Tawny Cypress Shared Her Coming Out Story, and It Involves Melanie Lynskey

The Shudder docuseries Queer for Fear wrapped its four-episode run, and I promise I have a full review dropping tomorrow, but just real quick I wanted to touch down on an extremely important piece of information tucked into the horror doc’s haunted hallways: Yellowjackets actor Tawny Cypress is queer.

Cypress appears as a talking head in Queer for Fear right off the bat in episode one, talking candidly about Mary Shelley’s oft-erased-from-history queerness. The second I saw her, I immediately texted fellow Tawny Cypress appreciator Drew Gregory to ask: Wait, did we know she’s out?

We most absolutely did not know! I remember when I first swan dove off a cliff into Yellowjackets and immediately needed to know everything about everyone involved whose oeuvres I was less familiar with. I was best acquainted with Cypress via her run on Heroes, but I didn’t know as much about her personal life as I did when it came to some of her other co-stars. I did what any good homosexual does when encountering an actor playing a queer role whose sexuality I don’t know off the top of my head: I took to Wikipedia. There was, however, very little information on Cypress’s page and nary a Personal Life subsection, where the goods usually are. There as evidence of at least two male partners through the years, but you know, bisexuality exists! Results were inconclusive. Of course, I didn’t hold this ambiguity against her and still do not! Anyone — including celebrities — can choose to be out or not or only out in some contexts.

But her appearance in Queer for Fear immediately heightened my gay spidey senses. Sure, there were some straight talking heads in the series, but they sort of made sense in context, like Anthony Perkins’ son. It didn’t track that Cypress would only be included for playing gay, especially since fellow out queer Yellowjackets co-stars Liv Hewson and Jasmin Savoy Brown also provide talking heads.

Then, in episode two of Queer for Fear, Cypress confidently declares that Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca is “a service bottom.” Like, would a straight person say that???????

I would have been perfectly fine and satisfied if Cypress had still been a little ambiguous about how exactly she identifies. I don’t need any person — again EVEN CELEBRITIES — to provide their dating history to prove anything in terms of queerness.

But in the final installment of Queer for Fear, Cypress does intimately open up about her own queer history. And even though it’s just one small moment in a sprawling docuseries, it warmed my Yellowjackets bear heart — especially because it sort of involves her co-star Melanie Lynskey?! During a segment about Heavenly Creatures, Cypress says the following:

When I was 18, I moved in with my best friend in New York, and I was in love with her. I was truly in love with her. And we went to see Heavenly Creatures *deep sigh* and it changed everything. I took the step. I was like ‘I want to be with you, let’s just live the way we want to live.’ It was life-affirming. 

I mean!!! What a truly, incredible story. Heavenly Creatures is such a brutal movie, but I can totally see how going to see it with a best friend who you’re in love with would be absolutely life-changing. And the way Cypress presents it suggests that she is indeed out to some people but maybe just hasn’t shared a ton publicly. Well, sharing your coming out story publicly as part of a queer horror documentary is an iconic move tbh.

“I was rooting 100% for those girls to be together,” Cypress goes on to say about Kate Winslet’s Juliet and Melanie Lynskey’s Pauline. And that’s when it dawned on me that not only is this a beautiful and complex coming out story but also one that involves someone who Cypress went on to be co-stars with.

We haven’t seen a lot of scenes between Cypress as Adult Taissa and Lynskey as Adult Shauna on Yellowjackets so far, but the ones we have seen have been electric and crackling. The diner scene in the first episode, where we see Taissa take an uncharacteristically deferential role to Shauna. The sleepover scene where the two women really, truly connect over the ways they have and have not grown beyond what happened to them in the woods. Cypress and Lynskey have dynamic on-screen chemistry, and this backstory of a Lynskey role being so crucial to Cypress’ understanding of her own queerness absolutely adds fascinating texture for me personally!!!

