When Jesse Tyler Ferguson is asked about the moment he first came out as gay, he immediately points to the time he was caught stealing porn.
“I would occasionally, you know, slip in a gay magazine into a reputable publication and then I would slip it under my shirt and I would exit the store,” the “Modern Family” star said in an interview for “Coming Out Stories,” a new video series produced by People and Entertainment Weekly.
Ferguson’s secret was safe ― that is, until his porn smuggling set off the alarm system at a book store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Employees took the actor, who was then a freshman in high school, into the store’s back room before a police officer arrived and arrested him.
“My mom and dad had to come to the store, and they showed them the nature of the material that I was stealing, and that’s sort of how I came out,” he said.
Though Ferguson is able to laugh about it in retrospect, he added, “At the time, it was incredibly traumatizing. To have a person of the law actually say, ‘This is a shameful thing that you’ve done’ was really traumatizing.”
Harder, still, was the fact that Ferguson’s father wasn’t accepting of his son’s sexuality at first.
“I think I came out to him three times,” the actor said. His parents, he explained, “wanted my life to be easy. They were just scared that I was making things more difficult for myself.”
Things got better with time, however, and the elder Ferguson “danced at my [2013 wedding, to lawyer Justin Mikita] very happily.”
“That process and that growth ― it’s human nature,” the actor said. “It’s what he had to go through, and I think that process was really beautiful.”