Michael Sam, Athlete
In a New York Times article published Februardy 9, college football star Michael Sam, then a defensive lineman for the University of Missouri, made sports history when he announced that he is gay. Sam, who was the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the All-American team, had initially come out during the preseason to his coaches and teammates.
“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam told the Times. "Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was. I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who's a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn't care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay. Is that true?' I would have said yes."
Since his coming out, Sam became the first out football player to be drafted to the NFL. Though he was dropped by the St. Louis Rams, Sam was later picked up by the Dallas Cowboys as part of its practice squad only to be cut there as well, and he still aspires to become the first out gay man to play in the NFL. — Michelle Garcia
Pennsylvania's State Senate got its first openly gay member in September, when Democrat Jim Ferlo publicly came out during a press conference highlighting the need for inclusive statewide hate-crimes legislation in the wake of a brutal antigay attack in Philadelphia.
"I've never denied my homosexuality," continued Ferlo, whose term is ending. "Many people, friends, coworkers, obviously, many in the media, many in the community, hundreds of people know I'm gay; I just never made an official declaration. I never felt I had to wear a billboard on my forehead, but I'm gay. Get over it. I love it, it's a great life." —Sunnivie Brydum
Kristian Nairn, Actor, Game of Thrones
Actor Kristian Nairn, who plays the lumbering character Hodor in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, surprised an interviewer in March by announcing that he's gay. When asked by fan site WinterIsComing.net if Nairn knew he had a following in the bear subset of the gay community, he replied, "Well, in all honesty, when you talk about 'the gay community,' you are talking about my community. I am aware of it, yeah, and I think it’s really lovely."
In fact, Narirn, who is also a DJ, was disappointed that that the issue hadn't been discussed earlier in his career. "I’ve never hidden my sexuality from anyone, my whole life in fact, and I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about it in an interview, ’cause it’s not something you just blurt out," he said. "I’ve tried to lead the questions a few times, to no avail!"
While Nairn considers being gay only a small part of his identity, he does understand the importance of coming out. "In this day and age, it's important to stand up and be counted," he told the site. "I have and always will stand my ground."
Djuan Trent, Miss Kentucky 2010
Djuan Trent, who as Miss Kentucky reached the Top 10 of the 2011 Miss America pageant, didn't snag the crown that year. But in February 2014, Trent won the hearts of the LGBT community and its allies when she came out in a blog post in response to Kentucky's unwillingness to recognize same-sex unions from other states. "I am queer," declared the 27-year-old, who became the first veteran of a national beauty pageant to come out.
"Ideally, I would love to one day live in a society where coming out is no longer necessary, because we don't make assumptions about one another's sexuality and homophobia is laid to rest," she said. "For now, that is more of an ideal than it is a reality. But if you want see that ideal become a reality and you have the courage to change history ... if you want to earn some gold stars, then yes, come on out and make your presence known."
Now an honorary cochair for Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, Trent later told The Huffington Post that she was inspired by the coming out of Raven-Symoné, which gave her the courage to be an out queer woman of color and a role model for others. "I’ve had so much outreach coming from young women in the pageant community, young African-American women, young feminine women, who [now] feel a little less invisible, who feel that there’s not something wrong with them. And that, to me, is amazing," she said. — Daniel Reynolds
John Fennell, Olympic luger
An Oscar nominee for 2007’s Juno and an all-around beloved actress in films ranging from the subversive indie Hard Candy to blockbusters including Inception and the X-Men films, Ellen Page once skewered the gay rumors about her in a Saturday Night Live sketch in which she became transformed by the sights, smells, and sounds of a Melissa Etheridge concert.
But when Page spoke the words “I’m here because I’m gay” to LGBT youth at a conference in Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day of this year, the news, while not entirely a surprise, was revelatory. Page, a bona fide A-lister still very much at the start of her career, proceeded to follow that up with a thoughtful, honest, tearjerking speech about the shame of being in the closet.
