Influencers and Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2017
Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or as an ally, countless actors, athletes, musicians, politicians and YouTube sensations 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.
For years, Wonder Woman has been an iconic female superhero, capturing the hearts and minds of a growing audience while pushing back against the straight, white, cis male superhero archetype. In an exclusive interview, “Wonder Woman” creator Greg Rucka announced that the character is queer — but it’s more complicated than that.
Says Rucka, “It doesn’t matter if I say, ‘Yes, she’s queer.’ or ‘No, she’s not queer.’ It matters what you get out of the book.”
By emphasizing show over tell, Rucka paints a deep and nuanced portrayal of Wonder Woman as someone who is both queer and radical, challenging boundaries and stereotypes.
Many may know Sara Ramirez from her starring role of Dr. Callie Thorne on ABC’s long-running television series “Grey’s Anatomy.” Last October, she came out at a speech in Los Angeles at the 40 to None Summit.
“Because of the intersections that exist in my own life — woman, multiracial woman, woman of color, queer, bisexual, Mexican-Irish American, immigrant …I am deeply invested in projects that…support our youth in owning their own complex narratives,” she said.
Ramirez followed up her bold remarks with a tweet and has redoubled efforts to become an advocate of her intersectional identities.
Robin Lord Taylor
In Fox’s “Gotham,” Robin Lord Taylor portrays The Penguin, a role that has garnered him significant attention. Taylor recently opened up about how his own childhood helped him connect with his character.
“Growing up overweight and gay in small-town Iowa as a kid in the 80s and 90s, it was much different than it is now, and I know exactly what that feels like,” reflected Taylor.
Rep. Cecil Brockman
Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) of the North Carolina House of Representatives has made it a priority to advocate for the LGBTQ community in all that he does. This year, after being confronted about his sexual orientation, he came out as bisexual.
“I want to do more of my part, to be stronger and admit to the world that I’m actually a member of this community as well,” Brockman said. “I hope it opens people’s eyes to realize that the work we do affects real people’s lives.”
Known for her roles in “House of Lies” and “The Killing”, actress Bex Taylor-Klaus came out as gay on Twitter in November, confirming rumors that had been circulating.
She followed up the personal announcement with a live event on YouNow, then publicly thanked her fans for the love and support they showed her.
hello my name is bex and yes the rumors are true I am v gay— Bex Taylor-Klaus (@IBexWeBex) November 17, 2016
Live on YouNow in 10 minutes
In an open letter to people who voted for Donald Trump, Fifth Harmony singer Lauren Jauregui came out as bisexual.
In the letter Jauregui discussed her pride in her intersecting identities.
“I am a bisexual Cuban-American woman and I am so proud of it,” she wrote. “I am proud to be part of a community that only projects love and education and the support of one another.”
“The more I’m having these conversations, the more comfortable I am identifying as bisexual,” Tortorella said. “People fought for so long for that ‘B’ in LGBT.”
“It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” Odiele said.
Odiele hopes that by being open she will help others feel more comfortable owning their authenticity. She said she is committed to working hard to create a world where others can be proud of their intersex identities.
During an episode of the TLC show “Sister Wives” in January, Mariah Brown, the daughter of Kody and Meri Brown, came out.
In the episode, she convened her family members and and revealed, “I’m gay.”
The Brown family is known for being devout members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which practices polygamy but does not approve of homosexuality. However, Mariah’s father reacted by stating, “We’re happy Mariah knows herself.”
After the episode aired, Mariah posted a tweet thanking viewers for their support, and replied to a grateful fan by stating, “If you could be the only person that I’ve inspired to come out, that will have been enough. Live your authentic life!”
wow okay y'all making me cry with your support. thank you thank you thank you thank you������️��— mariah (@mariahlian) January 2, 2017
A star of the ABC mini-series “When We Rise,” Ivory Aquino revealed that she is transgender, like Cecilia Chung, the character she plays.
“It would be an honor to be part of the project,” Aquino wrote in a note to the casting director after she auditioned for the part.. “I just want to make sure that you know that I’m trans.”
Series creator and writer Dustin Lance Black originally thought Aquino was cisgender and was committed to having a transgender actress play the role. After Aquino’s announcement, Black affirmed the choice to cast her in the role.
CMT host Cody Alan came out as gay in a Facebook post earlier this year.
“You see, I’m gay,” Alan wrote in the post, which he also shared on Instagram. “This is not a choice I made, but something I’ve known about myself my whole life…And I’m finally comfortable enough for everyone to know this truth about me.”
Alan hopes he inspires others to accept themselves for who they are and to be comfortable in their own skin.
