updated 05/16/2014 AT 6:15 PM ET
•originally published 05/19/2014 AT 11:50 AM ET
Jane Lynch plays strong and confident Sue Sylvester on Glee, but she wasn’t always as self-assured as the cheerleading coach she portrays on TV.
“For me, to be ostracized would have been the worst thing,” Lynch says in the new webseries It Got Better of struggling to accept her sexual orientation as a teen. “To be thought of as different and not accepted was a fate worse than death.”
Lynch admits that she felt different long before she realized she was a lesbian.
“I enjoyed doing boys things. The boys stopped wanting to play with me when I got to be about 10 and I had to fight to play baseball,” she says of growing up in a suburb just south of Chicago. “Every day, I didn’t know how I was going to be received because I would just hang out until I got to play. Deep down inside I knew that something else was going on.”
Eventually, when Lynch was 14, she learned the term “gay” and says she realized, “I’m the female version of that.” But she still struggled to come to terms with what she was feeling.
“It was almost like I had a disease I had been diagnosed. I had a journal and I remember I wrote, ‘I am gay. No one can ever know this.’ And I went four blocks away and threw it out in somebody else’s garbage,” she says. “It led to a life of secrecy that I had to unravel.”
Now 53, Lynch looks back on her conflictions as a teen and uses her hard times to fuel her passions today.
“That persistence that kept me on the baseball field even when the boys didn’t want to let me play has served me,” she says in the webseries, which will also feature the stories of Tim Gunn, Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, Tegan & Sara, George Takei and basketballer Jason Collins.
And Lynch hopes others can learn from her journey to self-acceptance.
“You are going to find something in you that is going to help you move on and make you a more extraordinary person,” she says. “And you’ll use that all through your life.”