Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2012
Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or as an ally, countless American musicians, athletes, politicians, news anchors and actors have advanced the movement for equality this year. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of this year’s standout coming out moments in pop culture.
Singer, songwriter, producer and hip-hop icon Frank Ocean came out this summer as bisexual. In a beautifully written letter on his tumblr, Ocean said, “I don’t know what happens now and that’s alright. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore… I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now.” Ocean’s coming out garnered support from several hip-hop artists and media moguls, including Russell Simmons, who tweeted, “Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. His gifts are undeniable. His talent, enormous. His bravery, incredible. His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.” Ocean’s coming out helped to prompt an ongoing dialogue within the hip hop community about sexuality and equality.
Megan Rapinoe not only helped lead the US Women’s National Soccer team to an Olympic gold medal this summer, but she’s also played an important role in paving the road to equality for LGBT athletes. In an interview with AfterEllen earlier this year, Rapinoe spoke with joy about her life as a gay woman: “I'm obviously very proud of who I am. I couldn't be happier with who I am. [Coming out] was something that was important to me.” Rapinoe’s likability and charm has earned her a widespread fan following since 2011’s World Cup, and the self-confidence she projects continues to steer the sports world in a direction of openness and acceptance.
Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel)
Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel came out this year as transgender and began her transition to living as Laura Jane Grace. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Laura recalls coming out as trans to her wife, Heather, and Heather’s reaction is an example of unconditional love: “He told her he was transsexual, and her response was, ‘Of all the things you could have told me, that is the least worst.’” Heather notes, “My friends have been like, 'What about you?' But I'm fine. I just want him to be who he is, and for us to get on with phase two. You know. Just... charge!" Laura and Heather have a young daughter, and Laura explains, “The thing I keep coming back to is that there's no better example I can set as a parent than being true to myself. I hope…that's what she learns from me.”
Anderson Cooper came out this year and emphasized the joy his identity brings him. "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” He went on to explain the significance of being recognized as an equal human being: “In a perfect world, I don't think it's anyone else's business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.”
Perhaps the most famous of this year’s coming out moments came from President Obama, who came out as a supporter of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. His announcement came on the heels of North Carolina’s vote to pass Amendment One, which barred same-sex couples from marrying, banned recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, and stripped away other vital protections for unmarried North Carolinians and their families. Obama is the first president to ever declare his support for marriage equality, marking a historical moment for the LGBT community. President Obama declared, “At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
Celebrities respond to President Obama’s alliance with the LGBT community:
Very pleased the President spoke up for human rights and marriage equality today.— John Legend (@johnlegend) May 9, 2012
@barackobama inspires me once again. True leadership is when you are willing to risk your power and voice so that ALL of ours can be heard.— Justin Timberlake(@jtimberlake) May 9, 2012
Jay Z: to CNN: “I’ve always thought of it as something that is holding the country back. What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination plain and simple. I think it’s the right thing to do, whether it cost him votes or not. Again, it’s really not about votes; it’s about people. Whether it cost him votes or not, I think it’s the right thing to do as a human being.”
Macklemore x Ryan Lewis
Image source: Christopher Dube, Wikimedia Commons
Emerging hip-hop duo Macklemore x Ryan Lewis (feat. vocals from Mary Lambert) debuted their song “Same Love” from the summer album The Heist. Macklemore, whose key audience demographic lies with high school and college students, boldly declares himself as an ally to the LGBT equality movement.
“If I was gay / I would think hip-hop hates me / Have you read the YouTube comments lately? / "Man, that's gay" / Gets dropped on the daily / We've become so numb to what we're sayin' / ……I might not be the same / But that's not important / No freedom 'til we're equal / Damn right I support it.”
Macklemore, a Seattle native, recorded the song in conjunction with Music for Marriage Equality. MME is a project of Washington United for Marriage, the campaign working to approve Referendum 74 this fall, which would allow same-sex couples to marry.
Wisconsin State Rep JoCasta Zamarripa
One of only three openly LGBT members of the Wisconsin state legislature, Representative JoCasta Zamarripa came out this year as bisexual. She told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “It’s part of my life, like being a south sider and the only Hispanic in the Legislature, and I’m happy to share it with my constituents.” Representative Zamarripa’s openness aids in the effort to establish a positive and welcoming environment for LGBT politicians on local, state, and national levels.
