UPDATE: See the updated version of this post HERE!
"I think coming out…is really about coming out as your authentic self, coming out as the person you always knew you were but no one else may have known, and now you're sharing that honestly with people for the first time."
Such is how Rodrigo Lehtinen, the trans son of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, explained to CBS Miami last month what it meant for him to now be open about who he is.
It's as simple as that, whether you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or some fluid combination of any of them. But it's certainly an act of courage in a world where LGBTQ people face obstacles in marriage, employment, and even basic acceptance. In many places, the status of being 'out' about one's sexual orientation or gender identity is dangerous, even life-threatening.
In 2014 thousands, perhaps millions of people came out all over the world. They all made a difference. The folks featured here are just a few who happened to make a big difference and caught our eye on Towleroad this year. Some are well-known, some are little-known: the CEO of the largest corporation in the world, an NFL player, a Kenyan literary figure, fashion models, the foreign minister of a Baltic state, country singers, Mormon pop stars, a few of the stars of your favorite television shows, and unknowns from the world of YouTube.
When it comes to coming out, 2014 was certainly the year of the athlete.
Of the 80 people on our list this year, more than 1/3 come from the sports world — football, baseball, boxing, tennis, long distance running, hurling, basketball, rowing, and diving. Many of these athletes are making a name for themselves in college sports, many in conservative places. Twenty-one come from the entertainment world. And they are from all over the world — Japan, Peru, Ireland, Uruguay, Brazil, Germany, Australia, Finland, Canada, Spain, Chile, and more… Also, the leader of a company worth more than all the world's airlines combined, worth more than the entire Russian stock market.
It's quite an impressive group of folks. We're proud of all of you. By choosing to come out as L, G, B, T, queer, or whatever label your sexual orientation or gender identity is telling you is yours, you've made life easier for all those who haven't come out yet, and all those who are currently struggling for their civil and human rights.
Please enjoy reading their stories. And share this post with your friends, family, and anyone in the closet to whom you'd like to offer a bit of courage or support.
Read on, AFTER THE JUMP…
Contributions to this post were made earlier this year by Kyler Geoffroy, Sean Mandell, Joseph Ehrman-Dupre, Steve Pep, Brian Sloan, Daniel Villareal, Anthony Costello, Jim Redmond, Charles Pulliam-Moore, Christian Walters, John Wright, and Jake Folsom.
Make sure not to miss a Towleroad headline by following @TLRD on Twitter.
1 and 2. ASAP Science vloggers Gregory Brown and Mitchell Moffitt
Gregory Brown and Mitchell Moffitt, the guys behind the wildly popular ASAP Science videos we feature on Towleroad and a real-life couple for seven years, never officially came out of the closet online, until June.
They said they felt the need to come out because of the trolling, homophobic comments they receive on some of their videos.
3. Vicky Beeching, Christian rocker
Spurred by the onset of an autoimmune disease she felt was triggered by the years of stress caused by being in the closet, Christian rocker and songwriter Vicky Beeching rejected the years of desolation the church had subjected her to, and decided to live her own truth. Beeching, the UK star of the American Christian rock scene, whose music is sung at megachurches across the heartland, had had enough.
In August, Beeching described the isolation she began to feel as a teen as she realized she was gay to the UK's Independent:
"I increasingly began to feel like I was living behind an invisible wall. The inner secrecy of holding that inside was divorcing me from reality – I was living in my own head. Anybody I was in a friendship with, or anything I was doing in the church, was accompanied by an internal mantra: 'What if they knew?' It felt like all of my relationships were built on this ice that would break if I stepped out on to it."
"When I [told a priest] that I had feelings for the same sex he prayed the prayer of absolution, for me to be forgiven. And that was it….I felt there was something really wrong with me, that maybe I was so sinful and awful I couldn't be healed."
"I felt like it was ripping me in half. I knew I couldn't carry on. I was trying to align the loving God I knew and believed in with this horrendous reality of what was going on inside me….I remember kneeling down and absolutely sobbing into the carpet. I said to God, 'You have to either take my life or take this attraction away because I cannot do both.'"
Beeching says she has made it her mission to be "part of the change" to a more accepting Christian religion.
4. Carlos Bruce, Peruvian congressman
Congressman Carlos Bruce came out of the closet in May in an interview with Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, saying, “Yes, I am gay and I am proud to belong to this group of people who are so valuable to Perú."
Bruce is Peru's first openly gay congressman and the sponsor of that country's bill that would legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and ban discrimination against LGBT people.
5. Pete Cahall, Wilson High School Principal, Washington DC
Pete Cahall, the principal of Wilson High School in Washington D.C., gave students and staff the shock of their lives in June when he presided over a planned school LGBT Pride event — and came out of the closet! Video here.
Cahall, 50, was flanked by Mayor Vincent C. Gray and David Catania, the D.C. Council’s first openly gay member and said that he would have felt like a hypocrite as a closet gay man presiding over a Pride event. Cahall said he took comfort in the recent comings out of NBA player Jason Collins and NFL player Michael Sam.
6. Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, U.S. Snowboarder
Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, a U.S. snowboarder who missed the cut for Team USA, came out of the closet in February on ESPN's Outside the Lines, one of several athletes who did so as a protest against Russia's anti-LGBT laws.
Said Chythlook-Sifsof: "I realized coming out publicly isn't just about yourself but it's also about realizing the greater scope of what's going on and becoming a voice against something. It's important to come out and take a stand and show the world that it's not OK to be a bigot."
Follow her on: Instagram.
7. Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc., the largest publicly traded company in the world and maker of the iPhone, iPad, and Macintosh computer, broke historic barriers in October by becoming the first openly gay CEO in the Fortune 500, or Fortune 1000 for that matter.
Wrote Cook, who had long been rumored to be gay, in a piece at Bloomberg Businessweek:
While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.
The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant. Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.
I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.
Prior to coming out, Cook made powerful statements about LGBT rights and the need for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) protecting LGBT workers from being fired over their sexual orientation.
Follow him on Twitter.
8. Ivan Cruz and his Dachshund Thor, Creative Vloggers
Among those comings out we deem to be significant are non-famous folks who create a stir on social media, broadcasting a powerful message about being open, and living truth.
Included in that group this year is Ivan Cruz, a young man with a very adorable dachshund named Thor. Back in January, Cruz summoned his creativity and shot a video in which Thor helps him come out.
Wrote Cruz in the clip, which has been viewed nearly 100,000 times.
I never imagined the day I'd come out. For a long time, I lived in the same fear that many others currently live in. With the help of my best-four-legged-friend, Thor, I decided to make this video and share my coming out story. A big thanks to all the brave people on here who have taken the time to share their own coming out stories and that have inspired me to do the same.
This is my story. Enjoy.
Follow him on: YouTube.
9. Conor Cusack, Irish Hurler
Irish hurler Conor Cusack came out of the closet in a lengthy blog post published in January. Cusack played the Gaelic sport of hurling with the Cork senior inter-county team in 2006 and now plays with the local club in Cloyne. He has made national headlines in Ireland for his devotion to helping others battle depression, which he has battled his whole life.
I’ve known for a good while now that I have been sexually attracted to men. In that time, I’ve had relationships with women, and enjoyed them immensely but I’ve always had more fulfilment from being with a man. I’m not sure what label society would categorise me under. I remember a doctor one time telling me I was a bi-polar depressive and a different guy a few weeks later telling me I was a manic depressive. Go figure that one out! Life for me is never black or white (though I know a lot about the blackness) but more about different shades of grey….
…I have been comfortable with this area of my life and I never felt the need to discuss it with anyone. That is until recently. As I crossed the border from Galway into Clare and then back home to Cork and through the towns of Buttevant, Charleville and Mallow, I thought strongly about the current Mental Health work I am involved with. I thought about all the different people that I have spoken to and about all the upcoming events that I have committed to. I asked myself the question ‘Do I need to talk and discuss this aspect and area of my life?
Cusack is the brother of hurler Donal Og Cusack, who came out as gay in 2009. Hurling is an outdoor game of Gaelic origin, in which players use a wooden stick to maneuver a ball into an opposing team's goal.
10 and 11. Cynic Bandmates Paul Masidal and Sean Reinert
One of the more unusual comings out of the year was a disclosure by two members of the progressive rock band Cynic, who decided to come out in an article in the L.A. Times in May.
Wrote the paper:
…there's one thing that Masvidal and Reinert have stayed quiet about in their public lives, until now.
Both men are gay and stars in a music scene where bands can wear corpse-paint makeup and leather S&M garb while singing about Satan and dismemberment — yet genuinely nonconforming sexuality hasn't always been welcome.
