important to highlight when the taboo is broken because it is an opportunity to show people, and in particular LGBT youth, that there are people like them in this world who can be happy and successful.
Congratulations to Maher on being able to live his life openly and authentically.