Entertainment

Here Are 20 LGBTQ Celebrity Coming-Out Stories That Moved Us In 2019

Even at the end of a decade marked with tremendous social and political milestones for LGBTQ people, the power of witnessing queer public figures live as their authentic selves can’t be underestimated. 

Though the 2010s brought marriage equality to the U.S. and a marked surge in transgender visibility across the globe, the challenges many members of the LGBTQ community continue to face are numerous. Against the backdrop of the Trump administration ― which has dismantled federal protections and resources for LGBTQ people ― seeing queer actors, artists and other celebrities embrace their truths feels even more profound. (It appears mainstream Hollywood is slowly catching on to the demand for more inclusive entertainment, too.) 

In the era of social media, celebrities have more options to connect directly with their fans than ever before, so it’s no surprise stars like Lil Nas X and Lilly Singh opted to use platforms like Twitter and Instagram to share their sexualities. 

Others, like “Treadstone” actor Brian J. Smith and NFL veteran Ryan Russell, opted for a tried-and-true, though no less impactful, approach by opening up about their authentic selves in interviews and essays with high-profile media outlets. 

As 2019 winds to a close, HuffPost is taking a look back at 20 LGBTQ celebrities who talked about their sexuality this year. This isn’t intended as a comprehensive list, but merely a celebration of some famous faces who helped further the global push for LGBTQ acceptance by sharing their respective truths.  

  • Lil Nas X
    The Georgia-born rapper <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lil-nas-x-coming-out-cryptic-tweets_n_5d19867fe4b03d61163dc07

    Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images
    The Georgia-born rapper came out as gay in a series of June 30 tweets that pointed to the lyrics and artwork of his debut EP, “7.” His tweets were timed to coincide with the final day of LGBTQ Pride Month.

    A month later, he set a precedent for LGBTQ artists in mainstream music when he broke the record for the longest-running streak at the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his country-trap smash “Old Town Road.”

    Read more on Lil Nas X here.

  • Lilly Singh
    The host of NBC's "<a href="https://www.nbc.com/a-little-late-with-lilly-singh" target="_blank">A Little Late</a>"&nbsp;revea

    Phillip Faraone via Getty Images
    The host of NBC’s “A Little Late” revealed that she is bisexual on Twitter in March.

    In addition to her South Asian background and her gender, she said she was choosing to embrace her sexuality as a “superpower.” 
     
    She reflected on her personal journey in September and described coming out as “one of the scariest experiences of my life.”

    Read more on Lilly Singh here.

  • Brian J. Smith
    The star of "Sense8" and "Treadstone" <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sense8-brian-j-smith-comes-out-gay_n_5dc4f6e2e4

    Gary Gershoff via Getty Images
    The star of “Sense8” and “Treadstone” opened up about his sexuality for the first time publicly in a November interview with Attitude magazine. 

    The road to living authentically as a gay man, Smith explained, was a rocky one. Like many LGBTQ people, however, he found solace in the performing arts.

    “On stage, [my classmates] paid attention to me, and they saw that I had something,” he said. “That’s when I didn’t feel alone.”

    Read more on Brian J. Smith here.

  • Julianne Hough
    The actor and &ldquo;America&rsquo;s Got Talent&rdquo; judge said she <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/julianne-hough-

    NBC via Getty Images
    The actor and “America’s Got Talent” judge said she initially feared her sexuality would be an obstacle in her relationship with husband Brooks Laich.

    “I [told him], ‘You know I’m not straight, right?’ And he was like, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ I was like, ‘I’m not. But I choose to be with you,’” she recalled in a September interview with Women’s Health.

    However, Hough said she and Laich have a “more intimate relationship” because she revealed certain truths about herself.

    “The more I dropped into my most authentic self, the more attracted he was to me,” she said.

    Read more on Julianne Hough here.

  • Sam Smith
    In <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BvBXv4FF5sq/" target="_blank">a March interview</a> with &ldquo;I Weigh&rdquo; moveme

    Joe Maher via Getty Images
    In a March interview with “I Weigh” movement founder Jameela Jamil, the singer explained how hearing the stories of other nonconforming people helped them identify as genderqueer and nonbinary.

    By September, the four-time Grammy winner announced they were embracing the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them.” 

    “I am at no stage just yet to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be nonbinary but I can’t wait for the day that I am,” Smith wrote on Instagram. “So for now I just want to be VISIBLE and open.” 

    Read more on Sam Smith here.

  • Beanie Feldstein
    The "Lady Bird" star <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/beanie-feldstein-booksmart-sexuality_n_5c8818c4e4b038892f483f42"

    Jemal Countess via Getty Images
    The “Lady Bird” star opened up about her sexuality at the South by Southwest premiere of her latest film, “Booksmart,” in March. 

