Influencers and Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2019

by HRC Staff

In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of the standout coming out moments in pop culture from the last year.

Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, countless actors, athletes, musicians, politicans, TV personalities and influencers have helped advance the movement for equality. In honor of National Coming Out Day, which we celebrate each year on October 11, here are a few of the standout coming out moments in pop culture from the last year.
Jonathan Van Ness
“Queer Eye” star and author Jonathan Van Ness came out as non-binary this year in an interview with OUT
“Some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman,” he said. 
This year, Van Ness also opened up to the New York Times about surviving sexual abuse and living with HIV -- an important step to ending the stigma facing those living with HIV. 
Lil Nas X
On the last day of Pride Month, rap star Lil Nas X took to Twitter to confirm that he’s a proud member of the LGBTQ community. 
Lilly Singh
Popular YouTuber and late-night television host Lilly Singh opened up for the first time publicly about her sexuality in February. 
In a powerful social media post, Singh -- who also goes by “Superwoman” on YouTube -- stated that she’s bisexual
She wrote that being female, a woman of color and bisexual were traits she considered “obstacles” before but now she fully embraces them as her “superpowers.”
Ben Platt
Earlier this year, actor and singer Ben Platt publicly came out as gay in his music video for “Ease My Mind” off his solo album, “Sing To Me Instead.”
“I’ve been out since I was 12 years old to my family and anyone in my life. I’ve never sort of hidden that or been ashamed by it. It’s just part of me,” Platt told People
Michael Cohen
Actor Michael D. Cohen revealed in a powerful interview to TIME that he is transgender. He told the magazine that not only was he misgendered at birth, but that he transitioned nearly twenty years ago.
“I identify as male, and I am proud that I have had a transgender experience -- a transgender journey.”
Willow Smith
Musician and artist Willow Smith revealed in a Facebook web series for “Red Table Talk” that she is attracted to both men and women.
“I focus a lot on the emotional connection, and I feel like if I were to find two people of different genders that I really connected with and we had a romantic and sexual connection, I don’t feel like I would feel the need to try to go find more.”
Luis Sandoval
Univision TV host and reporter Luis Sandoval revealed in October 2018 that he is gay. 
During a segment about National Coming Out Day, the television personality came out in an emotional speech about how the tragic loss of 9-year-old Jamel Myles after coming out as gay, compelled him to speak out. 
Tess Holliday
Model and activist Tess Holliday came out as pansexual in an interview with Nylon
“I've been thinking a lot about my relationship to my own queerness, and I think the word pansexual speaks to me more than bi does," Holliday told the magazine in July. 
Sam Smith
Singer Sam Smith came out as non-binary and genderqueer in an interview with actress Jameela Jamil earlier this year. Smith later announced that their pronouns were they/them/their.
They said that throughout their life they dealt with gender issues and being sexually fluid. 
“I am not male or female. I think I float somewhere in between -- somewhat on the spectrum.” Smith said. “I’ve always been very free in terms of thinking about sexuality.”
Mel Reid
Professional golfer Mel Reid publicly came out as gay in an announcement of her partnership with Athlete Ally, an organization that advocates for equality in sports.
“It’s important for me to always fight for equality,” Reid said. “I’ve been fortunate to have a platform to reach a lot of people, and I’ve tried to take advantage of that when I can.
Juan Castano
Actor Juan Castano, star of Netflix’s “What/If,” opened up about his sexually in an interview with NewNowNext
“I would say that for the majority of my life I identified as straight, but as I got older I think my sexual preference has gotten more fluid,” said Castano.
Daniel Howell
YouTuber Daniel Howell came out as gay in a powerful video during Pride Month. 
Howell shared the news to his millions of fans and subscribers across his social media, telling them his coming out “feels like a new chapter.”
"If we all just calm down, respect each other's experiences and try to be nice reasonable's quite simple.”
Phil Lester
YouTuber Phil Lester came out as gay on the last day of Pride Month in a candid and honest video about growing up gay and his coming out experience.   
“Even if you don’t totally relate to my story, you might learn something or change your view or just feel like you’re not alone with something you went through. I’m gay! It’s great! I’m happy!”

Megan Fitzgerald
Meagan Fitzgerald, reporter and anchor for NBC 4 in Washington, D.C., came out on air that she was engaged to a woman.
During a newscast to kick off the start of Pride Month, Fitzgerald opened up about her own process to living authentically. 
“There’s the coming out process, finding out who you are, being comfortable in your own skin and your own truth…I know this because I’ve been through that journey.”
Travis Flores
Actor, motivational speaker and advocate Travis Flores, who has lived with cystic fibrosis for his entire life, came out as gay during a CW special “My Last Days.” 
In the docu-series that profiles people with terminal illnesses, Flores opens up about dating a man for the first time, an admission he said was the first he made on camera. 
“It’s important for people to see that I’m happy and that I’m proud of who I am,” Flores said in an interview with NewNowNext. 
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Valentina came out as non-binary in an interview with OUT earlier this year.
Ahead of her debut in the live musical production of RENT, the drag performer and actor revealed her own gender identity.
“I identify as non-binary. I don’t completely feel like a man. I don’t completely feel like a woman. I feel like a goddess. I feel like I’m my own gender.”
Shiho Shimoyamada
Shiho Shimoyamada, a women's soccer player from Japan, came out as a member of the LGBTQ community, hoping to inspire other athletes to do the same.
“It will be powerful if an actual LGBT athlete sends a message,” Shimoyamada said, wishing to normalize LGBTQ acceptance in Japan’s sports community ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Tessa Ganserer
Tessa Ganserer, a member of the Green party and of the Bavarian state parliament, came out publicly as transgender during a press conference in January. 
Ganserer is the first out trans person to sit in a regional or national parliament in Germany, according to AFP.