Though they've been comfortably out for years in their private lives, the two haven't yet spoken about their sexuality in the context of their music.
As artists, they've pushed the edges of heavy metal music for most of their lives. Now they're ready to challenge old stereotypes about sexuality in one of music's most aggressively masculine genres.
The two came out in their personal lives at separate times, one before the other:
Masvidal had come out to friends and family in 1991, and later began exploring drag bars and gay nightclubs while on tour. Reinert a bit took longer to come out. (And, they stress, they've never been attracted to each other.)
"I knew that, secretly, I wanted to go to those clubs too," Reinert, 42, said. "But back then, my stereotype of how to be gay was wearing dresses and tank tops. I didn't have any masculine, metal role models who were gay."
12. Tom Daley, British Diver (for the second time)
British Olympian Tom Daley (above right, with actor and host Joe Swash) makes this list for a second time.
While the diminutive diver came out of the closet famously in a YouTube video in 2013, at that time he declared that he "still fancied girls".
Daley clearly sought to clarify that statement in a TV appearance he made in April on UK network ITV's Celebrity Juice.
Declared Daley during an interview: "I am a gay man now."
Daley is the squeeze of screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
13. Suzette Davenport, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, UK
Suzette Davenport, the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, UK, came out of the closet in June at the county's LGBT Pride festival to huge cheers and applause.
"It is not tattooed on my forehead but I don’t hide it either. I could have stood up and talked about facts and figures but people would have switched off. Instead I thought it would be better to talk about something more personal to me. The police have made significant progress on these issues and we are much better than some public sector organisations but there is still some room to improve. We have low levels of hate crime in Gloucestershire too. They are significantly below the national average. But I want people to understand hate crime. I know what it feels like having been through it myself."
Follow her on Twitter.
14. Liam Davis, Semi-Pro UK Footballer
UK semi-pro footballer Liam Davis, a winger for Gainsborough Trinity, came out of the closet in January, inspired by a similar disclosure from retired Premier League footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger.
Said Davis in an interview:
“I personally hope that over the next 10 years I’m not the only gay footballer out there. Nobody wants to be forced out, but I hope they can look and see there is someone out there who has done it. I hope we can get to a stage where it is not a bad thing, that there is no problem and people just get on with it.”
“My partner and I work in the same place and it will probably come across that we are a couple. But people do not walk out of our restaurant because of that. They come in for some good food and good service. It should be the same in football. I should be able to picked, or not picked, on merit, not because of my sexuality. You are there to play and do a good job for your team.”
Follow him on Twitter.
15. Nick Deutsch, Singer
Singer-songwriter Nick Deutsch came out of the closet via a music video called "Run" in October.
I believe that regardless of career, being open is still very much a big deal, although I do appreciate and empathize with the over-arching view that “it’s no longer a big deal to be gay.” Even with Sam Smith sitting tall at the billboard top ten, we are sorely in need of supportive voices to counter the awful statistics and narratives that have historically plagued the LGBTQ community. It feels ridiculous to consider portraying myself as anything but confident with who I am as a gay man, especially within the wider context of the enormous social changes that have occurred.
Because I’m blessed to be in a position to have a voice, I consider it an honor to be different. The deeply understood reality of this quick, short life has resolved me to live it on my terms and not be ignorant to the reality that most of human suffering is tied to flexible beliefs. I’m not pushing my sexuality in anyone’s face as much as I’m being who I am. I’m not a gay songwriter as much as I’m a songwriter who happens to be gay. In regards to “Run,” I put a male actor in my video because the song was written about one. I fell in love with a boy and got my heart broken, so that’s what you’ll see.
Here's the video:
16. Federico Diaz, Uruguayan Actor and Model
Federico Díaz, an Uruguayan soap opera and entertainment heartthrob, came out as gay via Twitter in May.
"The day has come! Only God knows when and how. I only let myself be guided. I feel that God has awarded me with homosexuality, the sensation of confusion that I had and the uncertainty throughout the years of knowing who I really am has been left behind. Today I am starting to walk a new life, with no ties, no lies, no annoyances or pain, due to the fact that these feelings only depress and generate anguish in the heart. I came to this Earth to be HAPPY, to hug, to realize dreams, to take care of my loved ones and to leave a positive footprint in life. I am gay and I am sharing this with respect, love and gratitude to everyone that gives meaning to my life. Thank you for everything and together we will achieve more. I love you all very much."
Díaz was linked romantically with Ricky Martin in February, in a report alleging that he was partially responsible for Martin's break-up with his longtime partner. Díaz has flatly denied those allegations.
17. Ryan Dolan, Singer, Eurovision Star
Ryan Dolan, who became internationally known as Ireland’s contestant in Eurovision’s Song Contest last year, came out of the closet in February in an interview with Ireland’s Radio One.
"In school I was confused about who I was, and it was really hard for me growing up because of that. It was hard to deal with because I knew that I was gay, but I couldn't get the courage to talk to someone about it…My father was the last person to find out because I was afraid of what he would think. I think he actually took it the better than anyone I told. I couldn’t ask for better parents, they’ve been great to me my whole life. My whole life I built it up in my head. The more I thought about it the harder it got. Telling my father was the main thing because me and my father would be very close…It’s not a big deal anymore. Things have changed compared to even when I was in school. Young people are coming out now at 15 or 16 which would never have happened when I was at school…Thinking back now I wish I would have came out about it a long time ago. I think my youth was wasted worrying all the time about it. If I had been more open back then I would have been happier."
Shortly after coming out, Dolan released a video for his track "Start Again". The clip focuses on two gay teens who know they're gay and the issues they're faced with from unaccepting peers.
18. Matt Dooley, Varsity Tennis Player, Notre Dame University
Notre Dame varsity tennis player Matt Dooley made a big splash at the deeply Catholic university when he came out of the closet in a powerful self-penned article on Outsports in March.
Wrote Dooley of a suicide attempt he had made:
On September 16, 2011, early in my sophomore year at Notre Dame, I attempted to take my own life. That day I wanted nothing more than to escape the anguish of coming out to my family, my friends, and, in a way, myself. Death was better than accepting – or revealing – that I was gay.
Awakening in my hospital bed to the aftermath, my very first thoughts were of my family – I didn't want them to know I was gay or that I tried to kill myself. Fr. Dan Nolan assured me that they didn't know, and that the events of the previous night would remain confidential should I so wish. Even he was oblivious to my sexual orientation – that secret remained buried.
When I was led out of the hospital to the designated psychiatric ward, I was in handcuffs like a criminal. I felt the part. For the next 36 hours I shared a room with a schizophrenic. I was 19 years old, more lost than I'd ever been, and I was scared. I remember thinking: There is no way back from this.
Dooley found his way back, eventually finding acceptance among his teammates at Notre Dame. The school released a powerful video in March.
In the clip, Dooley speaks about the struggles he faced being in the closet and also some emotional interviews with his teammate Greg Andrews and head coach about what it means to them to share the experience of his coming out.
Says Dooley: "I started to realize obviously that a lot of it was a problem with me. That I wasn't allowing myself to be successful, and to accept myself, and accept the trust and love of my parents."
19. Simon Dunn, Australian Bobsledder, Olympic Hopeful
Australian bobsledder Simon Dunn came out publicly as gay in November to Australian gay website Same Same.
“I’m the brakemen for Lucas Mata who was Heath Spence’s brakemen at the Sochi Olympics. I love competing in bobsleigh. The adrenaline rush. Using my strengths from rugby and excelling in a different sport. I love representing my country. And I’m also proud of the fact that I’m the first out gay man in the sport to do so!”
Dunn also plays for the Sydney Convicts gay rugby team. “My years playing rugby for the Sydney Convicts in Sydney definitely helped my conditioning to be ready for the sport.”
It's that conditioning that has also helped him attract a large following on Instagram, where he keeps excellent track of it.
20. Mitch Eby, NCAA Football Player
Mitch Eby, a junior defensive end on the Chapman University Football team, came out as gay at the end of March aided by the help of a conversation with Willamette University kicker Connor Mertens, who also came out this year, in January.
Mertens' support helped Eby get the courage to write a speech which he recited to his team in the locker room:
I am ready to share with you all that I am gay.
"It has taken me years to accept myself for who I truly am, so it's irrational to expect everybody to unconditionally accept me right away. However, the one thing that I hope that I can count on from each of you, my teammates, is your respect. Your respect as a friend, your respect as a teammate, and your respect as a man.
"Being gay may be something that defines me, but it does not limit me. It is such a small part of who I am. I am the same person you all know, no different than before. I'm still the kid that is obsessed with pretty much anything having to do with sports, I'm still the kid that some of you love to call stupid nicknames like ‘mom' and ‘hot dog,' and I'm still someone who will continue to go out there every day and push myself and push my teammates to be the best football team around. I am your teammate, I am your classmate and I am your brother. And I know that my brothers will continue to stand by my side, no matter what."
