Coming out can be a stressful situation for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Revealing ourselves in front of our loved ones/acquaintances/co-workers can be terrifying, and sometimes being honest comes with a price to pay. Imagine how much more difficult it could be when you've got the whole world looking at you. Coming out is even more complicated for celebrities, because -not so long ago- it could affect their careers if the truth got out of them being lesbians. Let’s see a few examples from the past years’ coming out stories that are special for a reason.
The honorary first: Ellen DeGeneres
Whom else to begin with, other than the one and only Ellen, who came out 20 years ago. Ellen broke the silence in the 14th April 1997 issue of Time magazine, answering the long awaited question with the sentence: 'Yep, I’m gay'. At the end of April, she said on Oprah Winfrey’s talk-show that she thought it was nobody’s business who she was with. Then she realized that this secret she’s been carrying has been eating her up inside. This is the reason why she decided to announce it publicly. Not to become The Lesbian Actress, but to become an advocate to the lesbian community. Simply for herself. And then came the surprise: she never thought that her coming out could become a public sensation, and the topic of so many conversations.
And with thunder comes lightning: only a few hours after her Oprah interview, the main character of the TV show called Ellen, came out too. “The Puppy episode” which has become iconic since, was seen by 44 million people, which is three times more than the usual views:
Ellen’s honesty put her career off for many years. The TV series was canceled after one year and nobody offered her a new role. She said in an interview in 1999 that she was disappointed with how the public took it, she thought people would be more acceptable. Perhaps it was too soon to come out.
However, she probably has a different opinion since then. We do for sure. It’s been two decades since Ellen’s coming out, and she’s been offered multiple new opportunities. She became the host of one of the most popular talk-shows, hosted an Oscar gala, and last year she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Thank you, Ellen!
Coming out by accident: Sarah Paulson
You may know her from American Horror Story, American Crime Story and Carol, she used to be the lover of Cherry Jones back in 2005. When Cherry - who was playing on Broadway at the time - won a Tony-award, the couple shared a kiss before accepting the award.
She won a Tony Award, I kissed her, and all of a sudden I was outed. 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.
Sarah Paulson is currently in a relationship with Holland Taylor, 32 years older than her.
The football player who came out right before the London Olympics: Megan Rapinoe
Rapinoe is a widely known athlete, a crafty member of United States women's national soccer team. (Female soccer is much more popular overseas than in our country.) She plays for Seattle and the US national team, while being a supporter and spokesperson of multiple LGBTQ organizations. Right before the London Olympics, she spoke up, saying nobody ever asked her if she was gay or not, but she felt like it was time to come out. Her opinion is that sport in general is homophobic: there are very few athletes who are out, even though the supporters and the sport itself would surely benefit from more and more coming outs.
I would say [to other athletes] to come out! That it is alright and it will be alright. The awful things you imagine are much worse than what happens when and after you come out. A lot of people will be beside you, the whole thing is so liberating. (...) People still come to me and say thank you for coming out, this is so cool. (...) There are people that don’t know what to do with the whole LGBT community, but then they see me play, somebody whom they always loved, so they realize that this is just totally OK.
Coming out at the age of six: Ruby Rose
The australian model, TV personality and actress is well-known for her role in Orange Is The New Black. Ruby Rose never hid how her identity is very different than the norm. According to her, modeling helped her discover androgynous self, and lately she labels herself as gender neutral.
She knew when I was six apparently… I didn’t know anyone else that was gay or a lesbian. So I didn’t really know how to word it. So I was just like, ‘I think I should let you know that when I eventually get a boyfriend, they’ll be a girl.’ And she was just like, ‘I know.’
The one who fired her PR-advisor for wanting to keep it a secret: Cynthia Nixon
The star of Sex And The City, who played Emily Dickinson in the biographical movie, Quiet Passion, has only been with men until the age of 37. She has two kids from her relationship with Danny Mozes. In 2004, she started dating activist Christine Marinoni, and married her in 2012.
In the beginning, Cynthia kept it as a secret despite the growing suspense around her, because her PR-advisor told her to. Later on, it became uncomfortable to hide the fact that she was living together with her partner, so she fired her advisor. Instead, she trusted openly lesbian Kelly Bush with her PR, who was gladly welcoming the idea of coming out.
Cynthia is a gay-rights activist, claims to be bisexual, and she doesn’t really feel like anything’s different, just because she is with another woman.
I don't really feel I've changed. I'd been with men all my life, and I'd never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn't seem so strange. I'm just a woman in love with another woman. (...) I identify as gay as a political stance. If anybody, prior to my meeting and falling in love with Christine, had asked me about what I think about sexuality, I would have said I think we’re all bisexual.
It's not over yet, the list is to be continued tomorrow!
Translated by Éva Csermendy