We're always glad when anyone comes out, although it's particularly noteworthy when well-known people do. They provide role models for young LGBT people and drive home the message that we are everywhere, while usually enhancing their own lives in the process — living openly and honestly is good for the soul.
We're looking back at some famous folks who’ve come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, or fluid this year. Of course, you don’t have to be famous for your coming-out to make an impact. When people know someone who is LGBT, they’re far more likely to support our rights. “Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality,” notes the Human Rights Campaign, which offers coming-out resources here.
Click through to see the variety of people who’ve come out this year — actors, athletes, musicians, clergy members, politicians, and more.
Yes, some might wonder if Kristen Stewart is really out. A British journalist quoted the star’s mother as saying Kristen is bisexual and dating a woman; her mom denied saying that, and the journalist responded that she had it all on tape. The actress herself offered this comment: “Google me, I’m not hiding.” Well, we did and found she has been photographed being affectionate with rumored girlfriend Alicia Cargile, all while the tabloid media played it homophobically coy about their relationship, calling them "gal pals." We also Googled a whole lot of other people throughout the year and reported their comings-out on The Advocate's site and our sibling sites. Click through for them.
Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic champion and Kardashian family patriarch, came out as transgender in an interview with Diane Sawyer and revealed her new look on this dazzling Vanity Fair cover.
On Empire, Jussie Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, the gay son in a family with a multimillion-dollar music business. That led to some queries about whether he's gay — and when Ellen DeGeneres asked him, he answered that yep, he is. And he thanked her for blazing the trail.
Patricia Velasquez's coming-out made her the world's first Latina lesbian supermodel. She wrote about her journey in the memoir StraightWalk and spoke to The Advocate about it, and she hopes to encourage other young Latinas to own their identity, whatever it may be.
Angel McCoughtry, who has played on a gold medal–winning Olympic basketball team and for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, came out via Instagram, posting a picture of her with her fiancée, actress Brande Elise. She said she'd encountered some religion-based homophobia on the part of family members but added, “Love is a great feeling and GOD is Love.”
Aaron and Austin Rhodes
These twin brothers have been a hit on YouTube with a series of comic videos. But their reach got even bigger with a more serious video in which they came out to their father — who assured them his love for them will never change.
Janae Marie Kroc
Bodybuilding and powerlifting champ Janae Marie Kroc came out as transgender in July, describing herself as “Alpha male/girly girl Lesbian in a male body.” She characterizes herself as both trans and gender-fluid.
Lily-Rose Depp, the 16-year-old daughter of film star Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis, came out as sexually fluid by posing for a photo series; a caption identified her as falling "somewhere on the vast spectrum." She's pursuing an acting career herself; among various projects, she's slated to star in a biopic about the great dancer Isadora Duncan.
Randy Thomas, once an activist with the now-defunct "ex-gay" group Exodus International, came out in a January blog post as “gay with some level of bisexual tendencies.” Thomas has apologized for how the "ex-gay" movement has harmed LGBT people, but he said he knows not all will forgive him.
David Denson, a minor league player on a team affiliated with Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, came out as gay this summer, making him the first out member of an MLB-connected team. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he described coming out to his teammates in the wake of homophobic clubhouse banter — and the teammates generally responded with warm acceptance.
Ingrid Nilsen, who has millions of YouTube followers who tune in for her beauty tips, showed that honesty is the most beautiful thing of all when she came out as gay in an affecting video in June.
ESPN columnist Israel Gutierrez came out in a blog post in early September, just days before he wed David Kitchen. He said he'd been out to friends and family for years, but with his marriage impending, he didn't want to have to tell his story over and over when people noticed his wedding ring. He also described how he overcame shame about being gay, and he thanked gay Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas for being an inspiration.
Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a Roman Catholic priest, revealed that he is gay and partnered in an interview just before the opening of this month's Vatican synod on family issues, saying he wants the church to know "he's happy and proud of his identity." He also said he was prepared to face the consequences of his decision, and there were consequences: he was promptly fired from his job in the Vatican's press office.
Chris Burns, assistant men's basketball coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island, came out to his players and the public this fall, making him the first out gay coach on a Division I men's basketball team. In talking to the team, he said he realized some people think a gay man has no place in sports — happily, his players don't agree.
Matt Hullum, a pro wrestler who goes by the stage name "Money" Matt Cage, decided this year he didn't want to be caged (or closeted) anymore. "I spent the majority of my life lying, hiding and depressed because I felt like I couldn't truly be who I wanted to be and live freely as I saw fit," he wrote on Facebook. "I had to act and that's not me. I, nor anyone else, should have to do that."
