Posted by: liseoverturf | February 7, 2018


I recently saw in the news that Ellen Degeneres celebrated her birthday. The special episode of her daily talk show included being presented with her gift: The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund. The fund was created in her name; it will focus on saving endangered species.

Growing up, my mom would always have Ellen’s show on TV when I got home from school. She loved to watch it. I remember thinking Ellen was funny – I also remember seeing Magazine covers about her relationship with Portia de Rossi. For as long as I can remember, those were the only two things I knew about Ellen: that she was funny, and she was a lesbian.

This week, we read an article in class that discussed the “heterosexual matrix,” and the idea that as people, we tend to categorize leaders by both their gender and sexuality. The article challenged us as a society to think differently, and not let gender effect the way we view leaders. Having recently read the article about Ellen’s birthday, it made me realize that there are so many other wonderful ways to identify her as a person – be it her desire to save the planet, or the connections she makes with people every day. I have never once considered a different talk-show hosts sexuality; I don’t even wonder if they are married. It was interesting to notice how we are all subconsciously impacted by this heterosexual matrix. As a society, we pay attention to minute details like gender and sexuality, that don’t make much difference.

My questions for you all are, do you watch Ellen? Have you ever pondered the personal lives of other TV talk show hosts? Is it possible to live in a world without this heterosexual matrix?


  1. This is such a great topic to discuss because, if you think about other talk show hosts, their marriages are hardly discussed. Does Dr. Phil have a wife? Is Maury married? I think both Ellen’s sexuality and gender are the focal points of why her love life is so out on the table – Ellen as a Lesbian and Ellen as a woman draws attention from the public eye regarding the most private parts of her life. Why do we feel the need to know these things? I think it’s because Ellen’s identity is different from the “norm” – we are used to the heterosexual male host, and Ellen completely defies that. Hence, we focus on her differences rather than what makes her a great TV show host in general.

  2. Hi Lise! I love Ellen. She’s one of the most clever, charming people on television today. I think there’s a real separation between her as a gay person and her as a talk show host. Her humor is witty, and doesn’t degrade anyone, perhaps because she holds an identity that is often sexualized and demonized. But, she’s still one of figures people think of when someone says “famous lesbian.” Despite her achievements, she is sometimes boiled down to her sexuality.
    In one of my other classes, we’re reading about Oscar Wilde. He was a gay man in Victorian England. It was an open secret: he was flamboyant and enthusiastic, and people loved this about him. Despite everyone knowing about his sexuality, he was caught having relations with a man and sentenced to hard labor.
    I think this relates back to the idea of the heterosexual matrix, like you said, and what Dr. Shollen said in class about accepting certain limits of difference. We can accept some kinds of differences, but some are just too out there for us to accept. We can rationalize someone ‘acting gay’ but someone truly being gay is somehow different in our minds. I think we spend more time thinking about people who are ‘others,’ maybe because it’s more interesting to think of things that are unfamiliar.

  3. I love Ellen! Like you, my mother always had Ellen on the TV when I was growing up. It took me a long time to understand her sexuality and what they means. However, Ellen, to my knowledge is rarely criticized or recieves bad press. She is always praised for her charity work and making people laugh in hard times. However, is there a double standard for women in Hollywood that have fame, than everyday women? I know other homosexual woman that struggle to be accepted, yet Ellen makes it look so easy. Does being famous, doing a lot of charity work, and a talk show host make her life different? In some ways yes, but in other ways no. She still grew up in a world where her sexuality was not accepted by the majority. She intentionally gave her ‘coming out’ story on Oprah. An African-American women talk show host. Even though their sexualities differ, they still united as women in a male dominated industry. If more women came together like Ellen and Oprah, would this begin to change things?

  4. Ellen has become one of the most influential people in the world. In 2017, she was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It has not always been that way. Before Ellen came out to Oprah, she had her character Ellen Morgan, came out as lesbian during “The Puppy Episode” of her television series. All that were involved in this episode received harsh criticism. As the first lead LGBTQ character in American day-time television, her coming out story shocked thousands across America. It is difficult to say if we could ever function as a society outside of the heterosexual matrix. Gender and sexuality are both identities that are scrutinized everyday by society with heterosexuality as the norm.

    Even with the negative feedback, Ellen received a large amount of support, as well an influx of letters of her inspiration to others in the LGBTQ community. She revolutionized television, creating a path for other LGBTQ characters, as well as impacting so many lives. I do not believe that the heterosexual matrix will ever be completely disbanded, but Ellen DeGeneres has made it easier to accept other identities just by being herself. She has remained positive, even through her struggles, lighting the world with her smile and sense of humor. As she embraces herself, she helps others embrace themselves. She will always be an inspiration,fighting for justice and equality for all.

