speaking out

Kal Penn is asked why he didn’t come out earlier and this was his response

Kal Penn came out as gay in his memoir
Kal Penn (Photo: Shutterstock)

Actor and writer Kal Penn came out over the weekend. The Harold and Kumar and House star is promoting his new memoir, You Cannot Be Serious, in which he talks about being with his partner, Josh, for the past 11 years. The men are engaged.

Yesterday, as part of the book’s promotion, he took part in an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit. One Redditor asked him why come out now? Had Penn, 44, considered coming out before?

Penn replied, “​​Great question! I figured out my sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people – I know there’s no timeline on this kinda stuff, so I’m very happy that I did when I did!

“Josh and I have been together for 11 years and (like my parents) he doesn’t love attention, so it was a tricky dance that I know many couples do, out of respect to their partners’ privacy, on how much of their lives to share and when.

“In writing my book, I’m so excited to share lots of things I hadn’t before, including—definitely— more about Josh, how we met (over an 18 pack of Coors Light and a NASCAR race), that we’re engaged, and also more about my parents’ background, how they grew up and came to America—the things that make up my unlikely life story.”

Over the weekend, Penn revealed that he met his partner whilst he was living in DC. Penn took a two-year break from acting between 2009-2011 to work for the Obama administration as principal associate director in the Office of Public Engagement (2009-2011).

He recalled Josh turning up at his apartment with an 18-pack of Coors Light and proceeding to immediately switch the TV to NASCAR racing.

“I thought, ‘This obviously is not going to work out,” he recalls. “I have one day off from The White House and this dude is unironically watching cars go around and make left turns? Next thing you know, it’s been a couple months and we’re watching NASCAR every Sunday. I’m like, ‘What is happening?’”

Another Redditor asked Penn, “What was it like working under the Obama administration, given his stance on gay marriage during that time?”

Barak Obama entered the White House saying he supported civil unions for same-sex couples, but was against same-sex marriage, citing his Christian beliefs. He later changed his view.

Penn replied, “I went into that job knowing that I wouldn’t ever agree with 100% of what the admin was doing (or not doing). I know this is how most of us figure out who we’re voting for anyway – see who most fits with our values and beliefs.

“In the case of the White House, your role as an aide is to abide by the oath you took (to protect and defend the constitution, etc) but internally you also have a chance to advocate for certain policies to change and evolve. It can be super frustrating that politics moves so slowly, but I’m also really glad for the outcome of a lot of that work.”