“Here’s to being happy with yourself, no matter who you are, who you love, where you come from, or what cards life has dealt you,” he wrote.
Taylor Bennett, the brother of Chance the Rapper, came out on Twitter with three tweets in January.
Bennett committed himself to being more open about the struggle he has undergone with hopes of helping others who are not yet out publicly.
Fans immediately sent messages of support to Bennett and thanked him for speaking up.
I do recognize myself as a bisexual male & do & have always openly supported the gay community & will keep doing so in 2017. #ThankYou ����— Taylor Bennett (@_TaylorBennett) January 18, 2017
Rapper and singer Makonnen, better known by his stage name iLoveMakonnenm, came out in January with a series of tweets and an Instagram post.
He thanked his fans for letting him be himself and was met with support and love.
Makonnen broke out in 2014 with the release of his hit song titled “Tuesday,” which was picked up by Drake in a remix.
And since y'all love breaking news, here's some old news to break, I'm gay. And now I've told u about my life, maybe u can go life yours❤— I Love Makonnen (@iLoveMakonnen5D) January 20, 2017
In an open letter to her town earlier this year, Jessica Herbst, mayor of New Hope, Texas, came out as transgender.
“As mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories,” she wrote. “I am transgender.”
Mayor Herbst thanked celebrities including Laverne Cox for her efforts to make places safer and more open to the trans community.
“Society finally has a chance to see and learn about who we are,” wrote Herbst.
Last December, Lilah Sturges came out as transgender in a moving Facebook post.
Sturges, a well-known comic book author, video game writer and novelist, wrote,“I’m transgender. I began transitioning several months ago and am now getting to a point where I’ll be living openly as female.”
She wrapped her post with an encouraging message of support for the transgender community.
“And lastly, if you’re a fellow trans person, and you’re still in the closet or just feeling really freaked out and alone, you are NOT alone, and you are beautiful.”
Earlier this year, Bryan Stars released a YouTube video called “Coming Out” with the description, “I hope this video helps someone else out there.” In it, the YouTube personality came out as gay.
Stars described his coming out as a “huge weight off [his] shoulders,” allowing him to be honest with his fans, and take pride in himself. He thanked his fans for their strength and support, which he cited as the main reason that he was able to come out.
Professional wrestler Anthony Bowens was not out to many people when he and his boyfriend, Michael Pavano, posted a video on YouTube attempting the “laughing challenge.” After his best friend from wrestling saw the video and responded in a positive manner, Bowens became more confident and officially came out publicly on Facebook.
“Just wanted to let everyone know I’m Bisexual,” Bowens wrote on the Facebook post. “I look forward to changing perceptions and breaking stereotypes as I continue on my journey.”
Actor Daniel Newman is best known for his roles in hit television shows such as “Homeland” and “The Walking Dead.” Earlier this year, Newman took to Twitter to come out.
In a statement, he called on everyone to be who they are, and later posted a video explaining his reasons for coming out. After being mistaken for being straight while volunteering at a shelter, he said he realized the importance of others knowing your truth.
Newman also acknowledged that the current political climate prompted him to live authentically. The actor encouraged others to follow his lead and let the communities around them know just how incredible they all are — because of who they are.
Gia Gunn came out publicly on Transgender Day of Visibility (Friday, March 31) about her transition and her identity. The star of season six of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” posted a video to Instagram with the caption,“This is me,” and included the hashtags “#transvisiblityday #girlslikeus #transgender.”
In the video, Gunn thanked those who have supported her and shared a message of support for those in the trans community who might not be out.
“I can only hope the best for each and every single one of my trans brothers and sisters, if you are in transition, or struggling with your gender identity...I want to hear from you.”
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Manilow has always been very private with his personal life, and the interview signaled a new willingness to be out publicly. Manilow’s interview was accompanied by photos with his husband and manager, Garry Kief.
“I thought I would be disappointing them if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything,” Manilow said of his fans. “The reaction was so beautiful — strangers commenting, ‘Great for you!’ I’m just so grateful for it.”
Artem Kolesov, best known internationally as an accomplished violinist, came out as gay earlier this year in a YouTube video.
In the video, Kolesov spoke about his childhood and family life in Russia, including reflecting being targeted for violence by his own siblings. His fear of coming out was compounded by the environment in which he grew up, leading him to feel as if he “was the only gay person in Russia."
Kolesov made his video to participate in the larger “Children-404” project, which encourages youth in Russia to share their LGBTQ narratives. Kolesov decided to bravely share his story so others would know that they are not alone.
Known for her role as Barb in the television show “Stranger Things,” Shannon Purser came out as bisexual on Twitter and spoke about how she wants to include the community around her and her identity.