“Maybe I can help others to have an easier time,” Page said. “I am tired of hiding, and I'm tired of lying by omission.” To have said she was “lying” is still a stark contrast to the way many celebrities come out these days while simultanesouly implying they hadn't necessarily concealed anything, or while downplaying the impact of coming out. The process is surely different for each of us, even in Hollywood. For Page, “I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. 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 that pain.” — Tracy E. Gilchrist
Tyler Glenn, lead singer, Neon Trees
In a Rolling Stone interview published in March, the Neon Trees' Tyler Glenn, 30, revealed he's gay and the conflicted emotions he has toward his Mormon faith. "We were always taught, and I hate this word, 'tolerance,'" he said in reference to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ opposition to same-sex love both morally and politically. The result was years of repression. "I had my crushes on guys throughout high school, but it was never an overwhelming thing until my 20s," the musician said. "Then I'd be dating girls and in love with my straight friend and it was the worst feeling in the world."
Glenn began coming out privately to family and friends in October 2013 while writing music for the upcoming Neon Trees album Pop Psychology, which includes lyrics that speak about his experiences as a closeted gay man. He says his coming-out was partly inspired by athletes like NFL hopeful Michael Sam, who came forward publicly shortly before Glenn. "I really love all of the sports figures that are coming out recently," he said. "I appreciated Michael Sam was like, 'I want to be able to go to the movies and hold hands with my boyfriend.' Even hearing him say 'boyfriend,' I was just like, 'that's cool.'"
After the interview, Glenn posted a long note on the Neon Trees Facebook page thanking his fans old and new for "so much compassion and love." He then urged them to come out, no matter how that's defined. "I guess the last thing I want to say tonight and for now is if you're like me, a wanderer, a questioner, a soul searcher, a dreamer, or misunderstood for any reason at all: Come out," Glenn concluded. "Come out as a wanderer. Come out as a questioner. One day it won't matter. But it still does. Come out as YOU. That’s all I really can say. That’s what i’d say to me at 21, the scared return mormon missionary who knew this part of himself but loved God too. You can do both. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t." — D.R.
World Wrestling Entertainment veteran Pat Patterson came out as gay on the finale of the WWE network reality series Legends House. In an emotional reveal, the 73-year-old told his fellow wrestling legends that he had not only been keeping the secret of his sexuality from the prying eyes of the public for more than 50 years, but that he had also had a partner for 40 of those years who died of a heart attack.
“For once in my life I’m going to be me,” Patterson told the others, adding that while it was hard to keep his secret, he was proud he survived. Patterson was the WWE’s first intercontinental champion, helped create the Royal Rumble, and is a WWE executive.
“We love you, Pat,” his teary-eyed Legends mates told him, in a heartwarming show of support. “We’ve always loved you.” — J.P.
Sam Smith, Singer
While speaking about the inspiration for his album In the Lonely Hour during an interview with The Fader in May, the British crooner Sam Smith made no pretense about the object of his affections. He spoke candidly about how unrequited love for a man fueled the lyrics for hits like "Stay With Me" and "Leave Your Lover," the music video of which also featured a steamy moment between himself and a man.
"In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?”
Smith added that he was "very comfortable and happy with everything" concerning his sexuality, and he wanted to make the topic a nonissue as much as possible. "I just wanted to talk about him and have it out there,” he told The Fader. “It’s about a guy and that’s what I wanted people to know — I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about. I’ve been treated as normal as anyone in my life; I’ve had no issues. I do know that some people have issues in life, but I haven’t, and it’s as normal as my right arm. I want to make it a normality because this is a nonissue.” — D.R.
Derrick Gordon, basketball player, University of Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts Amherst basketball player Derrick Gordon came out to his teammates in April, making him the first openly gay man to play college basketball. Gordon said he has been watching the news around Brooklyn Nets player Jason Collins, who signed with the team after a lengthy free-agent period following his coming-out last year.
"I just didn't want to hide anymore, in any way," Gordon said to ESPN. "I didn't want to have to lie or sneak. I've been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, 'Why not me?'"
Gordon told his team with the support of his coach Derek Kellogg, Wade Davis from You Can Play, and gay high school basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo. It followed some teasing from teammates who suspected that Gordon might be gay and nearly an entire school year of not going out, not partying, and not socializing very much. "Most of the time when you see me on campus, I'm alone," he told Outsports. "I eat alone a lot. Since the school year started in September I haven't been to one party."
Daniel Franzese, Actor, Mean Girls
When Mean Girls arrived in theaters 10 years ago, few expected it to become the cultural phenomenon it is now — least of all star Daniel Franzese, who gave life to the breakout gay character Damian. "You certainly hope when you pour your heart into something, that people will respond," the 36-year-old actor wrote this year in a letter to his younger self on IndieWire. "But to paraphrase Gretchen Wieners, 'We can’t help it that we’re so popular.'" The adult actor then asks his younger self, "So, why the hell did it take me so long to come out of the closet?"
