"It is freedom," says the Broadway legend's daughter, who gives him her full support

By Liz McNeil
January 30, 2015 07:05 PM
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Credit: Matt Baron/BEImages

Now that her father Joel Grey has publicly revealed in this week’s PEOPLE that he’s a gay man, his daughter, Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off actress Jennifer Grey, gives him her full support and love.

“I feel very happy for my dad that he has come to a point in his life where he feels safe and/or comfortable enough to declare himself in a public way as a gay man,” says Jennifer, 54. “Mostly because the more people are free to own there true nature, and can hopefully come closer to love and accept themselves as they really are, no matter what age, no matter how long it takes, to finally be free of the lies or half truths, it is freedom.”

It was a big step for Grey, 82, to come forward. Even now, he vividly remembers the fear he felt as a young boy growing up in Cleveland.

“I remember hearing the grown ups, my Mother included, talking derisively about ‘those fairies’ and men being dragged off to jail or even worse – for being homosexual,” he recalls. “For being who they were.”

Now that he’s declared who he is, Jennifer, his daughter with his former wife of 24 years, Jo Wilder (they also have a son, James, a chef), encourages his decision.

“To begin to eradicate and shed the old ideas that were burned into their consciousness as a child or a young man, as being unacceptable or unlovable, to love who you love,” she says, “I think it can only be a good thing.”

Like her Oscar-winning (for Cabaret) father, Jennifer looks forward to what’s next in store for him.

“I’ve learned from my dad’s example that the creative life cannot be limited to the role you were most celebrated for, for that is done, it’s past,” she says. “It must be nurtured and courted so you can continue to be sustained by that joy in the way you do everything in all matters of self expression, how you are in the world, or at least that is my takeaway.”

For more on Joel Grey, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now