Out actor Sean Hayes says in a new interview that his mother wanted him to go to therapy when he came out gay to her.

The 47-year-old Hayes is best known for playing out and proud Jack McFarland on the NBC comedy Will & Grace.

Hayes told PEOPLE that when he was younger he kept his sexuality a secret.

“I kept it hidden, the fact that I was in high school plays, from my brothers and my family because this is 1986, being gay then was different,” Hayes said. “I kind of knew I was, but not quite yet. I associated, like society taught me, that theater was for gays, and it was for sissies, and things like that. Things that you were taught to be ashamed of.”

Hayes said that he came out to his mother at 18 over Thanksgiving weekend.

“My mom said I needed to go see a therapist,” he said, adding that eventually she “became so supportive and awesome.”

Thanks to LGBT representation, coming out is easier today, Hayes said.

“If you don’t have the words to explain it to your family, you can say, ‘Like Will & Grace,’ or ‘Like Ellen DeGeneres,’ or whosoever out in a public. There’s so many more examples now to help people and give them tools to communicate to kids and their families that being gay is a normal as being straight. There’s no difference,” Hayes said.

Hayes did not publicly come out until 2010, roughly four years after Will & Grace ended its original run. In 2014, he and composer Scott Icenogle married.

(Related: Sean Hayes wishes he had come out gay during Will & Grace.)