In both the letter and an appearance on syndicated show Dish Nation, Franzese talked about coming out as gay 10 years after his character was caustically labeled "too gay to function" in the titular mean girls' Burn Book. Explaining the long delay, Franzese said he hit a "gay glass ceiling" in casting after Mean Girls' release. He also described being "pissed" at Damian, leading to a year and a half of celibacy.
So why come out now? In the Dish Nation interview, Franzese cited the 10th anniversary of the film as the primary motivating factor. "More and more people are coming up and talking to me about it again, and especially adult gay males, some in tears," Franzese says. "The reason I wanted to do it was that I didn't see a young, gay, chubby representation of myself. ... That meant a lot to a lot of people." — Kevin O'Keeffe
Matt Llano, professional distance runner
Professional distance runner Matt Llano came out publicly for the first time September 30 in a video released by his running club, Northern Arizona Elite. The video is a part of the club’s YouTube series, “An Open Look,” which follows Llano as he prepares for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
In the episode, Llano remembers how he felt as a young man stuggling with understanding who he is, and his conscious decision to release the shame of being closeted. “You feel alone; you feel scared; you feel like you’re the only one who’s going through this, when in reality, you’re not at all alone.”
Llano says he had a difficult time working up the courage to come out to his parents, particularly uttering the phrase “I’m gay.” And he speaks with nostalgia about being in a more than three-year relationship during college, and how much easier it would have been had they felt comfortable being out. “I do wish that we could have been more open about it, and that people could have known us more in the context of our relationship, rather than just two people who are friends.” The response from young athletes expressing their gratitude to him for coming out publicly has been “surreal and humbling.” — Annie Hollenbeck
In a column on Outsports in April, University of Arizona swimmer Lauren Elizabeth Neidigh described the hardship felt by closeted athletes.
As a person so focused on fitness and training, Neidigh realized staying closeted was affecting her body and her health. "'The overwhelming emotional damage that I’m inflicting on myself by holding all of this is in taking too much of a toll on me,’ I told my cousin. ‘I feel physically drained and I can’t think clearly or focus on anything. This isn’t a healthy way for me to live.’”
The world’s (second) strongest man happens to be gay.
Rob Kearney, a professional StrongMan and first runner-up in the 2013 World’s Strongest Man competition, took to Facebook in October to announce that he is happily dating another man.
Check out the photos of them together if you need a heartwarming moment.
M.K. Nobilette, Singer, American Idol contestant
It’s taken 13 seasons, but American Idol finally had its first openly gay Top 10 contestant this February — in the form of 21-year-old M.K. Nobilette.
While the singing competition reality show has had several contestants who have come out after their season ended, or had acknowledged their orientation off-air, Nobilette is the first to come out publicly on-camera during an episode.
“I’m very obviously gay, and there are always going to be people in America and everywhere else who will definitely hate me,” Nobilette said after she was asked if she thought she could be the next American Idol on the show’s previous episode. “But I think that in the last two years, there have been a lot of things that have really changed that, and have made it a positive thing.” — Jase Peeples
In an essay on Mic.com, Orange Is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli talked about how the show changed her life entirely and made her realize she's a lesbian. “As we started to shape our characters and debate fictional Piper's 'true' sexuality that first season, we engaged in long discussions about sex, gender and our own experiences. I eagerly shared details of innocent, 'above-the-waist' flirtations with girls when I'd been younger. I'd even excitedly blurted out, 'I would totally sleep with her,' about an actress who had auditioned for Alex (now played brilliantly by Laura Prepon, who shares the role with a pair of glasses). I went to therapy that night and casually mentioned that perhaps I was higher on the Kinsey Scale than I previously thought.” —Rebekah Allen
After Morelli's news, another round of headlines started when she and actress Samira Wiley announced they're dating. The couple is incredibly cute on Instagram, by the way.
Wiley's had a big year with a prominent plotline on OITNB while also being named "Ingenue of the Year" as she appeared on the cover of Out magazine as part of its annual OUT100.
Ian Thorpe, Olympic swimmer
Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe confirmed he is gay in an interview that was broadcast July on Australia's Channel 10. There had been speculation about Thorpe’s sexuality for years, and in his 2012 autobiography, This Is Me, he denied being gay and called the rumors hurtful.
