Post submitted by Samantha Master, former HRC Youth & Campus Engagement Manager

Today, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett came out publicly as gay.

As the star of Fox’s groundbreaking hip-hop drama, Empire, Smollett is making history on and off screen. “Empire” is regarded by some as the most important show in the history of primetime network television. Its unapologetic fusion of queerness and Blackness doesn’t just defy stereotypes about homophobia in Black communities, it completely shatters them. The lynchpin in my personal admiration of "Empire" is Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon. Jamal Lyon, son of Lucious Lyon—founder and CEO of Empire Records—struggles between attempting to be the son his father wants and living his truth as a Black, gay man.

This is not just Jamal’s story as Smollett recently revealed to the world. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Smollett addressed the panoply of rumors about his sexual orientation saying, "It was very, very important to me that my first performance and talk show, that it was with you…You've been such an inspiration to so many, but also to me… It was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet. There's never been a closet that I've been in. I don't own a closet — I got a dresser, but I don't have a closet."

Jussie is currently the only openly gay Black male lead actor in a primetime television show and is one of three Black gay characters with a recurring role currently on TV. 

While coming out is never an easy or linear journey, Jussie’s courage to invite us into a fuller understanding of his life is one that we, at HRC, applaud and commend him for. We look forward to seeing much more of Jamal and Jussie in the future.

Coming out -- whether it is as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or allied -- is a deeply personal and arduous journey for every individual. Whether it's for the first time ever or the first time today, average people help advance equality just by sharing their stories.

Check out HRC’s Coming Out resources here.

Filed under: Coming Out, Community

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