Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or as an ally, countless American actors, athletes, musicians and YouTube sensations advanced the movement for equality in 2015. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of 2015's standout coming out moments in pop culture.
Olympic gold medalist and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender during a televised interview with Diane Sawyer for “20/20”. In sharing her powerful story, Jenner helped raise the visibility of transgender people and the issues facing the transgender community.
“It’s not just about one person, it’s about thousands of people. It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us accepting one another. We’re all different,” Jenner said after receiving ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
A recent survey commissioned by HRC showed a significant increase of Americans who say they personally know a transgender person. Since coming out, Jenner has promised to give unprecedented visibility to the transgender community. On an episode of her television series “I am Cait”, Jenner met with transgender activists and leaders, including HRC staff members, at HRC’s Action Center and Store in San Francisco.
“Empire” star Jussie Smollet came out publicly as gay during a backstage interview with Ellen DeGeneres.
“It was a beautiful moment…my opportunity to make people feel just a little bit less alone in this world is a beautiful opportunity and one that I embrace fully.”
Smollett’s character on the Fox hit show, Jamal Lyon, is also gay. At the time that Smollett came out, he was the only openly gay black male lead actor in a primetime television show and one of three black gay characters with a recurring role on TV.
In February, Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17) opened up about his support for his transgender granddaughter as well as the transgender community on Twitter.
As the proud grandpa of a transgender grandchild, I hope she can feel safe at school without fear of being bullied. pic.twitter.com/NDIfOdW9sk— Rep. Mike Honda (@RepMikeHonda) February 18, 2015
Honda has a stellar record on LGBTQ equality, earning a 100 percent on the HRC Congressional Scorecard every year he’s been in Congress. He is a co-sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Respect for Marriage Act. He has also publicly supported marriage equality since at least 2000, when only a handful of public officials did so.
In an interview with PAPER Magazine, singer/actress Miley Cyrus came out as fluid.
“I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl,” Cyrus said in the interview.
An LGBTQ activist, Cyrus showed her support for HRC’s #EqualityForward campaign and posted a photo of herself on Instagram in the #EqualityForward t-shirt. She also launched the Happy Hippie Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for homeless and LGBTQ youth.
YouTube star Shane Dawson came out as bisexual in a video posted to his channel, which has nearly seven million subscribers. In the video Dawson, who is well known for his sketch and comedy videos, discusses his powerful journey to this movement.
“I am bisexual…I’ve never really talked about it until now…I’m making this video because I feel like it can help a lot of people,” Dawson said. I feel like a lot of you might be confused and scared and not talking about it. I’m here for you.”
Aaron and Austin Rhodes
In a video that has garnered well over 20 million views, YouTube sensations and HRC supporters twins Aaron and Austin Rhodes came out to both the public as well as their father.
Despite becoming very emotional and nervous, their fears quickly dissipated after hearing their father say, “It’s the way things are. I love you both. That’ll never change.”
The Rhodes Bros – as the duo is popularly known – wrote on their YouTube page, “With 2015 now here, we think it is time to finally just be ourselves. We hope by our actions today you can finish watching this video feeling encouraged and inspired. Thank you for all the support. We love you.”
Ingrid Nilsen, who is well known for her fashion, lifestyle and makeup tips on YouTube, came out as gay in a video on her channel.
In the video, titled “Something I Want You to Know (Coming Out),” Nilsen opened up about growing up and suppressing her true self and later coming out to her family and friends.
“There’s something I want you to know,” the beauty star shared. “And that something is I’m gay. It feels so good to say that…I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Vlogger, YouTube personality and singer Joey Graceffa released a song titled “Don’t Wait” along with an accompanying music video this spring. The video tells a fantasy fairytale story and features Graceffa kissing his male co-star at the end. Graceffa confirmed his sexual orientation two days later with a YouTube video titled “YES I’M GAY.”
“I felt like I was hiding such a big part of my life…I definitely feel more open and free with who I am,” Graceffa told People.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Helena Brewers pitcher David Denson game out as gay. According to ESPN, “David Denson has become the first openly gay active player on a team affiliated with Major League Baseball.” Denson’s squad is a minor league team affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” Denson said in the interview. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”