Eby's announcement was met, to his surprise, with cheers and applause.
Follow him on Twitter.
21 and 22. Ana Laura "La Monita" Esteche + Johanna "Yoki" Giménez, professional boxers
Argentinian boxer Ana Laura "La Monita" Esteche came out publicly in January immediately after winning the light welterweight championship for the World Boxing Association. In the interview directly after the bout, Esteche thanked "her woman".
"Her woman" is Johanna "Yoki" Giménez, another WBA professional boxer.
Added Esteche, of coming out: "It's that it's something that you should not hide, after all happiness is not something you should hide, it's something to be shared and I – we – are happy."
Photo below courtesy of Martín Canevaro and the 100% Diversity & Rights collective.
Follow her on: Twitter.
23. John Fennell, Canadian Luger, Olympian
"[The closet is] suffocating. You have to play this game of, ‘who knows?’ You can’t let off any vibes or secrets. You have to act super macho. You have to be hyper aware of your mannerisms and to not let off any vibes that could get detected. It’s very exhausting. It’s an all-consuming paranoia of who could find out through what means."
Part of what prompted his coming out, Fennell says, is the sense of isolation he felt at Sochi:
"I was a little distraught over the lack of leadership going into Sochi. There were a few out girls, but to my knowledge there weren’t any out guys, and I know they’re there….I’m an athlete. Realistically, I put on a spandex suit and slide down a mountain. I’m no message board for political movements. But we need to have leaders in our sport community. If it takes a 19 year old to step up and to that, I’m more than willing to use my voice or the platform that I’ve been given to give a figurehead to gay youth in sport."
Follow him on Twitter.
24. Jim Ferlo, Pennsylvania State Senator
A horrific mob attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia's City Center in September set in motion a string of events that soon had prominent Pennsylvania lawmakers including out Rep. Brian Sims calling for the state to pass LGBT-inclusive hate crime laws.
State Senator Jim Ferlo came out of the closet at a press conference in Harrisburg calling for the legislation:
"As many of us in the gay community say, don't fight the feeling. Well I've never fought the feeling and I've had great friendships and relationships and I am gay…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."
Follow him on Twitter.
25. Connor Franta, YouTube Star
Connor Franta, a 22-year-old YouTube vlogger with more than 3.6 million subscribers, came out as gay in December saying he was tired of the charade:
"In just one year I've honestly felt like I'm so happy with who I am. And I'm making this video because I was sick of having to think constantly about what I was doing, what I was saying, what I was wearing. I don't want to have to think about everything I do. I just want to be able to be me and not be afraid. I'm sick of censoring myself. This is just one little part of who I am. And I'm not going to let my sexuality define or confine me. It's part of me, it's not all of me."
26. Daniel Franzese, Actor (Mean Girls, Looking)
Actor Daniel Franzese, best known for his role as Damian in the classic 2004 Tina Fey film Mean Girls, came out in April by writing a letter to his cinematic alter ego.
Wrote Franzese in his letter to Damian:
"There were industry people who had seen me play you in Mean Girls but never seen me read in an audition but still denied me to be seen for 'masculine' roles…Damian, you had ruined my life and I was really pissed at you. I became celibate for a year and a half. I didn’t go to any gay bars, have any flings and I lied to anyone who asked if I was gay. I even brought a girl to the ‘Mean Girls’ premiere and kissed her on the red carpet, making her my unwitting beard. Meanwhile, I was still in the closet. Deleting tweets that asked if I was gay, scrubbing IMDB Message Boards for any indication."
"My friends and family all knew the truth but now it's time everyone does. Perhaps this will help someone else. I’m not afraid anymore. Of Hollywood, the closet or mean girls. Thank you for that, Damian. (And Tina.). … P.S. I hate it when people say I’m 'too gay to function.' I know you do, too. Those people are part of the problem. They should refrain from using that phrase. It really is ONLY okay when Janis says it."
Franzese will be appearing soon in a major multi-episode arc as a love interest in the second season of HBO's Looking.
27. Billy Gilman, Country Music Star
Billy Gilman, a country star since the age of 12 when he became the youngest artist to score a Billboard Top 40 country hit with 2000's "One Voice", came out of the closet in November after being inspired by a similar same-day disclosure from fellow country star Ty Herndon.
Said Gilman in a video posted to YouTube:
"You know, it's difficult for me to make this video not because I'm ashamed of being a gay male artist or a gay artist or a gay person. But it's pretty silly to know that I'm ashamed of doing this knowing that because I'm in a genre and industry that is ashamed of me for being me. That said, I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up with – Keith Urban, Vince, LeAnn Rimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive. Not that they knew but they've just been such wonderful people."
28. Tyler Glenn, Lead Singer, Neon Trees
Tyler Glenn, the lead singer of the rock band Neon Trees and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, came out as gay in March in an article in Rolling Stone magazine.
"I had my crushes on guys throughout high school, but it was never an overwhelming thing until my twenties. Then I'd be dating girls and in love with my straight friend and it was the worst feeling in the world."
Glenn also tweeted on the day the article was published: "Yes. I am a happy and healthy Mormon gay pop star. I don't know what it all means, but I'm ok with it. "
In the Rolling Stone article, he also commented on his religion and his Church's role in funding the Proposition 8 campaign in California:
"We were always taught, and I hate this word, 'tolerance.' The only time that felt different was when the Prop 8 thing came up."
29. Derrick Gordon, Basketball Player, UMass
Derrick Gordon, a shooting guard at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, made basketball history twice this year – first when he became the first active male NCAA Division 1 basketball player to come out publicly in April, and second in November when he became the first openly gay player in a NCAA Division 1 game.
Gordon, who says being in the closet began to consume him, told his story to Outsports in April. He said his coming out process began after teammates began teasing him about a photo that he had posted and 'liked' on Instagram which showed him at a gay bar.
"That was probably the lowest point I was ever at. I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. I just wanted to run and hide somewhere. I used to go back to my room and I'd just cry. There were nights when I would cry myself to sleep….Nobody should ever feel that way."
In an emotional locker room meeting, Gordon revealed to his teammates that what they had been speculating and teasing him about was true. It was a confession that drove many of his teammates to tears, according to accounts, when they realized that he had nearly left the team.
Gordon said recently he was also inspired by NBA player Jason Collins, who came out in 2013:
“Everything leads to the NBA for me, and I didn’t want my dreams to be shattered because of my sexuality…So when I saw him come out, that inspired me. I said, ‘If he’s in the NBA and he’s openly gay then maybe I can be the same way.' And when he played for Brooklyn, I saw a YouTube video of him coming into the game and the whole crowd stood up and applauded. It was, like, man, he has a lot of people supporting him. That did it for me."
30. Van Hansis, Actor (As The World Turns, Eastsiders)
Van Hansis, an actor who starred on As The World Turns from 2005 to 2010 but became better known to LGBT audiences recently via the popular web series Eastsiders, began speaking publicly for the first time about being gay this year.
He told The Fight magazine why in October:
I guess it was a combination of a lot of things—It was my first job, it was a different time back then in regards to LGBT stories being told—I mean, the Luke story was groundbreaking at the time. Now, I think every remaining soap has a gay storyline. I was completely green, fresh out of college, and honestly, I was scared.
I think this is part of the reason I connect with a show like “Eastsiders” so much. It, along with so many other really remarkable shows—whether LGBT focused, or just including some really great LGBT characters- are changing the narrative on preconceived notions. While for decades LGBT characters in cinema could be the villain, victim, or asexual comedic relief—shows like what you have created have characters so well rounded that you can be all three, and so much more. As we all are, often in the same day.
Follow him on Twitter.
31. Deborah Harry, Musician, Icon
When asked whether long-standing rumours of her affairs with girls were true, she said, 'Yeah,’ adding: ‘Let’s say women are more sensual.'
Harry, who enjoyed a long-term relationship with fellow band member Chris Stein, did not name any of her female lovers. She also insisted that her most enduring relationships had been with men and that she longed to fall in love again. 'I don’t know if I have any specific requirements,’ she said. 'Just somebody nice, who has a good sense of humour and loves to have sex. What more could you ask for?'
32. Don Harwin, Australian MP
Australian Liberal MP Don Harwin came out to colleagues in an emotional speech delivered on the last sitting day of Parliament in November.