Mason Darrow, a member of Princeton University's football team, came out as gay to his teammates a couple of years ago, and to the rest of the world in a recent post for Outsports. "Telling my teammates was the best decision I have ever made," he wrote, saying he's now "one of the guys" like he never was before.
U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon, a silver medalist in World Championship competitions, opened up about being gay earlier this month in an interview with Skating magazine. "When athletes come out and say that they’re gay, it makes it a little more normal and less of a big deal — especially in the athletic community," he said. "I want to say something to the dad out there who might be concerned that his son is a figure skater. I mean look at me; I’m just a normal son from small-town Pennsylvania. Nothing changed."
Politically conservative families have gay members too — and some of them are out and proud. Georgetown University student Sean Buckley, a great-nephew of the late conservative commentator and National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. and grandson of James L. Buckley, a former U.S. senator and federal judge, came out as gay and a marriage equality supporter this spring, as the nation awaited the Supreme Court's decision on equal marriage rights. "Conservatives are right to argue that the best environment to raise children is within a marriage," he wrote in The Daily Beast. "However, it has nothing to do with the gender of their parents but instead the love they have for one another."
We keep finding out that there are gay national leaders around the world. Allan Bell is chief minister of the Isle of Man, a self-governing island in the British Isles. This year he discussed his intention to fight for marriage equality there, noting that he has been with his partner for 21 years. “People know that I’m gay," he told the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. "I’ve never made a secret of it, but no one has ever asked me."
As many women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault, the comedian claimed he was good at reading their sexual desires. Andrea Constand, one of the accusers, said in a court filng that Cosby obviously didn't read hers accurately: She's a lesbian. Cosby's lawyers responded, "As defendant admits in his deposition, despite his talent for interpreting female reactions to him, he did not realize Plaintiff was gay until the police told him."
Tamal Ray, a contestant on the Great British Bake Off reality competition show, got gay admirers excited when he said, in answer to a question about his love life, "I wouldn't have a girlfriend, I would have a boyfriend. But I am single at the moment."
As the Republic of Ireland prepared for a vote on marriage equality this year, Father Martin Dolan, a Catholic priest in Dublin, told his congregation he supported equal marriage rights and added, "I'm gay myself." He got a standing ovation, and his parishioners have continued to support him. And Irish voters approved marriage equality by a wide margin, making the nation the first to do so by popular vote.
Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the minor league Sonoma Stompers baseball team in California, became the first openly gay pro baseball player when he came out publicly shortly before pitching a shutout victory on the team's Gay Pride Night. The team is not affiliated with any Major League Baseball franchise; David Denson, who's with a minor league team in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, hold the distinction of being the first out gay player on an MLB-affiliated club.
A tragedy led Israeli politician Itzik Shmuli to reveal that he's gay. A member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, he came out after a religious zealot attacked a Pride parade in Jerusalem, stabbing several marchers, one of whom died. “We cannot be silent any longer,” Shmuli wrote in an Israeli newspaper. “We cannot be silent any longer because the knife is raised on the entire LGBT community — my community — and it won’t stop there.”
YouTuber Shane Dawson gave a boost to bisexual visibility in a confessional video he posted this year. He said he sometimes wished he was "100 percent gay," but he wanted to be honest about the fact that he's bi.
Jayne Ozanne, a lay leader in the Church of England, came out as lesbian in an interview where she discussed the conflict between her faith and her sexuality; she underwent conversion therapy and even contemplated suicide. She's now in a place of self-acceptance, having been inspired by British Christian musician Vicky Beeching's coming-out in 2014, and leading a group that advocates for LGBT equality within Christianity.
Musician and YouTube star Joey Graceffa once posted a coming-out video, removed it, and went back into the closet. This year he came out for good, though, in the official music video for his song "Don't Wait," where he battles bullies, witches, and ogres before finding and rescuing his true love. Fans responded with warm support.
Keegan Hirst became Britain’s first openly gay Rugby League player in August of this year. His marriage to a woman recently broke up, and in an interview with a U.K. paper he said he recognized the damage the closet was doing to her — and to himself. “At first I couldn’t even say ‘I’m gay’ in my head, let alone out loud,” he said. “Now I feel like I’m letting out a long breath that I’ve held in for a long time.”