  5. I love watching Ellen when I can. The love and positivity she spreads is influential and motivating. However, this is a great example of the heterosexual matrix that we talked about in class. She had her own television show, where she herself and her character came out as gay. She even did it live without the audience and the cast knowing. That definitely caused a stir in the response and thoughts on her identity. She felt she was hiding a part of herself and needed to release it no matter the consequence. Consequences included her show getting canceled and becoming black listed in hollywood because she came out at gay.

    In addition, going off the previous readings where the department chair was only seen as a woman and an Asian American woman-nothing about her competence as a scientist. This can be applied to those who identify in the LGBTQ+ community. Since these identities are not often seen or talked about, they are often used as an “identifier” just as the “woman” and “Asian American” were used for the department chair. As a results of these identities being so different from the heteronormativity seen in society. Furthermore, stereotypes are used instead because of the unknown and uncomfortableness it brings.

    Ellen has made a positive impact on the world, not because she is a gay/lesbian woman, but because of who she is–her character. I myself, often doubt telling people because they will focus on that one quality/aspect–“identifier”–of myself and nothing else. I am not a good leader because I am gay, nor am I bad leader because I am gay. I just happen to be gay. Its an identity of who I am that has no true impact on my leadership style, yet as we mentioned in class I still feel as if I need to hide this part of my identity to protect it. The same can be seen with any other person of the LGBTQ+ community. There are definitely changes seen between followers/co-workers and the leaders who identify among the spectrum as evidenced in the last reading about the transitioning CEO of the company. Expectations come with the stereotypes that exist among the community. There are stereotypes within the community and putting people in boxes as well, but the response given by followers are often heightened by stereotypes.

    Hypothetically speaking, for the ‘butch” lesbians they could probably be expected to be more assertive leaders with aspects that are seen with males. “Femme” lesbians could one, experience resistance on the fact she is gay and could be expected to prove herself not only as a leader but also as someone with who she identifies. Trans members of the community as we saw see confusion and discomfort, sometimes support. However, they experience resistance in the sense that they are expected to then portray the qualities that they transitioned to, male or female-as we saw in the article. This leaves their followers confused and focused on their leaders identity instead of leadership style and task at hand.

  6. I do enjoy Ellen. However, her sexuality never really stood out to me. I knew she had a wife but it never impacted her show or her humor. She rarely brings up Portia and it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I finally put together who Portia was as an individual since she’s only ever been “Ellen’s wife” other talk show hosts seem to bring up their marital status relatively the same amount as she does. Jimmy Kimmel recently brought his family’s personal life to light when his child needed surgery at a very young age and it was the first time I had heard about his family but I also am not a big water of talk show tv so I guess I didn’t question it. Ellen isn’t as masculine as some other lesbians in the media and so I think she can pass under a lot of the scrutiny about her sexuality. I read an article for my annotated bibliography that said that women who preform leadership in a more feminine style tend to receive less criticism and perhaps that’s why people love Ellen. She is genuinely but she often wears make up and dresses in professional clothing and doesn’t act as masculine as many stereotypical portrayals of lesbians

  7. This is a very interesting topic! I myself love to watch Ellen but just as you said, I too tend to think of her as being funny and being lesbian. The sad thing is that I never really saw a problem with this because it was just what she is. Since our discussions in class I have become more aware of the thoughts I have of others and have been challenging myself to think of multiple identities. For example, I recently saw a video of Ellen and how hard she had to work to get her talk show. This added another personality for me because I started associating her as a very determined and hardworking person. I also watched a video on all the gifts she has given to children and teenagers to help them pursue their goals which makes me perceive her as a caring and generous person. I think if we try hard enough we can recognize the multiple personalities apparent in each and every one of us.

  8. In growing up, my family did not watch Ellen merely for the fact that she was lesbian. My parents christian values did not believe in supporting a talk show that went against their faith. I have the utmost respect for both of my parents, however, as I found my independence and ventured into defining my own beliefs and morals I started watching excerpts of ellen and fell in love with her humor, heart and passions for making a difference and connecting with people. Society can directly define someone based on the aspect of marginalization without even looking at sincere characteristics of the individual. I now view Ellen as an equal individual with phenomenal talk show host abilities who has and given so much to people and communities both domestic and foreign. To answer your question, the generations are evolving and I do believe the paradigm will shift in a manner that we can live without the heterosexual matrix, but I believe it will definitely take a while.

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