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Even today, celebrities can feel pressured to keep their sexualities a secret from their family, friends, and the press. Some celebs are afraid that their sexual preferences will affect the roles they're given in a cis-gendered, heterosexual-dominant society, others fear backlash from their communities, and others simply prefer to keep their private lives private. These celebrities were brave enough to publicly share their coming out stories with the world, and they are so touching. Here are 25 of the most inspiring celebrity coming out stories, including anecdotes from Miley Cyrus, Frank Ocean, and Sarah Paulson.
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Ellen DeGeneres's story is equal parts touching and ballsy. It takes some major chutzpah to come out on the cover of Time Magazine with the headline: "Yep, I'm gay." She then came out all over again on her eponymous ABC sitcom with a ton of "jumping out of the closet" jokes, in case anyone was still confused. In April 2017, Ellen aired that same episode on The Ellen Show for the twentieth anniversary of her coming out.
"It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do in my life," Ellen shared. "I would not change one moment of it because it led me to be exactly where I am today, standing in front of you, which is a joy."
Wentworth Miller came out in 2013 in order to take a stand against Russia's anti-gay legislation. The Prison Break star was invited to the St. Petersburg International Film Festival, and he responded publicly through GLAAD, politely saying, "As a gay man, I must decline.
“I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government," Wentworth continued, using his platform to demand basic rights for the LGBTQ community in Russia. "The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.”
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Miley Cyrus may be happily wifed up to Liam Hemsworth, but not too long ago, she was coming out as pansexual in a 2016 Variety Magazine interview. Miley identifies as gender-neutral and came to realize her identity at an LGBTQ center in Los Angeles.
"I saw one human in particular who didn’t identify as male or female. Looking at them, they were both: beautiful and sexy and tough but vulnerable and feminine but masculine," Miley explained. "And I related to that person more than I related to anyone in my life."
Miley knew that her parents would understand one day, but coming from a religious Southern family, she knew it would take time.
Olympic bronze medalist Tom Daley first came out as bisexual in a really sweet YouTube video during December of 2013. He eventually amended this statement five months later on Celebrity Juice, definitively coming out as gay.
"I've been dating girls, but I've never really had a serious relationship to talk about. And now I kind of feel ready to talk about my relationships. Come spring this year my life changed. Massively," Tom shared in the video. "When I met someone and they make me feel so happy and safe; everything just feels great. That someone is a guy. And it did take me by surprise a little bit."
Colton Haynes wants you to know that sexuality is not a choice.
“I never made a decision to be gay. It came just as naturally as the color of my eyes,” Colton said in a speech to the Human Rights Campaign, who rewarded him with the Visibility Award after an innocuous Tumblr comment led to the actor coming out to Entertainment Weekly.
A fan wrote a Tumblr post about Colton's rumored "secret gay past," to which Colton responded: "Was it a secret? Let's all just enjoy life and have no regrets."
Shannon Purser came out as bi to her fans very early on in her process of self-discovery. In a series of tweets, the Stranger Things actress revealed that she had very recently come out to her family and friends and that she doesn't enjoy talking about her sexuality because it's something that she's still processing and trying to understand.
She has since deleted the tweets, which were actually a response to angry Riverdale fans who accused the writers of Riverdale and her character, Ethel Muggs, of queer-baiting. Jezebel reported on the argument and included earlier tweets where Shannon talks about the process of getting comfortable with sexuality and the importance of defining your sexuality on your own terms.
Ruby Rose is gender fluid, and she shared her coming out story on Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist. Ruby says her coming out to her mother was painless, as her mother had figured it out before she had. Ruby didn't know any out LGBTQ people, so she wasn't sure how to explain what she was feeling to her mother, who had actually realized Ruby wasn't straight by the time Ruby was six years old.
"I was just like, ‘I think I should let you know that when I eventually get a boyfriend, they’ll be a girl,’" Ruby remembered. "And she was just like, ‘I know.’”
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Matt Bomer had a very different coming out experience than Ruby. Matt was inspired to come out by a make-up artist that he worked with during a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Matt's parents are extremely religious and reacted to Matt's decision to live his truth with radio silence for over six months. It took years for the family to rebuild their relationships, but Matt looks back on that time as a lesson that it does get better.
"I'm here to tell people it can get better," Matt told Out Magazine. "Because I had so many people in my life saying, ‘You need to get rid of all expectations — you need to cut them out.' But I was like, ‘They're my family.'"
