As bold as k.d. lang is, the Grammy-winning singer was clearly nervous about coming out in the June 16, 1992 issue of The Advocate. You can't blame her -- the AIDS crisis was raging, there was a Bush in office, and LGBT celebrities were mostly nonexistent. With equal amounts of determination and trepidation, lang became one of the first celebrities to crack open the closet door, laying a blueprint for Melissa, Ellen, and Neil. Showing a vulnerability often heard in her songs, lang was up front with writer Brendan Lemon about the responsibilities she was about to take on: "I don't want to say the wrong things to the gay culture. Because there are so many different opinions on how to gain acceptance.... And I don't want to hurt my mother by coming out in the press. But at the same time I don't want to hurt my culture, and it's like -- what do you do?"
Luckily, lang is no longer overwrought. Her coming-out preceded mainstream success; she released 10 acclaimed albums after 1992's blockbuster Ingenue, sang at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and is currently on tour promoting her latest work, Sing It Loud. Lang's show schedule made it impossible for her to re-create her iconic cover, so another lesbian musician, country star Chely Wright, was happy to pinch-hit. Wright, preparing for the June release of her documentary, Chely Wright: Wish Me Away, came out in a much different time (2010). Though the process was far from easy for her, it's clear how much has changed since 1992 from one look at Wright's ring finger -- she married her wife, Lauren Blitzer, a year after coming out. "I grew up feeling like there was no one else, no one that I could relate to," Wright told The Advocate. "If my coming out of the closet makes [my fans] rethink their ideas about gay people, then I've done something good."