Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2013
Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or as an ally, countless American musicians, athletes, politicians, news anchors and actors advanced the movement for equality in 2013. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of this year’s standout coming out moments in pop culture.
Jason Collins made history this year when he became the first openly gay NBA player to come out while still actively playing in the league.
In the May issue of Sports Illustrated, the 34-year-old player said, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
Collins’ decision to come out was met by support from other athletes and celebrities. In a statement on their Twitter, the Washington Wizards, Collins' team at the time, released a statement that said, “We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly.”
His decision to come out will hopefully prompt greater discussion about the inclusion of LGBT people in sport and promote openness and acceptance on and off the court.
Friends, teammates and public figures react to Collins' coming out:
I am proud of my brother @jasoncollins34. Great teammate and mentor!— John Wall (@John_Wall) April 30, 2013
I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend. http://t.co/4gbxjV1z7o— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) April 29, 2013
Actress and performer Charice Pempengco, best known for her role as Sunshine Corazon on Glee, came out as a lesbian this summer during an interview with ABS-CBN’s TheBuzz.
“We are all equal, whether you are gay or straight,” said Pempengco during her interview.
The Filipina songstress later released a video thanking her fans for their support. Other celebrities, including fellow Filipina actress Lea Salonga, expressed their support for Pempengco’s inspirational decision through Twitter and social media.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined with HRC in May to release a video detailing her decision to come out in favor of marriage equality. Clinton joins numerous politicians, including her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who have also voiced their support for LGBT Americans. In the clip, Clinton says she “supports [marriage equality] personally and as a matter of policy and law.”
“Marriage, after all, is a fundamental building block of our society. A great joy, and yes, a great responsibility,” said Clinton.
By joining the multitude of politicians who support marriage equality, Clinton shows that it is not a partisan issue, but one that that should be at the forefront of the American conscious.
Watch the clip below:
Jennifer Natalya Pritzker
Jennifer Natalya Pritzker, a highly decorated colonel and a member of Chicago’s prominent Pritzker family, came out as transgender this August.
Pritzker served 11 years of active duty in the U.S. Army following 16 years of service to the Illinois National Guard.
She is a major philanthropist, giving millions to transgender causes through her organization, the Tawani Foundation. Most recently, she funded a study on transgender service in the U.S. military, analyzing policies towards transgender service members in foreign militaries and potential changes to U.S. policy.
In the wake of Russia’s anti-gay legislation, Prison Break star Wentworth Miller came out in a letter to the St. Petersburg International Film Festival. In the letter, which was posted on GLAAD’s website, Wentworth refuses an invitation to the event noting that, as a gay man, he must decline. Wentworth later goes on to explain his reasoning, blaming Russia’s discriminatory new laws for his decision.
“I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people are systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly,” wrote Wentworth in the letter. “Perhaps, when and if circumstances improve, I’ll be free to make a different choice.”
Wentworth later went on to appear at the HRC Portland Gala and HRC dinner in Portland to discuss his coming out story and decision to refuse the invitation to Russia. According to HRC president Chad Griffin, “Wentworth Miller’s decision to come out publicly sends a powerful and inspirational message to LGBT youth across the country that it’s okay to be open and honest about who you are.”
Watch Wentworth's full speech below:
Rapper A$AP Rocky represented the more accepting side of hip-hop when he came out in support of those who embraced their sexuality. In an interview with WKYS Radio, the rap star expressed how he felt about celebrities like Frank Ocean and Jason Collins coming out.
“I respect men more for coming out,” said Rocky. “They joke on Frank Ocean a lot, but at least he ain’t out here frontin…I respect gay men who identify it and they out with it.”
With the success of Macklemore’s Same Love, and with the support of more artists like Rocky, the LGBT community can see that they are welcomed by many in the hip-hop community.
Actress Raven-Symoné came out in early August in a tweet to her fans after expressing excitement over the increasing number of states that allow same-sex marriage.
I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you— Raven-Symonè (@MissRavenSymone) August 2, 2013
The actress later tweeted thanks to all her fans for their love and support.