“If we wanna be us, we wanna be us. And if you don’t want that, it could get ugly,” Cypress says in what is honestly a perfect summation of Heavenly Creatures.

I’m so thrilled that the cast of Yellowjackets includes so many queer actors and specifically — based on Cypress, Liv Hewson, and Jasmin Savoy Brown all doing talking heads in Queer for Fear — queer actors with a love for horror and film history. Now I just need Yellowjackets to announce an official return date so I can get back to my one-true calling of recapping queer cannibalism shows.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 871 articles for us.


  1. Holy sh*t! I could not figure out why i am so inherently attracted to melanie lynskey in yellow jackets and other shows.. But the root is obsessing over Heavenly Creatures as a youth! Thank you for the reminder tawny cyprus.

  2. Ugh, Heavenly Creatures scarred me for life. Such a disturbing film, even worse knowing it was based on real people. I don’t see how Tawny could root for them to be together after what they did.
    Anyway, agreed on famous people not owing anyone a coming out. Everyone has their reasons for not coming out and Hollywood is not the most liberal place, no matter how people like to pretend otherwise.

    • Am I confusing these murderers with some other murderers, because I thought these ones only killed one person and it was one of their homophobic moms? Because if so, the only disturbing part is that they stopped before they got to my homophobic mom.

      (i am not actually saying that people being dead is a good way to deal with interpersonal conflict)

      • No you are not. One of their mums doesn’t want them seeing each other anymore so they kill her. Being homophobic is wrong, killing your own mother for it is a million times worse.

        • And there’s a meaningful difference between homophobia and murder how, exactly? Normies tossed the queer community a crumb of humanity in exchange for the right to continue begging for scraps on the cold floor beneath their tables, and now we’re addicted, we’re so addicted to the idea of being “normal” (a concept that doesn’t even really exist, and SHOULDN’T exist) that we have no true pride left in us. We’ve forgotten that this was always a war, and their conditions for SOMETIMES not thoroughly oppressing and destroying us is to behave as much like them as possible.

          Homophobes are actively supporting genocide, whether or not they personally want to see queer people literally die. And when you’re talking about a parent, someone who has the responsibility to love their child no matter who that child turns out to be, there’s no more room for excuses. Homophobia is and has always been an act of war, and it’s almost funny how shocked everyone gets, including queer people, when someone who isn’t a part of the majority understands what war means and acts on that reality.

          “A million times worse” my ass. Tell that to my past self, every time I nearly killed myself because of my homophobic family. Say it standing at the grave of every queer suicide from the past few decades, let alone the past century, let alone all of history. And if you can’t do that, then at least stop pretending you have the moral high ground.

          In my day, we had a word for people like you, and that word was “traitor.” I miss those days. Back then, once in a while you’d actually meet a fellow queer person you could trust.

          • I am a traitor to the community because I don’t think it’s ok for someone to kill their mum because she wouldn’t let them see their girlfriend? Seriously? Don’t tell me I don’t know how the severity of homophobia. I am well aware of it. I would never condone it. I am talking about a specific situation. I’m not the one being self righteous.

  3. Great news! I love it when my celebrity crushes end up queer IRL. Yellowjackets was my first intro to her and I have been crushing on / have been slightly afraid of her from the beginning.

  4. I also, wanted Juliet and Pauline to run away together in Heavenly Creatures. I was 11 and thought…maybe I feel some gay things but alas it was the 90s so straight I remained till a couple of years ago. It was nice to know other queers felt the same way though.

  5. Appreciate your dedicated Citizen Detective style sleuthing. In regards to her saying ‘service bottom:’ I feel like a few people were lobbed the question, and the asker/interviewer offered a few options, as a few of the guests also responded with ‘service top’ ‘top’ ‘service bottom.’

    Just something to be mindful of as we cling to hopes and pull something out of nothing/thin air.

    But overall, hell yeah to ep 3 providing the context, and having a prominent, extremely talented Black woman as part of the LGBTQ community, and her being comfortable enough to share it with the world.

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