Now 28, she's a torchbearer for the LGBT community, and that's where she wants to be.
"I feel so grateful for it. I feel so grateful to feel how I feel now, compared to how I felt when I was a closeted person. It's not a nice place to be. I was sad," she told Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" on Sept. 29. "[Staying in the closet] is toxic, and I wish that no one had to live that way."
The star of the new film "Freeheld" continued, "I'm a very privileged gay person, and those who are affected the most in our community are the most vulnerable. And I feel very grateful to be able to talk about things or share stories and meet incredibly inspiring people or have connections with people who've been touched by me coming out, which is an incredible moment to get to have with a human being, so really what I feel is gratitude."
Ellen is currently in her first public relationship since coming out, and has been flaunting her love, posting photos on Instagram with girlfriend Samantha Thomas. In essence, she and many openly out celebrities are doing what hadn't been done for the LGBT community for years: bringing exposure to the lifestyle, a lifestyle that's not that much different from people who are heterosexual.
"I think, for the most part, LGBT people started became more visible," she said of the accelerated acceptance, seeing that gay marriage is now legal. "I think what happens -- intolerance is always correlated with, you know, less people being out of the closet, and the more people started living their lives, the more we've had films about it, on television, et cetera, et cetera, incredible activists like Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree (who "Freeheld" is about,) it really changes minds."
The visibility and understanding, a semi-emotional Ellen said, "touches people's hearts, and it makes it shift from seeing something as other or different and, of course, realizes were all the same, and all we're asking for is equality, and to grow up in a society that doesn't make us feel less than, that doesn't make us feel shame and doesn't make us have to deal with repercussions of that, which are really destructive."