Another celebrity who was given a platform by the Human Rights Campaign, Ellen Page used her speech at the HRC's Time to Thrive conference as an opportunity to come out in the hopes that others will have an easier and more hopeful experience when coming to terms with their sexuality.
"I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out," the now out-and-proud actress told the audience. "My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I'm standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain."
Fans might recognize Thomas Dekker as the star of the CW's The Secret Circle or for his roles on Heroes and The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Others might know him from the powerful essay he posted to his Twitter account in July 2017, revealing that he was a gay man who married the love of his life earlier that year, Bryan Fuller.
"If we are to stand strong in the gay community, our mission should be support, not exclusion; love, not shame," Thomas wrote. "I choose not to look back on the past with a regretful heart but rather focus on the future with a hopeful one. A future where myself and all others can feel free to express their true selves with honor and dignity."
Cynthia Nixon's coming out was easy once she got rid of some dead weight. Her publicist at the time encouraged her to stay in the closet, so Cynthia encouraged her to get another job by replacing her with a publicist that supported her idea to share her sexual identity with the public. She then just simply confirmed that she is, in fact, a lesbian. Cynthia is now happily married to activist and policy analyst Christine Marinoni. The pair have been married since 2012, but have been dating since the final days of Sex And The City in 2004.
Brandon Flynn came out while speaking out in favor of marriage equality in Australia on Instagram. The 13 Reasons Why hottie saw a "Vote No" message in skywriting over Sydney online and decided to take action.
“I hope your hate and lack of understanding fades, just like those words will,” Brandon wrote to the anonymous individual that hired the skywriter. “Too many of my friends have been kicked out of their homes, kept in the closet, beat up, killed, ridiculed by church and state, institutionalized. And you are scared that if we vote YES, you won’t be able to show your hate for Us. F*ck that.”
Brandon ended with a message of hope, that equality takes courage and hate comes from a place of fear.
It's amazing that Barry Manilow came out as recently as 2017, when he was 73. Barry confirmed his three-year marriage to Garry Klef to People Magazine, admitting that he had put off coming out for so long because he was worried about what his Fanilows would think. He was worried that they would be disappointed, but when his sexuality was confirmed, Barry's fans were just happy for him.
“When they found out that Garry and I were together, they were so happy,” Barry shared. “The reaction was so beautiful — strangers commenting, ‘Great for you!’ I’m just so grateful for it.”
Natalie Morales is best known for her role as Lucy on Parks and Recreaction, so it's only fitting that she came out as queer on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls website for Pride Month in June 2017. Natalie prefaces her essay with the fact that she is a very private person, and as such, her coming out is the exact opposite of something she would usually do. She then told the entire story of her sexual awakening, from her first crush to her first encounter with a queer girl in a public high school to her first encounters with homophobia.
"I don’t like labeling myself, or anyone else, but if it’s easier for you to understand me, what I’m saying is that I’m queer. What queer means to me is just simply that I’m not straight," Natalie ended her essay, emphasizing that things are still bad for LGBTQ teens and the fight for equality isn't over just because it's the 21st century. "That’s all. It’s not scary, even though that word used to be really, really scary to me."
Sarah Paulson came out as a bi woman on national television, kind of by accident. In a moment of pure joy, she congratulated her then-partner, Cherry Jones, on winning a Tony Award with a kiss that was caught on camera.
"All of a sudden, I was outed," Sarah recalled for NoTofu. "I didn’t really think about it in that way at the time — I was just doing what one would do when a person they love has just won a big fat acting prize. What am I gonna do, pat her on the back and say ‘good job, dude’? It didn’t occur to me to do anything but what I did.”
Alia Shawkat came out as bisexual to Out Magazine in May 2017.
"I consider myself bisexual, and I think balancing my male and female energies has been a big part of me growing as an actor," Alia told the publication, explaining that balancing her identities as a member of the LGBTQ community, a woman, and an Arab-American gives her a responsibility to use whatever voice she has that led to her work on a queer-centric film.
"There's no more delicacy in being quiet," she concluded.
Ricky Martin says he regrets waiting to come out until 2010. He describes the process of writing his memoirs as bringing him closer to my truth and cites them as the inspiration for his decision to post a lengthy piece on his website in both Spanish and English outing himself as a blessed, "fortunate homosexual man."