There was a whole lot of coming out going on as Ireland prepared for its vote on marriage equality. In January, Leo Varadkar, Ireland's health minister, became one of the first Irish government officials to come out as gay. "There are people a lot braver than me, but I wanted to do it," he said in a radio interview. "I suppose I felt as a public figure I should say it. I want the next generation to feel that they don’t have to do an interview like this.” He became a leading campaigner for the marriage measure, which passed, and the popular Irish magazine Tatler named him Man of the Year.
Rev. Warren Hall lost his job as director of campus ministry at Seton Hall University, a Catholic school in New Jersey, after he posted a pro-LGBT message on Facebook. He then decided it was time to come out as gay. “I have to be myself,” he told Outsports. “I can’t worry what other people think.”
Nick Gibb, a member of the U.K. Parliament from the Conservative Party, came out by announcing his impending marriage to his partner of 29 years, Michael Simmonds, the head of a polling firm. “It was easier to have a relationship that wasn’t known about. It didn’t bother us, we both had successful careers,” Gibb told The Times of London. “We just got on with life.” But when marriage equality came to the U.K., things changed, he said: “Marriage has only been possible recently. We were never in favor of civil partnerships because we felt there should be the same approach for us and other couples. We both felt strongly that we would wait until marriage became legal.”
Bishop Kevin Kanouse, head of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana area of the LGBT-supportive Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, came out as gay at a youth conference this year. He has long been closeted and married to a woman, and he even opposed the church's moves to allow partnered gay clergy and bless same-sex marriages. The emotions that roused in him eventually led him to see how "hollow" faith-based condemnation of LGBT people is. “I was moved to share my journey with the youth because I know many are struggling with these and other issues of self-esteem, rejection, and self-loathing,” he said. “I wanted to instill the hope of the Gospel at a much earlier age than I received it. I prayed that none of them would endure that pain for as long as I did.”
Prominent Irish journalist Ursula Halligan came out as lesbian a week before her nation's marriage equality vote. In an Irish Times op-ed, she described her struggle to reconcile her Catholic faith with her sexuality, then urged readers to vote yes on marriage. "As a person of faith and a Catholic, I believe a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do," she wrote. "I believe the glory of God is the human being fully alive, and that this includes people who are gay. If Ireland votes Yes, it will be about much more than marriage. It will end institutional homophobia. It will say to gay people that they belong, that it’s safe to surface and live fully human, loving lives."
The veteran NBA referee — he's been on the job 18 seasons and has called many finals — came out in December, in response to having been the recipient of a profanity- and slur-laden tirade by Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo.
“I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” Kennedy said. “I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are.”
Rondo received a one-game suspension and apologized to Kennedy.
We have to put the singing star down as a maybe. Her lyrics “I’m a little curious too / Tell me if it’s wrong / If it’s right / I don’t care” in “Cool for the Summer” had some wondering if she might be lesbian or bisexual. She didn't exactly come out, but she said the song reflects her experiences, and she's “definitely not denying” rumors about same-sex love.
Sumner, a musician who's one of four children of Sting and Trudie Styler, was assigned female at birth but this year came out as identifying with no particular gender. Sumner is also dating a woman.
This accomplished athlete, who won a silver medal in free-skiing at the Sochi Olympics, is one of the world's best in the sport. But he was insecure about coming out, finally doing so in an interview with ESPN the Magazine this fall.
"I was insecure and ashamed," he said. "Being gay has never been looked at as being cool. And I wanted to be cool."
After the news hit, though, he expressed pride and relief via a Facebook post. "I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m very proud to finally be letting my guard down," he wrote. He also said he hopes to be someone kids can look up to.
Veteran actress Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men, The L Word), who has long been evasive when asked about her sexual identity, revealed in a November public radio interview that her current romantic relationship is with a woman — as most of her relationships have been. Taylor declined to say she was coming out, though, telling a WNYC interviewer, “I haven’t come out because I am out. I live out.” She also declined to reveal the woman’s name, but shortly thereafter the world learned that the lady in question is actress Sarah Paulson, currently on-screen in an important supporting role in Carol.
The Iceman cometh — out. No one said we couldn’t include fictional characters, so we salute the coming-out of Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman, one of the original five X-Men. The All-New X-Men series has teenage versions of the mutant superheroes displaced in time, and this year the teen Bobby came to terms with his homosexuality with some help from a teammate, ace telepath Jean Grey. Later, in the Uncanny X-Men series, he confronted his older, closeted self.