"Life is so different for [young gay and lesbian people today] than it was for me. Much has been achieved since then, and perhaps my travails in less happy times gave me the determination I needed to pursue this role…It is remarkable how quickly public opinion has shifted and, indeed, our house has voted to support marriage equality in principle. I hope that my many friends who are waiting for the opportunity to marry will not have to wait too much longer for the Commonwealth Parliament to reform the law."
Harwin said he had been out privately for two decades. Australia fights on for marriage equality.
Follow him on: Facebook.
33. Ty Herndon, Country Music Star
Ty Herndon, a country singer charting on Billboard for more than two decades, came out of the closet as gay in November with an interview in People magazine and an accompanying interview on Entertainment Tonight.
Herndon, twice married to women, said his ex-wives "absolutely" knew about his sexual orientation. His longtime partner Matt helped him come out, he told the magazine:
"During an Anthony Robbins seminar, I realized I had an incredible story that could possibly help someone's son or daughter or grandchild's life not be as difficult as mine has been. Maybe they wouldn't have to go through as much pain and suffering. It's time to tell my truth…I'm an out, proud and happy gay man…"
Herndon said he had no problem reconciling his sexual orientation with his Christian faith:
"I sit on the tailgate of my pickup truck, and I meditate, and I talk to God…That's really all I need to know. I have a connection to something bigger than myself, and no one's going to tell me that I can't have it. We get to choose who we love, and that includes God, and he loves us back…[Gay Christian kids] can be loved by God, they can be married one day, they can have a family, they can give their parents grandkids. And they're not broken, they're not sinners and they're perfectly beautiful."
Watch Herndon's ET interview HERE.
34. Thomas Hitzlsperger, German Footballer
Retired 31-year-old German footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger became the most high-profile European footballer to come out of the closet in January, telling German newspaper Die Zeit that he's gay and wanted to go public to raise awareness about homosexuality among professional athletes.
"It's been a long and difficult process. Only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living together with a man…In England, Italy and Germany being a homosexual is no big thing, at least not in the dressing room…I was never ashamed of being who I am but it was not always easy to sit on a table with 20 young men and listen to jokes about gays. You let them get on with it as long as the jokes are somewhat funny and not too insulting…Being gay is topic that is 'ignored' in football and not 'a serious topic in the changing room'. Fighting spirit, passion and winning mentality are intrinsically linked, that doesn't fit the cliché: 'Gays are soft'."
Hitzlsperger played on the German national team 52 times, including in the World Cup, and retired in late 2013.
35. Unknown Japanese Student
Earlier we mentioned that this year's coming out list features several notable entries that made a splash on social media over the past year. In March we featured a video of a 17-year-old unidentified Japanese student's entry in the Hokkaido Prefectural English Speech Contest, held in Sapporo, Japan.
The student chose to give his speech on LGBT rights and came out while doing so.
The speech in full:
This summer, shocking news ran through the world. The Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a law to restrict the rights of gay people. Many western countries are quite offended by this idea and some people believe that we should boycott the Olympics which will be held in Sochi next winter. The Charter of the Olympics declares that the spirit of Olympics is to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic movement. According to this policy, we have to say this law is totally against the spirit of the Olympics.
Why do gay people have to face discrimination? Is it because they are not heterosexual? Is it a sin to love somebody of the same gender? The law cannot control love or people's feelings.
Discrimination is the practice of treating one person or group differently from another in an unfair way. In a sense, human history has been repeating itself, one kind of discrimination after another. Racial, sexual, religious discrimination and so on.
This year the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech made by Martin Luther King. In his speech he was dreaming of the world without any discrimination where his children are living happily with different races. His speech has encouraged African Americans, Native Americans as well as minorities all over the world to move forward for civil rights.
I have faced discrimination too. I am gay. I realized this when I was a junior high-school student, although I never told anybody somehow my classmates guessed that I was. They rejected me and treated me like I was not a human being; one girl said to me "I can't believe someone like you exists". It made me feel like I was completely alone. In high school I decided to keep my secret safe and never tell anyone about who I really am on the inside. But this year I wanted to stop hiding that part of myself.
In western countries such as the States and in Europe gay people are seen as a normal part of society just as the difference of white and black, man and woman, Christian and Muslim. Although there are problems, the gay community is visible and is trying to make changes.
In Japan, we are afraid of being different, but we don't show our hate so openly. It is silent discrimination. If nobody talks about the problem then it doesn't exist. Many gay people in Japan hide who they really are because they are afraid of being rejected, not with angry words or threats of violence, but with isolation. Being gay in Japan is a very lonely existence.
Maybe it will be difficult for me to live my life just like other people. But this is my life. I'm going to live it no matter what people say. Martin Luther King once said "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." When I feel scared I often think of this quote. Making this speech was my first step, I never thought that I could tell people that I am gay.
I too have a dream. One day down in the meadows of Hokkaido, gay people and straight people are chatting together and eating BBQ in the sunshine. I have a dream of a world without any prejudice, hate or ignorance which causes blind discrimination against what we can't understand. I can see the road ahead will be difficult, but I must be brave. Not just for myself, but for other young people like me.
Well said, in every way.
36. Adam Joseph, Philadelphia Meteorologist
Adam Joseph (left), meteorologist for Channel 6ABC Philadelphia, came out via Facebook in August after he and his partner Karl, welcomed a baby into their family. While the baby announcement was big, it was the first time that Joseph had publicly revealed that he is gay. Above, a more recent Thanksgiving photo of the family.
Said Joseph in a Facebook post: "The action news team has grown again! I am ecstatic to introduce Jacob, the newest love of our lives. My partner Karl and I welcomed him into our world on August 5th at 1:41am. He tipped the scales at 9lbs 1oz and was over 21 inches long! He was a bit stubborn to arrive, but once he did he's been mellow, attentive, and constantly looking around. We are simply overjoyed and ready to spoil him with unconditional love!"
37. Marcus Juhlin, Swedish Football Player
Marcus Juhlin, a wide receiver for the Swedish (American-style) football team Carlstad Crusaders, came out of the closet at the end of March inspired by fellow gridiron gay Michael Sam.
The 22-year-old made the announcement in the April issue of the European gay magazine QX.
He's the first American football player in Sweden to come out, and according to the QX team, the reaction from his team mates and from the other teams in the league have been amazing. "They all support and respect him,"QX editor in chief Anders Öhrmantold us. Marcus sent an email to QX in December stating: ”Please help me come out from the closet and close that door once and for all.” And they did. Juhlin lives in the city of Karlstad and is playing for Carlstad Crusaders. Oh, and in case you're curious, he is single.
Follow him on: Twitter.
38. Jay Kelly, Son of R&B Star R. Kelly
R. Kelly's youngest child, 13 and named Jaya at birth but now goes by Jay, came out as transgender in June on his Ask.fm page, a social platform that allows users to answer anonymously submitted questions.
"[My mom] was like, ‘Baby, you know I love you if you were bi, gay, [lesbian], you name it and I would still love you so much…She was very proud of me, I was like, ‘Thank you mum for accepting the fact that I’m a transgender.’ … And same with my sister, she told me that she was proud of me, and respects me by calling me handsome and calling me her little brother now, and I love her for that, so you know it was great for me."
The news was first reported by celebrity magazine InTouch.
R. Kelly later commented on the news by saying, "No matter what they are or who they are, they still your kids, you love them, you know but you’ve got to support them,…At the end of the day, it’s not about me no more [than] it’s about three lovely, lovely kids that I’m in love with and that’s in love with me."
39. Charlie King, British Reality Television Star (TOWIE)
British reality TV series The Only Way Is Essex (TOWIE, as it's familiarly called), had already caught gay America's attention because Tom Daley had featured one of its stars, Dan Osborne, on the UK version of his reality diving competition Splash.
In October, another of its stars, Charlie King, made headlines that reverberated across the pond when he came out of the closet during a live interview on ITV's talk show This Morning.
"I feel that I'm ready now. I know that the time is now. Anybody that knows me knows that I've come off of The Only Way is Essex, and on that show they followed my storyline which was very much about that subject because I never really knew where I belonged and 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 really get here now and be able to say I'm Charlie, I'm 29 years old, I'm a gay man, and I'm very comfortable with that."
Follow him on Twitter.
40. Kristen Kish, Top Chef Winner
Kristin Kish (left), the 2012 winner of Bravo's Top Chef and the second female winner in the show's history, came out as gay via an Instagram photo in late March.
The photo featured her girlfriend Jacqueline Westbrook, with the caption: "Helicopter ride over Charleston. Happy 1 year love. You've made me incredibly happy"
On the following Sunday, a New York Times article about female chefs also mentioned Kish's partner.
41. Jamie Lambert, Britain’s Got Talent winner
Boyband Collabro won this year's Britain's Got Talent competition and soon thereafter it was revealed that the band has a gay member, Jamie Lambert (center).