“These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed,” he wrote before concluding that "Writing this is a solid step towards my inner peace and vital part of my evolution."
It's wild to think of a time before "Thinking 'Bout You," when the world didn't know that OFWKTA frontman (now, prolific solo artist) Frank Ocean was queer. Frank came out in a Tumblr post during July 2012 with an open letter to a man that he loved when he was a teenager.
"By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life," Frank wrote about realizing he was in love with a male friend. "I realized too much, too quickly. Imagine being thrown from a plane. I wasn’t in a plane though. I was in a Nissan Maxima, the same car I packed up with bags and drove to Los Angeles in. I sat there and told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for them, knowing I could never take them back for myself."
Read the entire, poetic masterpiece on Genius and see if you can make it through the whole thing without sobbing.
Speaking of LGBTQ icons, Anderson Cooper wasn't out of the closet until 2012 at age 45. Anderson already had his plush gig hosting Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN and a syndicated talk show, Anderson, when he revealed his sexuality in a letter to Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast.
Andrew, an openly gay man, had asked Anderson his views on an EW cover story about gay celebrities, which made Anderson realize that visibility was more important than preserving the reporter's shield of privacy.
"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," Anderson concluded.
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Amandla Stenberg came out in a way befitting of her position as an icon amongst Gen Z-ers. Amandla revealed that she was bisexual in a Snapchat interview with Teen Vogue, although she later decided that she prefers the term pansexual because the bisexual title is exclusionary to trans identities.
“It’s a really, really hard thing to be silenced and it’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and to mold yourself into shapes that you just shouldn’t be in,” she said at the end of her Snap takeover. “As someone who identifies as a black, bisexual woman I’ve been through it, and it hurts, and it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable... but then I realized because of Solange and Ava DuVernay and Willow and all the black girls watching this right now, that there’s absolutely nothing to change.”
Amandla is wiser than any of us will ever be.
Reid Ewing is primarily known for his role as Hayley Dunphy's love interest on Modern Family, but Wells Adams can rest easy knowing that Reid will never try to steal his girl. Reid very casually came out on Twitter because, according to him, he was never in the closet to begin with. His smooth confirmation of his sexuality was overshadowed by his heart-wrenching tale of body dysmorphia and plastic surgery addiction that same week in November 2015. He casually commented that one of the male anchors on the Good Morning America Body Dysmorphia segment was "hot AF" and that's how he publicly came out, later tweeting, "I was never in."
Album of the Year Grammy Award nominee Janelle Monae didn't come out as pansexual until April of 2018 during a Rolling Stone cover interview.
“Being a black queer woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women,” she opened the interview, “I consider myself to be a free-*ss motherf*cker.’”
Janelle said she never explicitly hid her identity but acknowledged that her song "Q.U.E.E.N." was originally titled "Q.U.E.E.R."
“I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you,” the singer said of her Grammy-nominated album, Dirty Computer. “This album is for you. Be proud.”
Michael Sam is the first openly gay man to be drafted into an NFL team while still at the University of Missouri. Sadly, Michael explained in February 2019 that he feels that coming out before the draft gave him "a raw deal," as he the first SEC defensive player of the year to drop to a seventh-round pick from the usual first. He's since clarified that he doesn't regret coming out, as his then-partner's comfort at the time made him feel better, but it's still an atrocity that shielded homophobia in the NFL was blatantly overlooked.
Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka have been couple goals for, like, forever. Or, more specifically, since 2004. Neil, however, actually didn't come out as a gay man until 2006 in an exclusive interview with People.
"I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love," he said amid rumors about his relationship with David, confirming his sexuality one year before the couple became engaged. Love is real, y'all!
Andy Cohen is now a proud, out, gay father! Before he became a gay icon synonymous with Bravo, Andy was a teenager in 1986, when there was very little gay representation on television and a fair amount of casual homophobia. It wasn't until college that Andy decided he could publicly be a gay man.
"I'll never forget that day. I left the letter actually out which I didn't mean to, and my mom found it," Andy told Watch What Happens Live. "I said, 'I don't want to tell you,' and she said, 'you have to,' and I said, 'well, you know.' She said, 'you have to say the words so that you can say it. So I said it, I'm crying, crying, and about an hour later she said, 'You know I would have hated your wife anyway.'"