“I don’t normally do this, but I figure now is as good a time as any to get personal,” Purser wrote. “I’ve only just recently come out as bisexual to my family and friends.”
Previous tweets from her account had hinted at her sexual orientation, but this was the first time she acknowledged it publicly. Purser touted the importance of LGBTQ representation and visibility.
Track and field athlete Shawn Barber took to Facebook this year to come out as gay and thank his parents and friends for their support.
“Gay and proud!” he wrote. “I continue to grow as a person and have a great support group.”
Barber joins an elite group of out athletes as a world champion and Olympic pole vaulter. He rose to fame last summer at the Rio Olympics, where he finished 10th.
On an episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” contestant and drag performer Peppermint came out as a transgender woman. She said drag helped her come to know herself and her gender identity.
She was initially hesitant to come out to the other contestants on the show, but they embraced her with open arms and called her courageous.
“It took me a long time to really sort out gender [identity],” Peppermint told her castmates. “But I kind of evolved to realize that all the drag things that I wanted to do, it always led back to the realization that I’m a trans woman.”
Ryan Santana made headlines when he decided to come out to his mom on TLC’s “This is Life Live.” Santana, an American who plays professional baseball in Australia, said he no longer wanted to live a lie and hide an important part of himself.
When it was time for him to make the announcement, an emotional Santana said to his mom, “You mean the most to me in the world, and so that’s why it’s so hard for me to tell you that I’m gay.”
She immediately affirmed him. “Why wouldn’t you tell me a long time ago? Out of all the things you could talk to me about, you should have told me so you wouldn’t have been so alone.”
“By sitting there after the election in head-to-toe pink, while on the inside being a gender-neutral, sexually-fluid person, hopefully that was saying something,” stated Cyrus, who came out as pansexual in 2015. She also discussed how she was affected by the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, the transgender teen from Ohio whose heartbreaking suicide note shook the nation, and how it influenced her need to live openly and authentically.
Cyrus’ announcement furthered the work she has already done to encourage others to feel safe and comfortable living as they are. She hopes to keep supporting her community and is grateful for the care they have shown her.
Actor Keiynan Lonsdale took to Instagram to come out as bisexual in May.
“The Flash” star wrote, “I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, and I like guys (yes), I like growing, I like learning, I like who I am, and I really like who I’m becoming.”
According to Lonsdale, understanding and accepting his sexuality saved his life, and now he hopes that many more young people will be inspired by his journey and live to be their “best/truest selves.”
“I hope we can all learn to embrace who we are and not judge people who aren’t exactly the same as us,” Lonsdale wrote. “The truth is we are all family, we are all one. Just love.”
I like to change my hair, I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, & I like guys (yes), I like growing, I like learning, I like who I am and I really like who I'm becoming. Spent way too many years hating myself, thinking I was less valuable because I was different.. which is just untrue. A couple years ago I was able to accept myself, & it saved my life, but now I've gotten to a new road block & I feel kind of lost. I gotta take the next step & actually embrace who I am, which is pretty exciting. Not faking shit anymore, not apologising for falling in love with people no matter their gender. I've become bored of being insecure, ashamed, scared... no one should feel like that about themselves, especially when there is so much good life to live. Ya know more & more I see so many young people being their best / truest selves, it's fucking inspiring... so what have I been waiting for!? Who knows. Everyone in their own time. I hope we can all learn to embrace who we are & not judge people who aren't exactly the same as us. The truth is we are all family, we're all one. Just love. Keiy. ❤
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Known for her role as Maeby Fünke on “Arrested Development,” Alia Shawkat spoke with Out magazine and reflected on being queer in America.
Shawkat believes that her sexuality has been an integral part of her identification with her characters.
“Now I consider myself bisexual, and I think balancing my male and female energies has been a big part of me growing as an actor,” she said.
Shawkat cited her “Arrested Development” co-star Portia de Rossi, who is married to Ellen DeGeneres, as a helpful influence, as well as the many LGBTQ artists in Los Angeles that helped her better understand who she is.
In a June interview with Vulture, “Orphan Black” star Jordan Gavaris revealed that he is gay.
According to Gavaris, he had never been asked about his sexuality despite playing a gay man on the hit television show. He has been out to his family for a while and came out publicly in the the interview.
Gavaris said that he hopes that, “One day, the world gets to a place where you don’t need to politicize your sexuality any more…that we can just act and we can exist…Telling stories about one another…And that no one’s afraid.”
O’Callaghan originally came out to his psychologist, Dr. Susan Wilson, and her guidance and support led to his ability to come out publicly.