Said Lambert to UK tabloid The Sun:
“No one asked — I have nothing to hide from anybody. I think it’s really important that all gay people in the public eye just talk about it. The more that happens, the more normal it becomes…I remember when Stephen Gately from Boyzone came out and it was a really massive deal…But I think nowadays it’s about being comfortable in your own skin and comfortable with who you fall in love with. It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s with a man or a woman…It’s only an aspect of me, just like it’s only an aspect of [his Collabro bandmates] that they’re straight. It’s not all of who I am. I would hate for people to see me as ‘the gay one’, rather than the one who sings that line.”
42. Rodrigo Lehtinen, LGBT Rights Advocate, Son of U.S. Congresswoman
Rodrigo Lehtinen, the son of Republican Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen came out publicly as trans in an interview which aired on CBS Miami in November. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen also appeared in the interview and said that her views on LGBT people have been influenced by the process of coming to terms with her son's gender identity.
"I think coming out as transgender is really about coming out as your authentic self, coming out as the person you always knew you were but no one else may have known, and now you're sharing that honestly with people for the first time."
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen voted for DOMA in 1996 but is the only Republican co-sponsor of the bill to repeal it today. She also supports LGBT-inclusive hate crime laws, was one of 15 Republicans to vote for DADT repeal, and was the first Republican in the House to fully support marriage equality.
Said Ros-Lehtinen of Rodrigo:
"As parents we wanted to make sure Rigo understood we were totally fine with it. We wanted to make sure he was safe. Our society is sometimes not inviting and not caring enough and there is no mystery that LGBT kids when they are younger are bullied."
Said her son:
"I think she’s genuinely a good person, she may be Republican and I may not be, but she cares about people enough and the tide of history is going so much in that direction."
Their interview below:
43. Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, Finnish Swimmer, Olympian
Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen came out of the closet in February in an effort to raise awareness about Russia's anti-gay laws ahead of the Sochi Games.
"I wanted to start a broader discussion in connection with Sochi, because it’s sad that the legislation in Russia restricts the human rights of young people and others..In the future I would hope that elite athletes and other people will not find homosexuality to be any kind of news…As the matter wasn’t discussed, I tried to forget about it, but during high school I began to accept that I am made this way. Acceptance hasn’t necessarily been easy, but it hasn’t been horribly difficult either. This has been a long, slow process for me, but now I’m there."
(image via Instagram)
44. Matt Llano, Arizona Professional Distance Runner
In October, professional distance runner Matt Llano came out as gay in a video for his team, the Northern Arizona Elite, based out of Flagstaff.
Llano, who was an All-American in cross country for the University of Richmond in college and finished 10th in the 2012 U.S. 15k championship and 5th in the 2014 U.S. half-marathon championship, talked about "feeling different" and what it was like growing up gay and coming out to his parents.
Llano's parents and friends join him in the video and talk about what a wonderful guy he is.
Follow him on Twitter.
45. Kellie Maloney, Legendary British Boxing Manager and Promoter
Kellie Maloney (formerly Frank), the legendary British boxing manager and promoter who guided Lennox Lewis's career as he ascended to grab the title of World Heavyweight Champ, announced in August that she is trans and was then beginning gender reassignment surgery.
Said Maloney to the UK publication The Mirror:
"I was born in the wrong body and I have always known I was a woman…I can’t keep living in the shadows, that is why I am doing what I am today. Living with the burden any longer would have killed me…What was wrong at birth is now being medically corrected. I have a female brain. I knew I was different from the minute I could compare myself to other children. I wasn’t in the right body. I was jealous of girls. The feeling of wanting to be like and dress like a woman has always been there. I consciously made the decision that I wouldn’t dress like a woman but it was a constant urge. But I have never been able to tell anyone in boxing. Can you imagine me walking into a boxing hall dressed as a woman and putting an event on? I can imagine what they would scream at me. But if I had been in the theatre or arts world nobody would blink an eye about this transition.”
Maloney has since said she has been "overwhelmed" by the support she has received since announcing her transition.
Follow her on Twitter.
46. Robbie Manson, New Zealand Rower, Olympian
New Zealand Olympic rower Robbie Manson came out as a gay in November in a post published on Outsports.
"Although it hasn't always been in the forefront of my mind, deep down I was terrified of anyone finding out that I was gay, especially my teammates. I seriously thought that if anyone found out I wouldn't be able to row anymore. The thought of coming out, in my mind, felt so limiting and terrifying. Also, in a strange way, I looked down on other people who were gay, and to a degree felt sorry for them, thinking to be gay was to be "less than." I knew I was gay too, and I hated myself because of it."
Manson added that he hoped his story would help younger athletes:
"There are already a lot of great gay sporting role models, and a lot who have achieved far more than I have, but I hope that my story can add something to what is already out there. To show other people who might be struggling with their sexuality, not only that it's ok to be gay, but it's a good thing, and it won't change who you are or limit what you can achieve. At the end of the day, it's only one of the many things that define me as a person. It's how hard you're prepared to work for something and your talent that determines what you can achieve, not your sexuality."
Follow him on Twitter.
47. Ian Matos, Top Brazilian Diver
Shortly after Tom Daley declared he was interested in men, top Brazilian diver Ian Matos cited his British counterpart as the reason he decided to tell the world he's gay.
Said Matos: "From a young age, I knew I was gay, but it was here (in Rio de Janeiro) that I got to live my sexuality."
According to Outsports, "He said a friend advised him to stay closeted until after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, but Matos said the pressure of hiding boyfriends, avoiding gay parties and not being himself proved too much. He said he hoped that coming out would not impact his ability to be a successful diver and not cost him any potential sponsorship."
Follow him on Twitter.
(image via Instagram)
48. Mark McAdam, British Sports Commentator
Mark McAdam, a reporter on British network Sky Sports, came out as gay in the September issue of Gay Times magazine.
Said McAdam to the magazine:
“I don’t know of any other gay sports reporters. There’s nothing to compare this to. I battled with my sexuality for years and years. Only gay people will ever understand the trauma you go through about accepting your sexuality."
McAdam said that gay men are no different than straight men. They like football too. McAdam added that like any straight guy he likes to "sit around and scratch my bollocks and piss on the toilet seat."
The story also included a racy photo which McAdam posted to his Twitter account.
Follow him on Twitter.
49. Connor Mertens, College Football Player
In January, Connor Mertens, a kicker on Willamette University's football team, came out as bisexual, making him the first active bi college football player to come out.
Mertens' coming out was received with open arms by coaches, players, and his parents (above).
Mertens came out to his team via a letter which he also tweeted to his hometown (click to enlarge):
Mertens had been worried about how some of his teammates would respond, Outsports reported, but all it took was for one of the more intimidating players to stand up and offer support for Mertens to feel reassured.
Said the player: "If anyone has a problem with Conner, I'll kick your ass."
Mertens said, after coming out, "It's been insanely incredible. I'm speechless. That is the only word I can use to describe this. Even a lot of the guys on the football team I was most scared of are the ones who have been the most amazing."
Captioning the Instagram photo posted above, Mertens added: "Last night I was blessed enough to play in my first collegiate football game. It's crazy–growing up, we have a lot of hopes and dreams that often times get abandoned for reasons unforeseen. Again, I am beyond blessed to be able to fulfill one of those childhood dreams as my college football career starts. Big shout out to my parents for supporting me every step of the way and being there to share in my dream."
50 and 51. Adam and Luke Monastero, Gay Twins, Vloggers
Earlier this year, fraternal twins Adam and Luke Monastero told each other they were gay. Though both of them had known for many years, it was the first time the two had acknowledged it to each other.
Though most gay kids must go it alone when coming out to their parents, the Monastero twins decided to do something very 2014: film the coming out and put it on YouTube. The pair recorded a diaryroom-style video before and after sharing the big news. They also secretly recorded the coming out itself including their parents' reactions. As Adam and Luke sat Mom and Dad down, Adam warned his parents that he and Luke have some "shocking news" for them.
Watch as the boys open up to their folks and later bask in the freedom of being out and proud:
52 and 53. Lauren Morelli and Samira Wiley, Lead Writer and Actress, Orange is the New Black
In one of the most stunning revelations of the year, Orange is the New Black lead writer Lauren Morelli, who back in May wrote an article for Policy Mic describing how working on the Netflix series helped her come to terms with her sexual orientation.
Morelli realized she had feelings for women just months into her first marriage to Steve Basilone, whom she had dated for six years.
In September, TMZ published divorce documents showing the couple's break-up was amicable. About the same time, Morelli appeared hand-in-hand at the Emmy Awards with Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey Washington on the show.