"I am a woman with every fiber of my body and now Madam regional MP as well,” Ganserer said on Facebook.

Jake Borelli
Actor Jake Borelli, who plays Dr. Levi Schmitt on “Grey’s Anatomy,” came out as gay in November 2018. 
In the “Flowers Grow Out of My Grave” episode, Borelli’s character shared a kiss with a male doctor. The moment prompted him to speak out publicly about his own sexuality in an Instagram post. 
Ryan Russell
NFL free agent Ryan Russell came out as bisexual in a powerful ESPN essay
“Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL and living my life openly. I want to live my dream of playing the game I've worked my whole life to play and being open about the person I've always been,” he wrote. 
Julianne Hough
Actor, dancer and singer Julianne Hough came out as a member of the LGBTQ community in an interview with Women’s Health, where she described how she came out to her husband as “not straight.” 
“I [told him], ‘You know I’m not straight, right?’ And he was like, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ I was like, ‘I’m not. But I choose to be with you,’” Hough said. “I think there’s a safety with my husband now that I’m unpacking all of this, and there’s no fear of voicing things that I’ve been afraid to admit or that I’ve had shame or guilt about because of what I’ve been told or how I was raised.” 
Mollee Gray
Actor Mollee Gray publicly came out as a member of the LGBTQ community ahead of her marriage to dancer and choreographer Jeka Jane. 
Growing up in a Mormon family in a small town in Utah, Gray admits she had to come to terms with her own sexuality on her own. 
It wasn’t until her publicist finally convinced her that Gray realized it was time to come out. Her publicist’s advice was simple, telling Gray to “have courage because you’re going to get a lot of love and support from it.”
Esther Cepeda
Latinx journalist and nationally syndicated columnist Esther Cepeda came out as queer and shared her coming out journey in a wide-ranging interview with NBC News during Pride Month.
“I want to live a radically truthful life. I hate lies and keeping things from people. I just want to be authentic and find a path for myself, no matter where it leads.”
Tyler Blackburn
Actor and star of “Roswell, New Mexico” and “Pretty Little Liars” Tyler Blackburn opened up publicly about being bisexual in an interview The Advocate in April. 
Having been in long-term relationships with women, Blackburn told the magazine that for years he had an “underlying curiosity” about men. It was until his late 20s when he fully embraced his truth. 
“I just want to feel powerful in my own skin and my own mind and in my own heart.”
Cameron Hawthorn
Country music singer Cameron Hawthorn came out as gay in his new music video, “Dancing in the Living Room.”
As a tribute to his fans, Hawthorn’s touching video highlights the love and intimacy between shared between same-sex couples. 

Nathan Westling
Westling opened up about struggling with his trans identity in Arizona, telling the outlet that modeling provided him an outlet and opportunity to explore other identities.  
Juan Pablo Di Pace
Actor and star of Netflix’s “Fuller House” Juan Pablo Di Pace came out publicly that he was gay during a TedX Talk that was released on YouTube during Pride Month. 
In the clip titled “The Story of Your Life,” Di Pace opens up about struggling with his sexuality growing up in Argentina and as a working actor. 
"In the work life, public life, it just felt like I was still omitting a piece of information because there was some kind of shame or fear there, and so I saw this as an opportunity to also heal myself,” Di Pace told People of his TedX Talk.

Barbie Ferreira
In an OUT interview, actor and model Barbie Ferreira, who stars in HBO’s “Euphoria,” came out publicly as queer. 
“I'm queer. In my private life, it's been going on for a long time. I obviously don't really identify as a straight woman ever in my life, but I feel like now I'm really in my queerness,” she said. 
Khadi Don
Comedian and filmmaker Khadi Don announced she’s gay in a hilarious YouTube video to mark the end of Pride Month.
In the video, Don captures the moment she comes out to several of her friends, most expressing a lax reaction to the news while some express their renewed love and support for the YouTuber.

Joshua Rush
Actor Joshua Rush came out as bisexual in a Twitter thread over the summer. 
In the thread, Rush shed light on the importance of bi visibility and its representation in media. 
“Instead of feeling the courage to tell you today that I am an out and proud bisexual man because of the character I played for four years, I feel that courage thinking of all of you, who felt emboldened by Cyrus to come out,” Rush wrote. 
Jim Watson
As Canada celebrated Pride events across the nation during the summer, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson came out as gay in a powerful op-ed. 
“I’m gay…Those two words took me almost four decades to utter, but as they say, ‘Better late than never.’,” he wrote.