Singer Jess Glynne opened up about having had a relationship with a woman — her debut album, I Cry When I Laugh, was inspired by a breakup with a girlfriend — but she declined to call herself lesbian, bisexual, or straight (the girlfriend was her only same-sex relationship so far). “I’m never going to put a label on my sexuality and people should never feel uncomfortable about who they love,” she told the U.K.’s Daily Star. “I wanted my album to be as honest as possible. … There was never a question of hiding the story behind it. I pray one day we get to a point where it’s no longer a thing.”
For a while we thought Transparent creator Jill Soloway was just a really cool straight person, but this year we learned she's one of us. In an interview published by The New Yorker in December, Soloway revealed she had fallen in love with esteemed lesbian poet Eileen Myles and was separating amicably from her husband, Bruce Gilbert. “We had pretty much an instant connection,” Soloway said of Myles.
Stage and screen star Joel Grey, who pretty much became an instant gay icon by playing the Emcee in Cabaret, came out at the age of 82 in a People magazine interview. “I don’t like labels, but if you have to put a label on it, I’m a gay man,” said Grey, who was married to actress Jo Wilder for 24 years and fathered two children, actress Jennifer Grey and James, a chef. He said his family and friends have known for years that he’s gay. “I was never not out,” he said. “I was just never asked before.” Daughter Jennifer noted, “I feel very happy for my dad that he has come to a point in his life where he feels safe and comfortable enough to declare himself in a public way as a gay man.”
Keke Palmer, a Broadway vet who appears in the campy TV series Scream Queens, did a video for her song "I Don't Belong to You" featuring a bisexual storyline, and her interviews about it emphasized her opposition to labels. "The video was to represent the young woman today — it's not the traditional woman anymore — and not the specifics of 'Am I gay? Am I straight? Am I bi?'" she told People. "I'm making the rules for myself, and I don't have to be stuck down to one label."
Inline hockey player Kendra Fisher has said she's never been closeted, having shared news on social media about her wife, but at the Canadian Olympic Committee’s #OneTeam roundtable in April, she made a definitive statement: “I am a gay athlete.”
In a November interview on Bret Easton Ellis's podcast, Passion Pit front man Michael Angelakos revealed that he's gay, saying that was a factor in his recent divorce from his wife. “It’s always been about putting it off in my head — not consciously,” he said. “I just wanted so badly to be straight, because I love her so much. I think that was one of the most painful things when we decided to separate.”
Swiss footballer Ramona Bachmann came out while her team was vying for the World Cup, saying how happy she was to have the support of her girlfriend, Camille Lara. “It means a very lot to me that Camille is here,” she said. “My family is here. It is good. ... They all give me a lot of strength and energy.”
Reid Ewing is best known for playing Dylan, the boyfriend of Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland) on Modern Family. This year, he pretty much outed himself when he tweeted a remark about another man being hot; the context of the tweet was a discussion of body dysmorphia, a disorder from which Ewing has suffered. When another Twitter user asked, "Did you also just out yourself?" Ewing replied, "I was never in."
Sam Stanley, a British pro rugby player from a family of rugby players, was inspired to come out partly by the example of fellow rugger Keegan Hirst. "It's awesome to see so many athletes being true to themselves now," Stanley told Outsports. "The thing for me was never that I wasn't ready; it was more how to do it. I was going to put it on Twitter, but my other half convinced me not to. I'm happy with how it's all gone."
Tatum O'Neal, beloved as a child star in Paper Moon and Little Darlings, was married to tennis bad boy John McEnroe for eight years, but this year she revealed that most of her recent relationships have been with women. “I had experiences with women prior to my marriage, and I had experiences after the divorce,” the 51-year-old actress wrote in a Harper's Bazaar essay. “But because I was raised in such a tough, masculine, male-oriented environment, it just didn’t even seem possible to date women seriously until I hit the determining age of half a century, which is when you figure out what you like and what you don’t — or at least I did. I’m not making a decision one way or the other, but I think that there is a softer, more gentle quality about women, and that’s what I’m attracted to.”
British track star Tom Bosworth, who hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics, told the BBC he came out in order to send LGBT people "the positive message that you can succeed in sport." Bosworth, who became the first openly gay British track and field athlete, added that he hopes to be known as more than that. "I want to go and win medals; I want to go and compete at major championships and become an Olympian," he said. "But definitely, this is me, and I feel that I need to help and support other people."