This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the subsequent birth of LGBT Pride Month. And, in 2019, there’s a lot to be proud of: Same-sex marriages have proliferated since the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, it’s common to see LGBTQI characters kissing (and more!) on the most popular television shows, and the worldwide circuit of parades is bigger than ever.
Given all this, you may think that coming out is no longer a big deal. But for many LGBTQI people, it doesn’t make the life-altering decision any easier—or any less brave. In an article for Paper titled “Coming Out Is Hard, Even When It’s Not,” one writer recounts a friend’s words on the subject: “We’re sort of conditioned to be uncomfortable with being out. We spent so long denying it—to other people and ourselves. We grew up forming these elaborates ruses like girlfriends, or playing high school football. It’s weird, but also not weird that there’s a pit in your stomach—no matter how small—through so many ‘coming out conversations’ today.”
Given the emotional difficulty of announcing your sexuality to family, friends, and colleagues for the first time—and fretting over their reactions—it makes the stories that follow all the more courageous and inspiring. And when they end on a positive note, they’re certain to warm your heart, too. Just look at than these 15 deeply personal tales. (Free tip: make sure the tissue box is close by.)
1. The kid who got chore duty
As reported by Gawker, one closeted teen was on the phone with his boyfriend when his dad overheard their conversation. Dad then wrote his kid this note: “Nate, I overheard your phone conversation with Mike last night about your plans to come out to me. The only thing I need you to plan is to bring home OJ and bread after class. We are out, like you now. I’ve known you were gay since you were six, I’ve loved you since you were born.
P.S. Your mom and I think you and Mike make a cute couple.”
2. The ice skater who paved the way
Before this year’s winter Olympics, in Pyeonchang, there had never been an openly gay male Olympian. So Adam Rippon laid claim to that title when he came out, in an interview with Skating, as gay—and then went on to score a spot on the 2018 U.S. figure skating contigent. (Some figure skaters, like the legendary Johnny Weir, are openly gay, but came out years after they hung their skates up from competition.)
“First and foremost, I’m an athlete. And I’m an Olympian. I’m not a gay Olympian. I’m just an Olympian that’s also gay,” he told the Washington Post. “I hope that, in a way, it makes it easier for other young kids who are gay. If they go to the Olympics, they can just be called Olympians.”
3. The freestyle skier who also paved the way
Shortly after Rippon (right) came out, Gus Kenworthy (left), another U.S. Olympian, followed suit. Kenworthy can claim another distinction, though: the first openly gay “action sports athlete,” as detailed in an ESPN cover story. In the interview, Kenworthy talks about remaining closeted while competing in the testosterone-addled world of action sports. At one point, Kenworthy details an account of how, right before a high-stress run, a reporter asked him if his girlfriend would be cheering him on. According to Kenworthy, the question shook him, and he went on to lose the contest. (In case you think that Kenworthy is trying to brush off a poor performance, know that he’s one of the best in the field: Kenworthy scored a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, and regularly scores podium positions on both the U.S. and world circuits every season.)
“Part of the stress is the fact that I’ve never had a TV boyfriend,” he told ESPN in his coming out story. “That’s actually something I want so bad—a TV boyfriend.” Sometimes, dreams come true. After Kenworthy’s third run in down the halfpipe, at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeonchang, cameras captured a candid kiss between the skier and his boyfriend, actor Matt Wilkas.
4. The girl who braved the church
In October 2016, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated their guidelines on homosexuality. Succinctly: it’s not verboten to be homosexual, though it still is to act on such attraction. As you can imagine, a Mormon church might not be the most welcoming place to come out, then—but that’s exactly what one 12-year-old girl, named only as Savannah, did.
“No part of me is a mistake,” she said in coming out to her congregation. “I do not choose to be this way, and it is not a fad. I cannot make someone else gay and being around me won’t make anyone else this way. I believe that God wants us to treat each other with kindness, even if people are different.”
5. The sprinter who came out to his teammate—who then came out to him
And then they fell in love. As detailed in a pair of personal essays on Outsports, Justin Rabon came out to his track-and-field teammate, Brad Neumann, as gay. Shortly after, Neumann came out to Rabon—and the two started dating. This was four-plus years ago. To take it from recent posts on Neumann’s Instagram account, it appears the couple are still going strong.
6. The actress who didn’t hold back
American Horror Story star Sarah Paulson came out at the 2005 Tony Awards. Her then partner Cherry Jones had just won a Tony for her lead role in Doubt: A Parable, and, well… “I kissed her, and all of a sudden I was outed,” Paulson told NoTofu. “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?'”