“Being gay wasn’t just a small detail in my life, it consumed it,” O’Callaghan said. “But now that I have come out it rarely crosses my mind. Yeah, I’d go about my daily life in football, but thinking about hiding it and hoping no one finds out and being ready for any situation was exhausting.”
Ryan initially feared rejection in the NFL because of his sexual orientation, but now he’s working hard to live an open life and help others to do the same.
“It’s not always easy being honest,” he said. “But I can tell you it’s much easier and more enjoyable being yourself and not living a lie.”
Known for his role as Sunshine Corazon on the award-winning television series “Glee”, actor Jake Zyrus came out on Twitter as transgender.
“My first tweet as Jake,” he posted. “Overwhelmed. Saw all your love comments and I’m so happy. Finally. I love you, everyone and see you soon.”
Previously out as a lesbian, Zyrus now lives openly as himself. After taking the brave step to come out, Zyrus said he was pleasantly surprised at the affirmation he received.
“When I thought about finally coming out as a transgender man, I didn’t think a lot of people would actually agree to it and accept me, but I was surprised with the love and support,” he said to USA TODAY. “So I’ve been doing great, I’ve been feeling good about everything. I’ve been happy.”
My first tweet as Jake. Overwhelmed. Saw all your love comments and I'm so happy. Finally. I love you, everyone and see you soon.— Jake Zyrus (@jakezyrus) June 20, 2017
In response to the self-prompted question, “Who is that?” DJ GRiZ responded, “My family and my friends call me Grant, others know me as GRiz. I’m a DJ, producer, saxophonist, song writer, performer...90s music lover, a horrible, horrible singer...and I am gay.”
He reflected on his life growing up and realizing he is gay, and closed his HuffPost piece with a message to those in similar situations.
“This is that leap of faith moment. You just have to go for it…Instead of giving into that fear and sadness, we need to shine.”
In an encouraging tweet to her fans, columnist Lauren Duca came out publicly during Pride Month.
“Happy #Pride2017, my loves!” she tweeted. “In or out of the closet, you better believe you’re supported. P.S. I’m not totally straight.”
Her tweet was met with a stream of supportive replies, and she took the time to respond to many of them, reaffirming her love for her fans and her pride in herself and her newly out identity. Duca is a well-known journalist who has written for numerous publications, includingTeen Vogue, New York Magazine and Vice.
Happy #Pride2017, my loves! In or out of the closet, you better believe you're supported.— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) June 26, 2017
p.s. I'm not totally straight. ��
A remarkable coming out moment occurred in an unlikely place — and it was all captured on video.
At the age of 12, Savannah came out as a lesbian to her Mormon congregation in Utah in a moving and honest speech. She spoke about the simple joys of life and said she knew she could, “have all of these things as a lesbian and be happy.”
The video went viral, captivating viewers across the country. Her courage was recognized by HRC at its 2017 Utah Gala, where Savannah was a guest, and received a rousing standing ovation from the more than 650 attendees. Savannah’s story has inspired HRC and continues to inspire countless others to embrace their true, authentic self.
JAY-Z’s mom, Gloria Carter, came out publicly as a lesbian this year on her son’s latest album, “4:44.”
In the song “Smile,” a conversation is highlighted between JAY-Z and his mother about Carter’s sexuality. This marks the first public recognition of her sexuality.
Lyrics of the song include, “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian” / “Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take / Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
Carter appears later in the track and gives a spoken-word cameo that emphasizes the need for authenticity and compassion. “Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed.”
Musician Gavin Russom, who is affectionately known as a “synth and electronics wizard,” came out as transgender, declaring, “now it’s time to become a whole person.”
In a phone interview with Pitchfork, she revealed the process that led her to realizing her identity and the forces that shaped who she is now. Rossom also reflected on her increasing distance from cisgender maleness and the ways in which she explored and found herself through her music.
Morales’ essay featured an in-depth recounting of her decision to come out publicly. She delved into her childhood and background and the circumstances that led her to a greater understanding of herself and her sexual orientation.
“I don’t like labeling myself, or anyone else,” she wrote. “But if it’s easier for you to understand me, what I’m saying is that I’m queer.”
She ended her essay with a message to her fans as well as those who are not yet out, “You’re not weird. You’re not bad. You’re not unholy...You are an essential part of the world just as you were created, and I want to see you. The real you.”
A regular contributor to Cyclingnews, York bravely came out in a piece for the publication after announcing that she was invited to work with a local British television station to provide commentary and insight during cycling races.
