The Grey's actor talks about coming out and his birthday gift from Katherine Heigl

By Shelley Akers
Updated September 27, 2007 11:10 AM

(Video courtesy of NBC)

What a difference a year makes: T.R. Knight says his life has been better since he came out to PEOPLE last October.

“I feel I’ve learned so much this past year, so, I’m grateful for that, so yeah, that changes you,” he said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Thursday.

Knight, 34, previously told DeGeneres that hearing his Grey’s Anatomy costar Isaiah Washington refer to him with a homophobic slur gave him the courage tell the world.

Asked what he thinks about actors who do not come out of the closet, Knight said, “Everyone has their own path. You just have to respect that… It don’t think it’s right to force that. It’s impossible to know. There’s a lot of soul searching you have to do.”

Knight, who plays Dr. George O’Malley on the hit ABC drama, was nominated for a best supporting actor Emmy and received a special birthday gift this year.

Costar Katherine Heigl – who is also a close friend off-camera – surprised the actor with a puppy, which he named Arrow.

“I had been talking about [getting a dog] for a while. I guess there’s a point – too much talk and not enough action,” Knight said. “So she made the decision. It was great, yeah, she showed up at my house with it.”

Although he may be happier, Knight insists that coming out hasn’t much affected his love life.

“Recently Kate [Heigl] and her fiancé Josh Kelley and me and her mom went out to dinner, and it was reported that it was with me and my new boyfriend. But that was her mom,” he told DeGeneres.

“So I guess I’m dating Katherine’s mom right now,” he joked.

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