Morelli had alluded to the romance months before in the letter: “I went through it all on set: I fell in love with a woman, and I watched my life play out on screen….And now, as we are gearing up for the release of season 2, it feels liberating and appropriate to live my life in front of you.”
54. Kristian Nairn, Actor, Game of Thrones
Kristian Nairn, who plays the beloved character Hodor on HBO's Game of Thrones, came out as gay in March in an interview at fansite Winter is Coming:
"Well, in all honesty, when you talk about “the gay community,” you are talking about MY community, haha. I AM aware of it yeah, and I think it’s really lovely. There’s not a day that I don’t get a few messages, but 99% or more are super sweet and nothing smutty at all! Again, it’s a privilege, and I really mean that. 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, cos it’s not something you just blurt out. I’ve tried to lead the questions a few times, to no avail!"
Nairn later clarified to the Wall Street Journal:
"I kind of had been waiting for it to come up in an interview question. But I sort of thought that people knew, because all you had to do—I started out doing a drag queen [act]. I DJ at a gay bar. Learn to Google, people. That’s all it is…
"I don’t want to make light of it either because people have been in touch with me and they’ve been really… nice about it, and I’m really grateful. And also people said it inspired them. Because even within the gay community, there’s a stereotype even when you’re a gay person. You have to look a certain way. You have to be thin. You have to be tanned. You have to have small eyebrows. You have to look pretty. And that’s never been me.
"I just think it’s important to show the world that we are varied people, as everybody else. You don’t have to be any way. I think that’s really important, and people said that to me. And that’s when I started to realize it’s not a small thing. It’s kind of a big thing. And if I can help somebody—you know, I’ve got my family behind me. I’ve got my friends behind me. If you have that, that’s all you need. It doesn’t matter about people on the Internet. And I’m really lucky to have that. And so if I can help one person, I’m happy."
55. Alex Obendorf, NCAA Diver, Olympic Hopeful
Alex Obendorf, a freshman diver at West Virginia University, an NCAA post-season qualifier who hopes to one day qualify for the Olympics, came out of the closet earlier this year and in November in an interview with The Missourian.
His coming out was offered up in the answer to a question about his admiration for Olympicans Tom Daley and Matthew Mitcham:
"I like their form and everything. I’m pretty proud of them because I know that it’s a hard thing to open up about, especially to the public as an Olympian. I am openly gay. I know where they come from."
Obendorf suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car wreck last year that left him unable to compete for nine months. He got back on the board in May and his coach is pushing him to make the NCAA champtionships.
Follow him on Twitter.
56. Ellen Page, Actress, Juno
Actress Ellen Page, best known for her critically-acclaimed role as a pregnant teen in Juno, came out as gay during a speech at Human Rights Campaign 'Time to Thrive' youth conference in February.
Said Page to the crowd:
"I am here today because I am gay… and because maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless for me I feel a personal obligation and a personal responsibility. I also do it selfishly because I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationship suffered. And I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain."
"I am young yes. But what I have learned is that love — the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes even the pain of it — is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love, fully, equally, without shame and without compromise. There are too many kids out there suffering from bullying, rejection or simply being mistreated for who they are. Too many dropouts. Too much abuse. Too many homeless. Too many suicides. You can change that and you are changing it. But you never needed me to tell you that."
57. Zoie Palmer, Canadian Actress
Canadian actress Zoie Palmer revealed for the first time publicly that she is gay at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards in March when she thanked her partner Alex Lalonde as she accepted her "Fan Choice Award for Favourite Canadian Screen Star".
Palmer plays Dr. Lauren Lewis in the Showcase Canadian TV supernatural drama Lost Girl.
Follow her on: Twitter.
58. Curtis Paradis, Vlogger
Popular video gaming and news vlogger Curtis Paradis came out shortly after the start of 2014 in a three and a half minute video called "My Story".
Said Paradis: "For the past 22 years of my life, I've been living a lie…I think I'm finally ready to say it. I am Curtis Paradis. And I'm gay."
In a letter accompanying the clip, Paradis wrote:
This is something I have wanted to share with you all for a very long time and it wasn't until recently that I had the confidence to really do it. A big thanks to my Parents for being super supportive during this time, I often worried how they would respond to this, but they have been very supportive and I love them so much for it. My friends, its you who gave me to strength to do this, and express who I really was. Thanks for the years of support of me being me, I love you all.
And to all the people online. I say this often but its so true. You the viewers have been the biggest influence in my entire life. You changed my life in a way that I never would have imagined. Today is the beginning of a brand new me, and I have all of you to thank. You accepted me for me, and it means the world to me that you did. You are all amazing people, and I hope this video expresses what I was thinking, and maybe helps others going through similar events to myself.
Here's the video:
59. Pat Patterson, Wrestling Legend
Disclosing what many industry insiders said at the time was an open secret, WWE legend Pat Patterson came out as gay officially on an episode fo the WWE reality show Legends' House that aired in June.
Said Patterson: "For once in my life I'm going to be me now. I survived all this being gay. I lived with that for 50 some years. I had a friend with me for 40 years and I lost him…it was tough guys. It was tough."
The episode was filmed in 2012 but the announcement didn't become public until the show aired.
Watch the moment:
60. Andreja Pejic, Model
Andreja Pejic (formerly Andrej) told People magazine in September that she is transgender. In the interview Pejic says she began the transition process early in 2014.
"I want to share my story with the world because I think I have a social responsibility. I hope that by being open about this, it becomes less of an issue…I always dreamt of being a girl. One of my earliest memories is spinning around in my mom's skirt trying to look like a ballerina."
Pejic says that almost two years ago she "reevaluated things", adding, "I have to be true to myself and the career is just going to have to fit around that."
Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Pejic was discovered while working at McDonald's and began walking shows for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs, who were drawn to her gender nonconforming look.
Pejic is currently producing a crodfunded documentary about her reassignement surgery and life as a trans woman.
Said Pejic on Facebook at the time of her coming out:
"I think we all evolve as we get older and that's normal but I like to think that my recent transition hasn't made me into a different individual. Same person, no difference at all just a different sex I hope you can all understand that. I would also like to to reach out to all young gender non-conforming youth out there: 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. 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."
61. Daniel Pierce, Survivor
In perhaps the most alarming and disturbing coming out story of the year, a gay teen in Kennesaw, Georgia surreptitiously made a recording with his phone as his family gathered for a "pray the gay away" intervention. He had told his mother that he was gay months before, but the video graphically illustrates how bad some kids have it..
19-year-old Daniel Pierce's clip went viral (7 million views and counting) because of the horrific events that unfolded. Pierce's family decided on a confrontational, violent approach to handling the teen's sexual orientation, eventually disowning him.
Said the video's description:
A perfect example of how much hate and intolerance still exists today. This family gave a young man two options: attend a pray the gay away intervention, or face being disowned by the very people who are supposed to love him unconditionally.
Disclaimer: This is a 19 year old friend of mine who is currently staying with very supportive friends. He is safe and removed from the situation. I am posting this on his behalf per his request. I was not witness to the events that transpired, but was present immediately after to help him relocate.
Pierce has not spoken to them since. A GoFundMe page set up for him raised nearly $100,000 in three days.
Here is the disturbing video and a follow-up interview:
62. Eric Radford, Canadian Figure Skater
This month, Eric Radford, a Canadian figure skater, did something no other figure skater at the height of his or her career has ever done: he came out as gay.
Radford and his partner, Meagan Duhamel, are three-time defending Canadian pairs champions who won bronze at the World Championships in 2013 and 2014. They are currently training for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
Radford had considered coming out as the controversy over Russia's anti-gay laws heated up before the Sochi Games, although he did come out to a reporter at Sochi who neglected to include the information that his boyfriend was there to support him in her report.
Said Radford to Outsports:
"My concern was that I would be known as 'the gay athlete' if I came out at the Olympics, rather than Eric the medalling figure skater who happens to be gay. And I felt uncomfortable with that title."
Radford has been with his boyfriend Normand for four years. They live together with Normand's daughter:
"I'm proud of our whole situation, how we're basically a gay family. We function great, we get along so well. We have become a family. I was only 25 when I met Normand. I don't know many gay guys that age who would take on that responsibility. But I jumped right in. It's been fun and fulfilling and has broadened my perspective on so many things."
Radford and Normand doing the ALS ice bucket challenge:
63. Monica Raymund, Actress, Chicago Fire
Monica Raymund, who plays paramedic/firefighter-in-training Gabriela Dawson on Chicago Fire and played Dana Lodge on The Good Wife, came out publicly as bisexual via a tweet in January in support of efforts to protest Russia's anti-gay laws during the Olympic Games.