    That film’s LGBTQ-inclusive script was “completely meaningful” for the actor, who is in a relationship with Bonnie Chance Roberts, a British producer. 

    “My partner is a woman,” she said. “There’s a love scene between two girls, and they’re fumbling with their sneakers and they can’t get their jeans off. All of those moments, they make me tear up because representation is really important.” 

    Read more on Beanie Feldstein here.

  • Ryan Russell
    The NFL veteran&nbsp;came out as bisexual in&nbsp;a personal essay&nbsp;<a href="https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27484719

    Paul Morigi via Getty Images
    The NFL veteran came out as bisexual in a personal essay published by ESPN in August. 

    “My truth is that I’m a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover, and a bisexual man,” said Russell, who played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is now a free agent. 

    The lack of an openly LGBTQ person currently playing in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball gives him pause — but he wants to change that.

    “I want to be able to dedicate my life to football without feeling like I can’t dedicate my life to truth as well,” he said.

    Read more on Ryan Russell here.

  • Willow Smith
    In a June episode of the Facebook series "<a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?ref=external&amp;v=419568041972431" target

    Andrew Toth via Getty Images
    In a June episode of the Facebook series “Red Table Talk,” Smith said she is attracted to both men and women, and can see herself in a polyamorous relationship in the future.

    “I focus a lot on the emotional connection,” the actor and singer said. “I feel like if I were to find two people of different genders that I really connected with and we had a romantic and sexual connection, I don’t feel like I would feel the need to try to go find more.”

    “Monogamy, I feel, actually inhibits you from learning those skills of evolving past those feelings of insecurity and jealousy,” she added. 

    Read more on Willow Smith here.

  • Joshua Rush
    The actor, who&nbsp;portrayed the Disney Channel&rsquo;s first openly <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/andi-mack-gay-c

    Rich Fury via Getty Images
    The actor, who portrayed the Disney Channel’s first openly gay character on “Andi Mack,” came out as bisexual in a series of August tweets

    “I stuffed the existential crisis of talking about my sexual orientation into a box in my mind for years,” he wrote. “Being bi isn’t all of my identity, nor is it the most important part of my identity.”

    Rush’s announcement came days after “Andi Mack” wrapped its three-season run. 

    The final episode, which aired in July, hinted at the development of a relationship between Rush’s character, Cyrus, and a male classmate, TJ Kippen (played by Luke Mullen).

    Read more on Joshua Rush here.

  • Demi Burnett
    The sixth season of ABC's &ldquo;Bachelor in Paradise&rdquo; featured <a href="https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/ba

    Rodin Eckenroth via Getty Images
    The sixth season of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise” featured a first for the franchise when a contestant came out as bisexual. 

    Initially, Burnett dated contestant Derek Peth in early episodes of the show, which premiered in August. But as the series progressed, Burnett told Peth that she’d started dating a woman, Kristian Haggerty, before filming commenced. 

    The season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise” culminated in Burnett and Haggerty’s engagement. Sadly, the two have since split. 

    Read more on Demi Burnett here.

  • Tyler Blackburn
    &ldquo;I&rsquo;m queer,&rdquo; Blackburn <a href="https://www.advocate.com/television/2019/4/19/do-you-think-you-really-know-

    ROBYN BECK via Getty Images
    “I’m queer,” Blackburn told The Advocate in April. “I’ve identified as bisexual since a teenager.”

    Like many bisexual people, the star of “Pretty Little Liars” and “Roswell, New Mexico” said he initially felt pressure to adhere to “gay” or “straight” labels — though he identified with neither.

    “I heard so many things from within the queer community about bisexuality being a cop-out or bullshit or the easy way out or something, and that always stuck with me because I felt the pressure from all sides to have [my sexuality] figured out,” he said. “And I think for the longest time, I suppressed more of my attraction to men.”

    Read more on Tyler Blackburn here.

  • Tess Holliday
    The body-positive model and activist <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/model-tess-holliday-comes-out-as-pansexual_n_5d1

    Tim Whitby/BFC via Getty Images
    The body-positive model and activist came out as pansexual in July.

    In an interview with Nylon, Holliday said she feels more comfortable with herself now that she’s figured out she’s pansexual, which means she’s attracted to a person regardless of their sex or gender identity. 

    “I definitely have a sense of relief,” she said. “I can connect with people on a more intimate level than I was before because I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.” 

    Read more on Tess Holliday here.

  • Juan Pablo Di Pace
    Best known for his role on <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entertainment/topic/netflix">Netflix</a>&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href=

    Robin L Marshall via Getty Images
    Best known for his role on Netflix’s “Fuller House,” Di Pace announced he was gay during a TEDx talk in March. 