Super Bowl champion and Cleveland Browns' football player Scott Fujita joins 2012’s athletes for equality. He advocates for LGBT marriage rights: “As an NFL linebacker, I play the game tough, but fair. I’ve been married for 12 years, and I know that it is unfair to keep other loving, committed couples from getting married and protecting their families.” Fujita joins other NFL players, coaches and franchises that have come out in support of non-discrimination this year, including the San Francisco 49ers. Watch their “It Gets Better” video here.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The Big Bang Theory's Emmy award-winning star Jim Parsons non-chalantly came out in a May New York Times article. The mention of his sexuality subtly appeared near the conclusion of the article, reading: "Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship..." Parsons consistently declines to comment on his sexuality or his relationship, proving that there are many valid approaches to coming out (or not).
Matrix Director Lana Wachowski
Esteemed director Lana Wachowski, who has directed such films as The Matrix and V for Vendetta, made her first public appearance as a trans woman this year. Wachowski told The New Yorker, “I chose to change my exteriority to bring it closer into alignment with my interiority. My biggest fears were all about losing my family. Once they accepted me, everything else has been a piece of cake.” Her widespread reputation as a revered filmmaker makes her a trailblazer for the LGBT community.
Rev. Al Sharpton
Rev. Al Sharpton adds a religious voice to the conversation around marriage equality: “As a Baptist minister, I don’t have the right to impose my beliefs on anyone else. So if committed gay and lesbian couples want to marry, that’s their business. None of us should stand in their way. All of us must fight for what’s fair and for what’s right.”
Grammy winning country superstar Carrie Underwood came out this year as a supporter of LGBT equality. She told the Independent, “As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love, and want to marry. I can't imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love.” She went on to discuss how her Christian principles affirm her belief in equality: “Our church is gay friendly. Above all, God wanted us to love others. It's not about setting rules, or [saying] 'everyone has to be like me'. No. We're all different. That's what makes us special. We have to love each other and get on with each other. It's not up to me to judge anybody."
Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally
Parks and Recreation fan favorite Nick Offerman and Will & Grace star Megan Mullally are a couple who care about marriage equality. “Any random man and woman can casually show up at a 24 hour wedding chapel in Vegas, exchange ‘I dos,’ and boom they’re married. So why can’t gay and lesbian couples who have literally spent their entire adult lives together have the same opportunity?” Offerman and Mullally are one of several straight celebrity couples to stand up for marriage equality, joining Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jay Z and Beyonce, Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied, and many more.
US Women's National Team midfielder Lori Lindsey came out publicly this year in an interview with Autostraddle, adding more momentum to the effort to foster an open, welcoming, and equal playing field for all athletes. Lindsey wants her younger fans to know that she is proud to be who she is: "It's always been important for me to really express who I am and live a full life and not be afraid. Especially being kind of in the limelight, even though no one specifically asked me until now to talk about my sexuality in print, I've always lived an open life and been very proud of who I am. I definitely don't want to lose that and I want younger LGBTQ girls and boys to see that." Lindsey is best friends with teammate Megan Rapinoe, and the duo have gained a huge following with their quirky escapades and down-to-earth personalities. For two people as personable, relatable and successful as Lindsey and Rapinoe to come out publicly, LGBT fans of all ages have gained two solid examples to look up to in 2012.
English rugby star Ben Cohen has made ending bullying his top priority. He founded the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation last year, which works to end bullying against LGBT people, and particularly strives to eliminate homophobia in sports. Cohen is a premiere example of how straight allies can take action to end violence and discrimination against their LGBT friends. The StandUp Foundation partners with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and several other organizations working toward safety and equality for everyone.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker
A longtime advocate for LGBT rights, Mayor Cory Booker told HRC’s Americans for Marriage Equality Campaign, “I support marriage equality. I support it because from my earliest of ages, I made a pledge that we would be a nation with liberty and justice for all. I support marriage equality because I believe in the 14th Amendment: equal protection under the law. And I support marriage equality because I support love. And in this nation, we need a lot more of it.” Mayor Booker also applauded President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, telling Rachel Maddow, “I wish he was there a long time ago, but I still give him a tremendous amount of credit for crossing that line and finally calling it like it is in the midst of a very difficult election.”
Referring to her partner Dax Shephard, actress Kristen Bell told HRC, “When my fiancé and I decided to get married, it was because we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. And it breaks my heart that millions of gay Americans still can’t marry the one they love, and I can? That makes no sense.” With a widespread fan following among youth, Bell’s alliance with the LGBT community reaches America’s teens at a pivotal moment in the fight for marriage equality.
These are just a handful of the celebrities who have come out this year as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allies. Stay tuned for more coming out moments as we move towards a more free and open America!