Robin Roberts Looks Back on Coming Out to Her Sister: 'It Was Sweet, Funny — Like a Scene from a Movie'

On the cover of PEOPLE's Pride Issue, the Good Morning America anchor remembers the first time she came out — complete with tears, laughter and awkward silence

Robin Roberts wants you to know she's not an activist.

"I say, God bless the activists! Because what they do is so important," she tells PEOPLE in the cover story for this week's Pride Issue. But, as a public figure that millions of Good Morning America viewers listen to every morning — as someone whose very job it is to tell the truth — she knows her words carry weight. So she tends to choose hers carefully. Like when she first came out, to her sister.

"I decided to tell my sister Dorothy [when] I was in my 20s. I knew I had to tell her," she recalls.

Roberts, 61, remembers it happening this way: "We went out to lunch. I'll never forget it. We're sitting down, I'm working up the nerve, over sweet tea, to spill the tea. And right when I say to her, just like out of the movies, 'Dorothy, I'm gay,' the server put down our lunch. Then he fiddled around for what felt like five minutes."

She continues, "And so I've just told my sister I'm gay, and she's crying, and we have to wait for the server. Finally, the server walked away. And I look at her and she goes, 'Oh, oh, I'm not crying because you told me you're gay. I'm crying because you love me enough to tell me that.'"

Robin Roberts photographed at Gary's Loft Penthouse on May 18, 2022 in New York, NY.
Naima Green

Says Roberts, "For the longest time, before I came out publicly [in 2013], I would think, 'Well, everybody knows I am gay. My family knows I am gay. My colleagues, bosses....' All true. If I was walking down the street I would introduce my partner, Amber [Laign]." But she wasn't ready to say it publicly, even though she felt she was being public. "What a waste of time! And why? Because I was afraid. Because I was afraid people couldn't think I could be a Christian and gay."

She notes, "I was so inspired by my dear, dear friend, and GMA colleague Sam Champion. I knew he was gay. He knew I was gay. Our colleagues, our bosses, they all knew." When Champion married Rubem Robierb in 2012, Roberts noticed how ABC handled it. "They never said, 'Hey, should you rethink this.' They embraced it. And then to see how the public was so supportive, that really opened my eyes."

Robin Roberts photographed at Gary's Loft Penthouse on May 18, 2022 in New York, NY.
Naima Green

"Of course, today I know the importance of having come out," Roberts says. "And I am so encouraged today by so many LGBTQ+ people who are visible in my industry. Somewhat ironically, when I came out, it was my industry who kept reporting, 'Gay! She's gay! Oh!' Meanwhile the public was going like, 'Uh, duh! Really? That's your headline?'"


But Roberts says she didn't come out publicly only for herself. "I did it because I love Amber." It was via a social media post celebrating her 100 days post bone marrow transplant. She acknowledged those closest to her and her caregivers. "I was just thanking everybody. I thanked my doctors, my parents. But then, was I not going to thank this woman who had been by me through this illness?"

"But people got it," she remembers. "They said, 'Oh, she's just grateful,' they said. 'It's just love.' They didn't make it anything more than me living my life. And then I realized, if somebody who looks like me was to come along, maybe I could give them a little more courage. Maybe they would know they were not walking alone."

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