    The Argentinean actor said his path to self-acceptance began in 2015 when he played Jesus Christ in the NBC miniseries “A.D. The Bible Continues.” 

    “So there I am, hanging on the cross in Morocco,” said Di Pace, who was raised Catholic. “I look up at the sky, and I think, ‘You could still strike me down with lightning. Are you sure you want me to play your son?’” 

    Instead, he felt “an overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance and freedom that I could never even put into words. A message from God? Maybe.”

    Read more on Juan Pablo Di Pace here.

  • Eugene Lee Yang
    Yang came out to the world as gay by releasing an emotional <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/eugene-lee-yang-of-the-tr

    Michael Tullberg via Getty Images
    Yang came out to the world as gay by releasing an emotional music video in June. 

    Known for the online series “The Try Guys,” the actor-comedian said the video — set to music by electronic duo Odesza — was his “personal way of coming out as a proud gay man who has many unheard, specific stories to tell.”

    “I withheld because of fear and shame shaped by my background,” he added, “but I promise to give my full truth in the rest of my life’s work.” 

    Read more on Eugene Lee Yang here

  • Brigette Lundy-Paine
    The actor&nbsp;best known for their role as Casey Gardner in Netflix&rsquo;s "Atypical" <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/

    Steven Ferdman via Getty Images
    The actor best known for their role as Casey Gardner in Netflix’s “Atypical” came out as nonbinary in a November Instagram post.  

    “Always felt a lil bit boy, lil bit girl, lil bit neither,” Lundy-Paine wrote, adding that they will use the pronouns “they” and “them.” 

    “I feel I owe it to myself and to all of us who struggle w gender,” they continued. 

    Read more on Brigette Lundy-Paine here.

  • Kerron Clement
    The two-time Olympic gold medalist came out as gay in <a href="https://www.out.com/sports/2019/10/11/olympic-gold-medalist-ke

    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    The two-time Olympic gold medalist came out as gay in an October interview with Out magazine. 

    “I have been through what a lot of people have been through which is being afraid of being who you are,” the U.S. track athlete said. “I struggled with my sexuality for 17 years.”

    Clement — who won a silver and gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and another gold in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro — added, “Now it’s time to just be yourself and be free. That’s what I’ve become, free.”

    Read more on Kerron Clement here.

  • Michael D. Cohen
    The "<a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jace-norman-talks-growing-up-on-henry-danger_n_58bddc8ee4b09ab537d60624" target=

    LISA O’CONNOR via Getty Images
    The “Henry Danger” actor opened up about his transgender identity in an interview with Time published in May. 

    “I was misgendered at birth,” he said. “I identify as male, and I am proud that I have had a transgender experience — a transgender journey.”

    Cohen said he transitioned nearly 20 years ago. Witnessing the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ platform, he said, convinced him the time was right to go public about his gender identity. 

    “This crazy backlash and oppression of rights is happening right in front of me. I can’t stay silent,” he said. “When you disempower one population, you disempower everybody.”

    Read more on Michael D. Cohen here

  • Valentina
    The "RuPaul's Drag Race" veteran <a href="https://www.out.com/entertainment/2019/1/14/valentina-identifies-non-binary-im-my-o

    Mike Coppola via Getty Images
    The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” veteran told Out magazine in January that she identifies as nonbinary. 

    “I don’t completely feel like a man, I don’t completely feel like a woman,” said the actor, singer and drag performer, who uses female pronouns. “I feel like a goddess. I feel like I’m my own gender.”

    Read more on Valentina here.

  • Jonathan Van Ness
    In June, the "Queer Eye" grooming expert <a href="https://www.out.com/lifestyle/2019/6/10/queer-eyes-jonathan-van-ness-im-non

    Jim Spellman via Getty Images
    In June, the “Queer Eye” grooming expert told Out magazine that he identifies as nonbinary. 

    “Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I’m here for it,” said Van Ness, who stated a preference for the pronouns he, him and his. “I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide.”

    “It’s this social construct that I don’t really feel like I fit into the way I used to,” he added. 

    Read more on Jonathan Van Ness here.

  • Connor Jessup
    Best known for his role on the ABC anthology series &ldquo;<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/01/the-discipl

    Paul Archuleta via Getty Images
    Best known for his role on the ABC anthology series “American Crime,” Jessup told fans he’s gay in an emotional Instagram post in June. 

    Noting that he was “grateful to be gay,” the actor nonetheless said accepting his authentic self “took me years” and remains an “ongoing” process.

    “I’ve been out for years in my private life, but never quite publicly. I’ve played that tedious game,” he said. “Most painfully, I’ve talked about the gay characters I’ve played from a neutral, almost anthropological distance, as if they were separate from me. These evasions are bizarre and embarrassing to me now, but at the time they were natural.”

    Read more on Connor Jessup here.

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