In the last few years George Takei has become one of the gay world’s elder statesmen, using his celebrity to speak out for equality and LGBT rights. It’s easy to forget therefore that it wasn’t until 2005 that he came out publicly, decades after he first found fame with Star Trek.
Takei is currently starring in the Broadway musical Allegiance, which is based on his own family’s experiences during World War II, where as Japanese-Americans they were put into internment camps. To tie in with that he’s been talking to SiriusXM Progress, where he addressed why he waited so long to come out, not just publicly but also to many who knew him intimately.
He says, “My father told me about American democracy. And he said you have to be actively engaged in the political process to make our democracy work. So I’ve been doing that my entire life. Civil rights movement. The peace movement during the Viet Nam conflict. The movement to get an apology and redress for Japanese-Americans. But I was silent on that one issue that was closest to me.”
He adds, “I wanted to be an actor. And if I wanted that career, I had to be closeted. Because when I was a teenager, there was a heartthrob named Tab Hunter. People today might not recognize that name. He was a blond, stunningly handsome boy next door. All American movie star guy. Every other movie coming from Warner Brothers studio starred Tab Hunter. But Confidential magazine exposed him as gay. And suddenly he faded.”
It seems his relationship with his father was instrumental in both his career and why he remained closeted. “I had convinced my father to let me pursue this career, and I passionately wanted it,” he says. “And here was this conflict in me and I hadn’t shared it with my father. And it was excruciating to always have your guard up. Particularly because being an actor you’re public and visible. I could be seen coming out of a gay bar. Who could have seen me?…So you’re always on guard. You’re always, you know, insecure. And that affected my life very much. And it was such a relief to be out and not be looking over your shoulder, tightly gripped all the time.”