— Monica Raymund (@monicaraymund) February 9, 2014
Raymund later clarified, saying that she had been out for 10 years.
Nope I didn't just come out – you just late to the party. But I have drinks for all y'all. #BiAndProud#10YearsOut&Proud Cheers, Family!
— Monica Raymund (@monicaraymund) February 10, 2014
Can one claim to be "out" if nobody knows about it? Raymund's disclosure was applauded by fans.
Follow her on: Twitter.
64. James Richardson, Former Republican National Committee Spokesman
James Richardson, a former spokesman and adviser for the RNC, former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, came out as gay in an op-ed in the Washington Post in September.
In the essay, Richardson lamented the inequality faced by more than 20,000 estimated gay couples that call his state of Georgia home.
I’m one-half of one of those aggrieved couples — denied, for more than five years, the social stability and legal protections of marriage. And, as a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee and adviser to prominent party figures, I’m also a professional political operative who’s helped install in government those who perpetuate marriage bias in America.
Throughout my career I’ve publicly advocated for the freedom to marry, urging the party for which I work to allow gay men and women to wed even as I never openly disclosed my personal stake. I’ve preached the small-government virtues of equal marriage, echoing a conservative case that had been made many times before by thinkers more eloquent and far brighter than myself. Never once did I write that I am gay.
He pointed out the more-boring-than-Normal Rockwell-ness of his life, one in which he is committed to community, church, and football (the University of Georgia Bulldogs), adding:
But even if we failed, or refused on principle, to cross straight America’s bourgeois threshold for normalcy, gay people deserve the same the legal and moral considerations — and rights — enjoyed by all others. They are Americans whose rights were granted by God and the grit of their forbearers, yet they are forced to defend their love, and the various planes on which it may be judged (constitutional, cultural and economic), to distressing and revolting ends. […]
On the foundational question of marriage’s value, to individuals and society, gay couples and the institution’s cultural conservative gatekeepers agree: marriage is deeply special. We wish to participate in earnest, to strengthen the institution that our straight peers are abandoning. Gay couples don’t want to rock the marriage boat — they only want a ticket for two to ride.
Follow him on Twitter.
65. Edgar Rinkevics, Foreign Minister of Latvia
Edgar Rinkevics, the foreign minister of Latvia, made international headlines in November when, one day after his confirmation, he tweeted out:
I proudly announce I'am gay… Good luck all of you…
— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) November 6, 2014
Rinkevics told media that he was prompted to come out because Latvia is preparing to consider legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and is now the only out official in Latvia's government.
Rinkevics' revelation did not come without controversy. Pro-Russian activist Vladimir Linderman attacked Rinkevics, claiming he was "propagandizing a certain ideology."
Follow him on: Twitter.
66. Geena Rocero, Model and Activist
Model and activist Geena Rocero came out as trans in March in what was billed as the first TED talk about transgender issues on the program's main stage.
Rocero, born in Manila, Philippines, began competing in beauty pageants at the age of 15, immigrated to San Francisco at 17, and became a U.S. citizen in 2006. She was discovered by a photographer in New York City when she was 21 and signed by a modeling agency, working as a swimsuit and editorial model.
She told the crowd at TED that for the past nine years many of her friends and her agent did not know she was assigned a male gender at birth and she hadn't told anyone because of fear for how she would be treated.
Said Rocero during her "Why I Must Come Out" talk at TED:
"All of us are put in boxes by our family, by our religion, by our society — our moment in history, even our own bodies. Some people have the courage to breathe free, not to accept the limitations imposed by the color of their skin or the beliefs of those who surround them. Those people are always a threat to the status quo, to what is considered acceptable."
Rocero is the founder of Gender Proud, an organization working to change the global perception and conversation about trans individuals.
Watch Rocero's powerful talk here:
67. Mauricio Ruiz, Chilean Navy Officer
24-year-old naval officer Mario Ruiz appeared before news cameras in August to make a special announcement: He is gay. In doing so, Ruiz became the first official openly gay member of the Chilean military, and did it with the full backing of the country's armed forces.
Said Ruiz before a phalanx of cameras and microphones:
"We can do anything, be marines or in any branch (of the military). We can do whatever profession, and we deserve as much respect as anyone else…In life there's nothing better than to be yourself, to be authentic, to look at people in the eye and for those people to know who you are."
Rolando Jimenez, president of Chile's Movement for Integration and Homosexual Liberation (MOVILH), praised the military: "(The Navy is) telling the country and the members of the institution particularly that it is possible for gays and lesbians to be part of the armed forces and that they aren't going to suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation within these institutions."
68. Michael Sam, NFL Free Agent
For years we've waited for a gay athlete brave enough, talented enough, and confident enough to tackle one of professional sports' toughest barriers: the NFL. In February, that player finally made himself known.
Michael Sam, a first-team all-American and the defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, as well as Missouri's MVP (as voted by the players), said he was gay in a studiously-planned announcement which included interviews by the New York Times and ESPN.
Sam was likely to be drafted come May, and was, but just barely.
Sam was chosen by the St. Louis Rams late in the 7th round, as the 249th pick overall. Sam's reaction to being drafted, which was broadcast on national TV, was to grab and kiss his boyfriend Vito Cammisano. It was a kiss equivalent to an atomic culture bomb, something that American football fans had never seen before, and it revealed just how significant and challenging Sam's role as the first out gay player would be. And not just culturally.
In late August, Sam was cut from the Rams and went unclaimed by any of the 31 NFL teams. A few days later, hopes were lifted when the Dallas Cowboys signed Sam to their practice squad. In late October, Sam was cut from the Cowboys as well. He remains a free agent.
It's unclear why Sam has gone undrafted. Some will say not one specific thing is responsible. Others will say he isn't good enough to play. But the evidence, laid out clearly in this piece by Outsports' Cyd Zeigler, leaves little other explanation than "NFL team front offices are not treating Michael Sam equally simply because he's openly gay."
69. Edward ‘Chip’ Sarafin, Football Player, Arizona State
Another football barrier was broken by Arizona State linebacker Edward "Chip" Sarafin, who became the first college football player to publicly come out as gay while still an active player in major college football.
Sarafin spoke about his sexual orientation with Compete magazine, and spoke about seeing bullying in school while growing up:
"I went to school at Highland High, and it is definitely not the most diverse school. It’s probably 80 percent Mormon and 80 percent Caucasian. So there is definitely a disparity there in the types of people that you meet. I know a lot of times a lot of people who were bullied because they were different were actually bullied by athletes, and that made me really angry … the athletes are supposed to be the role models, the heroes of the community…"
Sarafin also said, of coming out to his teammates:
“It was really personal to me, and it benefited my peace of mind greatly.”
And received some support from another football player:
Congratulations Chip Sarafin for having the courage to be yourself. Wishing you and your teammates much success this season. #courage2014
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSamNFL) August 13, 2014
(image via Instagram)
70. Matt Schulte, Kansas City Royals Marketing Executive
Matt Schulte, marketing coordinator for the Kansas City Royals, came out as gay in November in an interview with Outsports. Schulte said he had been thinking about coming out for a while but wasn't sure how or when to do so.
"To walk into my boss's office, how do I set it up? Do I give them a warning? Do I spring it on them? I'm still not even totally comfortable with saying the words, 'I'm gay.'"
Schulte said as the Royals' success grew this season (to Game 7 of the World Series) so did his confidence, and he decided to make his sexual orientation public via a media interview.
"I had family at all of the home games. I got to spend time with them. It was an awesome experience. We've all been Royals fans all of our lives. To go through the connections with the team, the city and my family, it made me realize it's time to take a step forward myself and put myself out there. I had been in a rut, with the Royals and all of their difficult seasons and what I was struggling with inside. The Royals' success just made me decide to be proud and just own it, to just be who I am."
Follow him on: Twitter.
71. Dale Scott, Major League Baseball Umpire
Dale Scott, a Major League Baseball umpire for the last 29 seasons, came out of the closet in the "quietest way possible" this month in an issue of the subscription-only Referee magazine, Outsports reports.
Astonishingly, Scott is "the first Major League Baseball umpire to publicly say he is gay while active (and the first out active male official in the NBA, NHL, NFL or MLB)."
Scott's coming out was a photo of he and his partner of 28-years Michael Rausch aboard a plane traveling to the season opener between the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers, Outsports adds:
After consulting with his partner, Michael Rausch, Scott decided to send the photo … of the two of them…
"My thought process was," Scott told Outsports in his first interview on the subject, "is that there's a story about my career and how I got started in umpiring and they're talking to people I have known since junior high and it didn't seem right to have a whole story and pictures without a picture of Mike and I, someone who's been with me through this entire process. We met the October after my first year in the big leagues.