Symoné is best known for her roles as the precocious Olivia in The Cosby Show and as a psychic teen in the Disney Channel original series That’s so Raven.
Symoné’s decision promotes greater visibility for LGBT people of color.
Music mogul Clive Davis revealed in his memoir The Soundtrack of my Life that he has had multiple same-sex relationships throughout his life and identifies as bisexual. Davis, who was behind the rise of pop stars like Whitney Houston and Kelly Clarkson, noted the misunderstandings many people have with bisexuality.
“The adage is that you're either straight or gay or lying, but that's not my experience, said Davis. "To call me anything other than bisexual would be inaccurate."
The 80-year old man behind much of the 20th century’s most iconic music was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
Senator Rob Portman and son Will Portman
Republican senator Rob Portman made history this year when he became the first Senate Republican to support marriage equality. By reversing his opinion on marriage equality, Senator Portman showed support for LGBT Americans, but also for his son Will Portman, who came out to his father at 21. His son’s coming out process was essential to Portman’s decision to support marriage equality.
“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have,” Portman told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Portman’s son Will, a junior at Yale, expressed in an essay to the Yale Daily News his pride as an out gay man and as the son of Sen. Portman.
“In many ways it’s been a privilege to come out so publicly,” said Will Portman. “Now, my friends at Yale and the folks in my dad’s political orbit in Ohio are all on the same page.”
By coming out in favor of marriage equality, Senator Portman joins millions of other Americans who understand that every American should have the right to marry the person they love.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd publicly announced his support for marriage equality in May 2013, setting him apart from many of his colleagues in Australia’s Parliament.
Later, during a live Q&A session, Rudd was questioned by a Christian pastor about his support and a passionate defense that went viral on the Internet.
In the video, Pastor Matt Prater asked Rudd how he could support marriage equality as a Christian. “If you call yourself a Christian, why don’t you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?” he said.
In response, Rudd stated, “Well mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition.”
Rudd brought the conversation back to his faith, stating that the New Testament’s fundamental principle was universal love.
"If we get obsessed with a particular definition of that through a form of sexuality, then I think we are missing the centrality of what the Gospel... is all about,” said Rudd.
Soccer player Robbie Rogers made history in May when he was substituted onto the field for the Los Angeles Galaxy during a match, making him the first openly gay man to participate in Major League Soccer.
Six weeks before the match, Rogers released a short blog post simultaneously retiring from soccer and outing himself as a gay man. During an interview with USA Today, Rogers expressed the reasoning for coming out and his desire to be a hero to LGBT youth.
“I seriously felt like a coward," he said in the interview. "These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world ... I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?"
The 26-year-old player led the Columbus Crew to a Major League Soccer Cup in 2008, then in the same year represented the United States on the Men’s National Soccer Team at the Olympics. Rogers hopes to represent the United States at the 2014 World Cup.
When University of California Santa Barbara tennis coach Simon Thibodeau told his team he was gay, he became a pioneer as one of the few openly LGBT Division I coaches in college sport.
Thibodeau joins Portland State women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrel, Kennesaw State men’s tennis coach T.J. Greggs and Oregon State softball coach Kirk Walker on the short list of openly LGBT coaches on college campuses.
As a coach, Thibodeau coached nine all-Americans and has reached the NCAA tournament Round of 16 five times. Now in Santa Barbara, he has broken school records by leading his team to its highest national ranking in 20 years.
Now, as an openly gay man, he has the opportunity to start breaking barriers instead, bringing greater acceptance to the sport he knows best.
During an interview with TMZ this year, Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment superstar Darren Young answered a question about whether a gay man could be successful in the WWE by outing himself.
“Absolutely. Look at me. I’m a WWE superstar and, to be honest with you, I’m gay,” said Young.
The 33-year-old star immediately received support online from friend and fellow WWE superstar John Cena and Executive Vice President Stephanie McMahon. A representative from the WWE also expressed their support for Young, adding that the wrestler would be participating in an anti-bullying rally for the WWE in Los Angeles.
