The actress tells The Advocate that Ellen's mother, Betty, and brother, Vance (a correspondent on Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart), have given her the love and support she couldn't find elsewhere when the couple announced their relationship.
Heche says Hollywood certainly didn't embrace her decision to go public with her lesbian lifestyle, and her own birth family was clearly turned off by the idea of her sleeping with the former sitcom star. "I thought they would celebrate with me, but they did not," she says.
"One of the most important things I have come to understand is that until a person experiences discrimination herself, she cannot know what it is like," says Heche. "We can be compassionate towards those discriminated against, we can love and support them, we can join their fight for equality, but we cannot know what it feels like to be judged simply for who we are.
"As I've traveled this journey, it has set me straight ? no pun intended," she says. "Suddenly I knew what I was here to do, and I knew it the moment I saw this glorious woman, Ellen DeGeneres, across the room."