"Obviously, when I sent that picture to Jeff, I knew exactly what it meant. In a small way, this was opening that door in a publication that wasn't going to be circulated nationwide. It could be picked up, but it's not Time magazine. I made that decision to go ahead and do it because I felt it was the right thing to do.
Scott said the photo would not be a surprise to the MLB organization or the umpire staff and said he's not seeking attention for his story, though he got it, from ESPN and other sports outlets.
Scott was able to add Rausch as his domestic partner in his contract with the umpires union in 2010 (the two have been legally married since 2013) and says that people began offering his support after that, noting how baseball has changed:
"The first 10 years of my Major League umpire career, I would have been horrified if a story had come out that I was gay," he said. "But guys unprovoked started to approach me and say, 'I just want you to know that I would walk on the field with you any day, you're a great guy, a great umpire and I couldn't care less about your personal life.' Basically what they were saying without me provoking it was 'I know and I don't care.' That meant a lot to me because it surprised me since I had not brought it up. At first I was uncomfortable because I had spent my whole life hiding that fact from people even though I wasn't hiding it from myself or my friends."
Scott has worked three World Series, three All-Star Games, two no-hitters and numerous playoff games, according to OS. He adds:
"People scream at me because I'm an umpire. The last thing I want is people screaming at me because I'm gay. I'm an umpire who happens to be gay. I'm not trying to be some gay person who happens to be an umpire."
72. Bryan Singer, Director
Bryan Singer never had to make an announcement about his sexual orientation before he was anointed "openly gay Bryan Singer," he told OUT magazine in May.
What thereafter became a known quantity was incorrect, he said:
"I’m quite bisexual. In the last five years, I’ve had two girlfriends — one for two years, one for eight months….Talking about human sexuality is like talking about the second World War."
Singer was fighting another battle this year, however, a sex abuse case that tore through the tabloids.
In October, he announced that he and longtime friend, actress Michelle Clunie, were expecting a baby together in early 2015 and planned to co-parent the child.
(image via Instagram)
73. Sam Smith, British Singer
In May this year, British singing sensation and six-time Grammy nominee Sam Smith dropped a video that seemed to suggest he was coming out of the closet. The clip for "Leave Your Lover" featured a love triangle with a gay twist at the end.
A few days later, an interview with Fader magazine was published in which he said that his internationally-acclaimed debut album In the Lonely Hour is about a guy he had fallen in love with.
"I am comfortable with myself, and my life is amazing in that respect. I’m very comfortable and happy with everything. I just wanted to talk about him and have it out there. 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 non-issue. People wouldn’t ask a straight person these questions."
(image via Facebook)
74. Casey Stoney, British Professional Football Captain
It was footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger and Tom Daley who inspired Casey Stoney, a defensive player for both the England women's football and Arsenal Ladies teams, to say she is gay after years of speculation by fans.
"I've never hidden it within football circles because it is accepted. But to the outside world, I've never spoken about my sexuality I feel it's really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many young people struggling with being gay. You hear about people taking their own lives because they're homosexual, now that should never happen. They should never feel those pressures. How can I expect other people to come out and speak about themselves if I'm not willing to do that myself?"
75. Ian Thorpe, Australian Swimmer, Olympian
Ian Thorpe's sexual orientation has been the focus of the media for more than a decade, and in July of this year he decided to come out of the closet in an interview on Australian TV:
"I've thought about this for a long time. I'm not straight. Um, and this is only something that only very recently – we're talking in the last two weeks – I've felt comfortable telling the closest people around me. Exactly that…I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man. And I don't want people to feel the same way I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay…I'm pleased to say that in telling [my friends and family], and especially my parents, they told me that they love me and they support me. And for young people out there, know that that's usually what the answer is."
Thorpe has won five Olympic gold medals, the most of any Australian, and eleven World Championship golds.
76. Brad Thorson, Former College Football Player and NFL Prospect
I've been told many times that the process of coming out is cathartic. Yet since coming to terms with my sexuality, I found it arduous and unnecessary. At least that's what I kept telling myself. So today, I'm putting it in writing and not looking back.
I'm also an athlete. For years, I struggled to unite these two identities in my own mind. Not until after my professional athletic career came to an end did I allow myself to understand my sexuality. Now, three years later, I'm finally ready to share that with people.
Thorson retired from football after playing for a brief period in the Canadian football league and now lives in San Francisco and plays with the Fog rugby team, 9/11 hero Mark Bingham's former team.
Follow him on Twitter.
77. Djuan Trent, Former Miss Kentucky
Djuan Trent, Miss Kentucky 2010, came out of the closet in March shortly after a federal judge ruled that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Wrote Trent in a blog post:
For months, I have been contemplating how I would write this post, how I would position it, when would be the right time to post it. Should I make it funny? Should I make it mysterious? Should I make it serious? Should I pick a special date to do it? Should I build some kind of anticipation around it? Hmmm…ain't nobody got time for that. I have written and re-written and deleted and restarted this post more times than I care to share, and after all of that I have finally realized: "There ain't nothin' to it, but to do it." So, here we go folks…
I am queer.
I could write about what it was like to come out to my mom for the third and final time at the age of 26 (the first time was when I was in the 4th grade and the second time was in college). I could write about the years I spent praying to a God whom I wanted so badly to serve with all of my heart, but couldn't understand why this God made me "wrong". I could write about all the times that people have asked me if I have a boyfriend and I've purposely chosen to just say "no" with no further explanation. I could write about all the reasons I have been told I shouldn't be gay (that's an interesting list). I could write about all the times I talked about how gross it was when a girl had a crush on me, even though I may have secretly liked her too. I could write about how scared I have felt that I would have to watch friends and family members walk out of my life if I ever decided to come out. I could write about how disappointed I have been in myself for being an open supporter by day, and living it up in the safety of the closet by night. I could write books about all of those things…but what has really fueled my passion in writing today, has been this…
Last week, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky's prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law by treating queer folks "differently in a way that demeans them." You can imagine the conversation that this ruling has sparked amongst Kentuckians- those who support as well as those who oppose. I have listened to people talk about "the abomination of our nation" and "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." I am not surprised that some people would react this way…I mean, if people didn't react that way, then there would be no need for a movement, no need to fight for OUR rights (ooh, "our"…that felt good). This is not to say that I approve of the commentary, it's just to say that I am not surprised. But what has prompted my writing today has been my questioning people's constant assumption that a) I am hetero and b) I concur with their views and opinion.
Now there's a queen with real beauty.
78. Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan Writer
Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina, one of Africa's most well-known modern writers, came out as gay in January amid increased persecution of gays in Kenya and other African countries. Wainaina made the statement in a piece published on two African websites.
Said Wainaina to GlobalPost: "Of course my friends knew, but I had been toying with how useful it would be to make a public statement for close to eight months."
Wainaina said he had been traveling internationally for quite some time and after returning home began to feel "a certain falsity in the way I lived my life."
He spoke of the increased persecution of gays in Africa:
“There was the anti-gay bill in Uganda first, but the Nigeria one! Nigeria is a country I go to — I was there three times last year — it is a place I love, it’s like a second home to me. It’s hard to imagine any more repressive law of any kind anywhere in the world. It’s just the most terrible thing…It seems like doom and gloom but my feeling is that the law is a reaction to a thing that they know has traction. And that’s a good thing. There’s no way to put that s–t back in the box.”
He added: "I want to be part of a generation of people in Kenya and Africa who change [Africa] to be accountable to itself."
(image wikimedia commons nightstream – Writer Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival.)
79. Maria Walsh, Rose of Tralee
The Rose of Tralee is an international competition started in 1959 and open to women of Irish descent from all over the world. It's held in Kerry County, Ireland and each year a woman who best matches the attributes "lovely and fair" as described in the nineteenth century ballad.
This year, the winner was Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh, and she's gay, a fact she revealed shortly after winning in August:
"I'm confident in who I am as a person. The Rose of Tralee is about celebrating women's intelligence, careers, their volunteer work. The question of sexuality never came up. To me, being gay is normal. It's natural."
Follow her on Twitter.
80. Patricia Yurena, Miss Spain
Reigning Miss Spain Patricia Yurena came out of the closet via an intimate photo of her and her girlfriend Vanesa Cortes which she posted to Instagram.
Said Yurena in a follow-up message: "I published the picture completely spontaneously and in an impulsive manner. Thank you for all your support."
Yurena is the first openly gay national pageant queen.
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As with all lists, it's hard to hit everyone, and every individual's coming out is a victory. Please feel free to pay tribute to any we might have missed in the comments below…