“The mention of progress and moving on brings me to a much more personal subject concerning the journey I, and those around me, embarked upon at the start of this millennium,” she wrote. “The outcome of that journey has meant that for a considerable time now I have lived as Philippa."
She thanked those in her life who supported her throughout her transition and stated that she believes deeply, “that this will be a step forward for everyone.”
In his post, the “Heroes” actor announced that he is,“indeed a man who proudly loves other men” and, in fact, married his husband in April.
He called his gay identity “a badge of honor that no one can steal” and encouraged others to find their timeline to authenticity and feel confident in it. Dekker thanked his many supporters for their embrace of him and his identity.
“Be proud of who you are. No matter how long it takes,” Dekker wrote.
Singer Aaron Carter came out as bisexual in a tweet to his fans this year.
“There’s something I’d like to say that I feel is important for myself and my identity that has been weighing on my chest for near half of my life,” wrote Carter, who rose to fame in the late 1990s. “When I was around 13 years old I started to find boys and girls attractive.”
Carter shared his story as a way to let his large fan base into his life. Following his announcement, he was met with an outpouring of support and love from fans and celebrities alike.
In a powerful Instagram post this summer, singer Greyson Chance came out as gay.
Greyson kept his sexuality out of the public eye, but his decision to come in July was sparked by a brave message he received and was inspired to share with his fans.
“Such message inspired me to shed light on an aspect of my private life which I have kept distant from my career in music,” Chance wrote. “I came to fully recognize that I was gay when I was sixteen. I decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin.”
Ending his message with words of support and love, Greyson wrote, “I am happy, I am here for you, and I am proud of who I am.”
The decision to write this came after I received a message from a brave individual. Such message inspired me to shed light on an aspect of my private life which I have kept distant from my career in music. I came to fully recognize that I was gay when I was sixteen. I decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin. Further, I always found conversations regarding music, politics, art, books – and the greatness of Nas’ catalog – to be far more interesting than what type of guy I was into. This is still true today. While this message is most definitely overdue, I encourage anyone who is navigating their sexuality to devote as much time as they need to the process of finding self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love. Hell, for me, it took years to write this message. Nevertheless, I figured now was the time to let a few more friends know that I am happy, I am here for you, and I am proud of who I am. Cheers -G
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In an interview with espnW, WNBA All-Star and Seattle Storm powerhouse Sue Bird came out as a lesbian who is in a relationship with Megan Rapinoe, a professional soccer player for both the U.S. women’s national team and the Seattle Reign FC.
“I have to be true,” said Bird. “It’s my journey.”
Bird reflected on her path in life and said she felt this year was the right time to come out. She also encouraged others to wait and find the time that felt most authentic to them to reveal their truest selves.
“I was living my life, just not necessarily leading the charge,” Bird said. “But I never felt that made me any less real.”
Rapinoe and Bird have been in a relationship and out to friends and family since last fall.
In an interview with NBC News, Smith gave advice to young actors like himself on the importance of knowing yourself.
“You’re the instrument you’re going to use, so the more you learn about yourself, the better you’re going to be,” he said. “Don’t ever let someone tell you what you can and can’t do, particularly for trans actors.”
Smith’s new role on “Queen Sugar” helps shed light on the diverse experiences of identity in the black community in America today.
In the video, which has been viewed more than 4 million times, Potter asked his little brother his thoughts on his older brother potentially marrying a man. Without hesitation, Alfie responded affirmatively and excitedly, citing a positive film in which a gay male couple was particularly “cool.”
“Love is love, love is love,” Alfie said to his older brother.
In an interview with Mashable, Potter noted that he chose to come out this way with hopes of modeling the way others can reach out to their families, friends and other community members for support and solidarity.
In his first live stream video, YouTuber Big Clive came out as gay in response to an earlier question about his sexuality.
“Technically speaking I am gay…It’s a complex subject,” Big Clive told his viewing audience.
An engineer whose vidoes mainly focusing on taking apart pieces of electrical equipment, Big Clive suggested that his sexuality deserved its own video, and he promised his audience that he would make one at a later time.
Big Clive’s YouTube channel gained popularity as viewers became increasingly interested in learning about tools and technology. He tackles electrical objects that fascinate him and strips them down to their internal parts to learn more about how they work.
Just the second woman to become a full-time coach in the National Football League, Katie Sowers came out this year. Sowers, an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers, became not only the league’s first openly LGBTQ coach, but also the first publicly out coach in all of men’s professional sports.
“No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are,” Sowers said in an interview with Outsports.
She touted the importance of creating accepting environments for everyone, no matter their background.
“There are so many people who identify as LGBT...that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation,” Sowers said. “The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day.”