But in an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson, the Aussie swimmer, now 31, finally revealed his truth, saying, “I’m not straight. And this is only something that very recently, we’re talking in the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that.”
Thorpe, who won five gold medals, three silver, and one bronze over the course of the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, said he had wanted to come out for some time but feared the reaction. “What happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity,” he told Parkinson. “And, you know, a little bit of ego comes into this. I didn’t want people to question that ... have I lied about everything?” He added that he felt some shame about not coming out earlier. Now, he said, “I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable, and you can be gay.” — Trudy Ring
Patricia Yurena, Miss Spain 2008 and 2013
Patricia Yurena Rodríguez, winner of Miss Spain in both 2008 and 2013, came out as a lesbian in an Instagram post in August, making her the first openly lesbian beauty queen.
The picture, captioned "Romeo and Juliet" shows Rodríguez in an intimate moment with girlfriend, Vanesa Klein, a Spanish DJ and singer. (Our sister site, SheWired, assembled a tribute of sorts to Miss Spain that shares 11 more photos from her Instagram account.)
Rodríguez later took to Twitter, saying, "Thanks for all your comments. I published the picture completely spontaneously and in an impulsive manner. Thank you for all your support."
Andreja Pejic, Model
Andreja Pejic was a 19-year-old wunderkind in the fashion world when The Advocate first profiled the Bosnian-born model in 2011. Pejic, our publication wrote, is “on the brink of supermodel status,” and has an ability to walk Jean-Paul Gaultier’s catwalk in both men’s and women’s attire that placed Pejic in “in a post-gender league of his own.”
As a model, Pejic has already achieved wild success, having appeared on the cover of New York magazine as well as in the music video for David Bowie’s “The Stars Are Out Tonight.” In July, after years of challenging the gender divide in fashion, Pejic came out as a transgender woman on Entertainment Tonight. Following her appearance, Pejic wrote a note on her Facebook wall thanking the public for its support and also extending a hand to gender-noncomforming youth.
“I know it's hard, I've been there, but remember it’s your right to be accepted as what you identify with — you deserve the same respect as any other human being on this planet,” she wrote. “As a transgender woman I hope to show that after transition (a life-saving process) one can be happy and successful in their new chapter without having to alienate their past. Most importantly differences should not equal divisions, let's all stand together in union.” — Daniel Reynolds
British-born Christian rock singer and religious commentator Vicky Beeching, who has a large audience in the U.S., came out in an interview published in August in the U.K.’s Independent. Reporter Patrick Strudwick describes a meeting with her in which she handed him a note confirming "I'm gay."
Beeching, who was brought up in a Pentecostal church and then joined the evangelical branch of the Church of England, says she has been attracted to the same sex since she was a child and that she went through an exorcism at a Christian camp as a teen, an experience she describes as “degrading.” Five years ago, she had a life-changing experience. She was diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease called linear scleroderma morphea, which turns the body’s soft tissues into scar tissue. Shortly into a course of treatment that would last 18 months, she made a vow to come out by age 35. —Trudy Ring
Charlie King, Reality TV Star
Just in time for Coming Out Day, reality star Charlie King appeared on television this week to come forward about his identity. Seen as being in a romantic relationship with a woman on the British series The Only Way Is Essex, King came clean that his portrayal in the reality series was not as real as the category would imply.
"I feel that I'm ready now. And even though I'm nervous sitting here sort of talking about it, I know that the time is now," he told Amanda Holden of ITV’s This Morning.
Addressing how his search for identity was a plotline of the show, King said, "I never really knew where I belonged. I never really knew where I fitted in. And it was something I had to address, and it’s taken me a good few years to kind of get here now and say, ‘I’m Charlie. I’m 29 year old. I’m a gay man and I’m very comfortable with that.'”
“I had a girlfriend, she was the first person I spoke to and told,” King confirmed. “It was a proper relationship, but I was very aware when I was seeing her things weren't quite right. If something doesn't click, it doesn't click.”
Marcus Juhlin, athlete
Marcus Juhlin, Swedish champion in American Football, came out in the April issue of QX magazine. In the story, Juhlin says that he didn't just come out for himself, he did it for all young people who feel that they don't belong or fit in. He's the first American football player in Sweden to come out.
—Jerry Portwood, Out magazine
—Dennis Hinzman, Out magazine