Congratulations to @DarrenYoungWWE for being the first openly gay WWE Superstar!— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) August 15, 2013
In his interview with TMZ, Young expressed a desire to make a difference in others lives, paving the way for others struggling with coming out.
During a pre-draft interview with USA Today, Brittney Griner, the number one draft pick for the WNBA, decided to publicly come out as a lesbian.
Griner, who is known for her impressive dunking skills, is now a member of the Phoenix Mercury and has been embraced by her sport and team. Griner later opened up to news outlets like Sports Illustrated and the Associated Press about her sexuality, bullying and generally being considered different than her peers.
"It was hard. Just being picked on for being different,” Griner told the Associated Press. “Just being bigger, my sexuality, everything…”
Griner also expressed a desire to continue working with the LGBT community to become a role model for youth. As an advocate for anti-bullying programs, Griner is taking her past experiences with being picked on to make a positive difference in the future.
Prolific actor Victor Garber acknowledged his sexuality and relationship with partner Rainer Andreesen in a recent interview with journalist Greg Hernandez. According to Hernandez, Garber “seemed surprised by the question,” but ultimately acknowledged his relationship with Andreesen.
“I don’t really talk about it but everybody knows,” said Garber. He’s going to be out here with me for the SAG awards.”
Garber, who is known for his roles in the TV show Alias, along with roles in the films Titanic, and Argo, has been with Andreesen, an artist, for thirteen years. They live in New York, and according to Garber, his relationship with Andreesen is one of his proudest achievements.
Faried, known as “Manimal” on the court, questioned Colorado’s civil union law in an interview with KDVR. “Why can’t a female be married to a female and male be married to a male and it be called a marriage? You still have the same thing, same love and happiness,” said Faried.
Faried is also a member of Athlete Ally, pledging to end homophobia and transphobia in sport.
“Nobody can ever tell me I can’t have two mothers, because I really do,” Faried says.
Nickelodeon star Lucas Cruikshank, famous for his hyperactive YouTube character Fred, came out as a gay man in a comedic video shot with best friend and actress Jennifer Veal.
While fielding questions from fans, Cruikshank and Veal came to the question of Cruikshank’s sexuality. While Veal was the first to reveal Cruikshank’s sexuality, the actor backed up his friend and told viewers, “I’m gay,” said Cruikshank.
“My family and friends have known for like three years,” Cruikshank explained. “I just haven’t felt the need to announce it on the Internet.”
As a young actor, Cruikshank can show youth around the country that being a member of the LGBT community is something to celebrate.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, star Michelle Rodriguez revealed her bisexuality to reporters, stating: “I’ve gone both ways”
While the Fast & Furious star has denied rumors about her sexuality before, she was blunt in her interview about her attraction to men and women.
“I do as I please,” said Rodriguez. “Men are intriguing. So are chicks.”
Rodriguez is known for her roles in action and horror films, headlining blockbusters such as Resident Evil and Avatar.
Actress Maria Bello revealed that she was dating her longtime friend Clare in a December op-ed for The New York Times.
The 46-year old is known for her roles in films such as Coyote Ugly and The Jane Austen Club. According to Bello, she struggled for years with her decision to come out, but ultimately decided to share the news of her relationship with the world.
“Whomever I love, however I love them, whether they sleep in my bed or not, or whether I do homework with them or share a child with them, ‘love is love,’” said Bello in her op-ed. “And I love our modern family.”
British diver Tom Daley publicly revealed his relationship with another man this year in a Youtube video released to fans.
Daley, who won a Bronze medal for the 10 meter platform dive during the 2012 Olympic games, has received support from millions of fans around the world regarding his coming out.
At the end of the year, Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts came out publicly in a Facebook message that reflected on her health battles and expresses gratitude for the people who supported her, including her longtime girlfriend, Amber Laign.
Roberts made headlines in May 2012 when she landed the interview with President Obama where he first announced his support for marriage equality.
“I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together,” Roberts wrote.