7. The valedictorian who didn’t back down
As reported by the Daily Camera, Evan Young, the valedictorian of Twin Peaks Charter Academy’s class of 2015, was set to come out during his graduation speech. The school’s top brass didn’t like the idea of that, though, so they cancelled his speech and then outed Young to his parents—who, at the time, had no idea. “I think they were totally okay with it,” Young said. “But I was not okay with it.”
Fortunately, advocacy group Out Boulder stepped in and hosted a private function for Young to make his speech. Young graduated with a 4.5 GPA, and went on to Rutgers University—riding on a prestigious scholarship.
8. The actress who wanted to incite change
Natalie Morales, of Parks and Rec and The Grinder (RIP) fame, came out via a personal essay on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. For practically the entirety of her time in the limelight, Morales has been tight-lipped about her personal life. But, she wrote, she could take no more.
“The reason I decided to share this with you and with the world is because even though me telling you I’m queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me,” she wrote, before detailing some of the myriad abuses LGBTQ people face, around the world, on a day-to-day basis. “I think it’s important that I tell you that this familiar face you see on your TV is the Q part of LGBTQ, so that if you didn’t know someone who was queer before, you do now.”
9. The runway model who came out for a cause
Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization condemn forced surgery on intersex children, who are born with reproductive parts that don’t neatly fit into well-defined “male” or “female” categorizations. To shed light on these horrific offenses, veteran haute couture model Hanne Gaby Odiele—who’s walked for Prada, Chanel, and Givenchy, among others—came out as intersex. She partnered with advocacy group interACT to even further peel back the curtain. “At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this,” Odiele told USA Today.
10. The powerlifter who used her platform to spread a message
No matter how jacked you are, Janae Marie Kroc is more jacked than you. (She can deadlift more than 800 pounds.) She also bucks every preconceived notion of gender conformity. As the Arnold Classic Powerlifting champion wrote in a coming-out Instagram post, “I am both an alpha male and a girly girl; hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine. In a perfect world, I could snap my fingers and go back and forth at will, but of course that world does not exist. That being said, if I am forced to pick a gender I identify with more, it is female. However, this really isn’t about me being a boy or a girl or something in between. This is just about me being me, who I am, and who I know myself to be.”
11. The actress who fired a dissenting publicist
Cynthia Nixon, best known for her Emmy-winning run on Sex and the City and a fierce run in the 2018 New York gubernatorial primary, fired a publicist over her coming out story. As she revealed to The Advocate, the publicist repeatedly suggested denying any rumors about the then-nascent relationship with Christine Marinoni. “I was, like, ‘Really, we can just confirm?'” Nixon said, then did exactly that (after letting the publicist go).
12. The guy who came out to his roommate—who then did the same
In one viral reddit post, one young man came out to his new roommate via text. “Probably should have told you this before signing the lease,” he wrote. “But I’m bi/gay/still figuring it out. I know you probably don’t care but thought I’d let ya know.”
The roommate’s response: “Thanks for telling me that, man, I really appreciate your courage… Also thank you for opening this window because I’ve been stressing about telling you, but I’m bi myself haha So we can just be a big ol [sic] bi/gay/figuring things out house lol.”
13. The 9-year-old girl who made print magazine history
The first issue of National Geographic hit newsstands in 1888. But before the January 2017 issue, no transgender person had ever appeared on its hallowed, yellow-bordered cover. That honor belongs to Avery Jackson, a 9-year-old girl who’s taken quite a stand—especially for someone her age. “By putting myself more out there, people will be able to know that I am transgender and proud and learn more about transgender issues,” Jackson told USA Today.
14. The transgender student who wrote a letter to her school
As detailed in a video series of coming out stories, produced by People: “I decided to do that because I didn’t want to just go out into my school and surprise everybody, because I didn’t feel like it was prepping enough for what was going on,” she said. “And I just felt writing a letter would inform everybody and give everybody time to think and reflect on this before they saw me for the first time as a girl.” Many of her friends and classmates wrote letters back—all of which were supportive.
15. The track star who came out over a vacuum discount
As college sprinter Ben Lindaman wrote in a personal essay for Outsports, “Never in a million years did I think I’d come out over a vacuum discount.” But that’s exactly what happened. For years, Lindaman’s mother weighed purchasing a $700 Dyson. At the time, Lindaman was acquainted with an employee at Dyson—whom he met over an unspecified dating app. This guy could score a $500 discount on the vacuum, but under one condition: Lindaman had to come out. So he did.
His mom’s response: “I still love you with all my heart.” And the vacuum? It “works great.”
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