• Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
Nathan Lane is the first to admit he's not sure why (and/or, if) anyone is interested in his sex life.

But just in case...The comic actor, who has played everything from a womanizing opera singer in the ill-fated NBC sitcom Encore! Encore! to an HIV-positive musical theater buff in Broadway's Love! Valour! Compassion!, tells the February 2 edition of The Advocate that, yup, he's gay.

"I just assume a lot of people know," Lane says in the magazine. "It's never been something I kept a secret."

Lane, 42, is best known for the 1996 comedy hit, The Birdcage, in which he played Robin Williams' hysteria-prone cross-dressing lover.

"Out" to his family since the age of 21, Lane says he first considered going public with his private life a few years ago, but the success of The Birdcage stopped him.

"I honestly felt it was not the time to suddenly also come out to America because I felt like I was playing this flamboyant gay character and to loudly come out would somehow overshadow that," the usually flamboyant Lane says.

"Like they would say, 'Oh, he's not an actor...He's just playing himself.' "

The Tony- and Emmy-winner says he never denied being gay to the media--he could just joke his way out stuff he didn't want to answer. But he tells The Advocate there was one close call during an Oprah Winfrey appearance to promote The Birdcage.

Lane says Winfrey asked him something to the effect of: "'Hey, you're awfully good at that girly stuff. Where did you pick that up?'"

The potentially uncomfortable moment was diffused by costar (and fellow guest) Williams, who stepped and redirected the discussion.

Lane says last October's alleged gay-bash slaying of 21-year-old Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard finally moved him to "out" himself.

"It was like somebody slapped me awake," Lane says in the article. "At this point it's selfish not to do whatever you can....

"If I do this story and say I'm a gay person, it might make it easier for somebody else."

The Lane interview hits newsstands Tuesday. His latest movie, meanwhile, the love-really-is-blind romance, At First Sight, opens today.