Celebrities and Influencers Come Out for Equality in 2016

Whether it’s coming out as LGBTQ or as an ally, countless American actors, athletes, musicians and YouTube sensations have helped advance the movement for equality. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of the standout coming out moments in pop culture from the last year. Learn more at hrc.im/ComingOutDay.
  1. Marcelas Owens
    Marcelas Owens became known as the "Obamacare kid" in 2010 after standing next to President Barack Obama while he signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Earlier this year, Owens came out as transgender. “I’m going through a reinvention process,” she said in an interview with CNN. I’m growing into adulthood. I’m not the Obamacare kid anymore.”
  2. Stefanie Dolson
    WNBA All-Star Stefanie Dolson discussed her decision to come out in a piece for ESPN The Magazine’s WNBA Issue. Dolson, who came out through a social media post, said she made the decision because she had to be true to herself as well as her fans. “Before posting, I thought about what people might say because this photo made it clear that we’re together, but then I realized that the reactions of others didn’t matter to me. I wanted people who are fans and supporters to know who I really am.”
  3. Bill Kennedy
    In December 2015, following disturbing homophobic slurs made by Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo, NBA veteran referee Bill Kennedy came out publicly as gay. “I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” Kennedy told Yahoo Sports. “I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are.”
  4. Michael Angelakos
    Michael Angelakos, lead singer of the band Passion Pit, came out in November 2015. “I am saying something that I’ve never said before publicly,” he told Bret Easton Ellis in a podcast interview. “I’m gay. And that’s it. It just has to happen.” Angelakos later tweeted his appreciation to fans on Twitter writing, “I’ve received so many kind and supportive messages today. Thank you for reaching out and being so kind to me."
  5. Amandla Stenberg
    Actress Amandla Stenberg came out as bisexual in a Snapchat takeover for Teen Vogue earlier this year. “It’s a really, really hard thing to be silenced and it’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and to mold yourselves into shapes that you just shouldn’t be in,” she said in the video. “As someone who identifies as a black bisexual woman, I’ve been through it and it hurts and it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable.”
  6. Charlie Carver
    Actor Charlie Carver came out as gay through emotional posts on his Instagram. Each post was accompanied by an image that read, “Be who you needed when you were younger.” “I knew I wanted to be an actor...I also knew, however abstractly, that I was different from some of the other boys in my grade. Over time, this abstract ‘knowing’ grew & articulated itself through a painful gestation marked by feelings of despair & alienation, ending in a climax of saying three words out loud: ‘I am gay.'"
  7. Rowan Blanchard
    Actress Rowan Blanchard took to Twitter this year to come out as queer. After a fan sent a tweet about her character on "Girl Meets World" possibly being bisexual, Blanchard responded, "would really be here for this! If not Riley-its vvv important to me, being queer, that there is representation on our show [sic].” She went on to say, “in my life-only ever liked boys however i personally dont wanna label myself as straight gay or whateva so i am not gonna give myself labels to stick with."
  8. Gus Kenworthy
    Dubbed one of the best freeskiers in the world, Gus Kenworthy came out as gay in ESPN The Magazine. A 2014 Olympic silver medalist, Kenworthy shared the interview in a heartfelt Facebook post. “I am gay. Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life, I’ve been afraid to embrace the truth about myself. Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m very proud to finally be letting my guard down."
  9. Rayvon Owen
    American Idol's Rayvon Owen came out on Valentine’s Day in a video for his song “Can’t Fight It." “I was given an incredible platform with American Idol & I felt I had a responsibility to do something positive with it, especially if there was a chance that it would help others. When it came time to storyboard my new video, the director...presented a female love interest. At that moment, I knew in my heart that it needed to be a man. Authenticity suddenly became more important...than hiding."
  10. Brendan Jordan
    At HRC’s Time to THRIVE Conference for LGBTQ youth, YouTuber Brendan Jordan said that he identified as both male & female & was happy to use both pronouns “he” & “she.” “I’m still figuring it out. I’m starting to identify as one or as part of the trans community. I can’t really label it because, you know, some days my more feminine side comes out - the ‘she’ - & some other days I just don’t really feel like putting on my fabulous mask & the ‘he’ comes out. And I’m totally okay with that.”
  11. Colton Haynes
    Actor Colton Haynes opened up about being gay in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Haynes acknowledged that prior to coming out, hiding his reality took a toll on his health, both mentally and physically. “People who are so judgmental about those who are gay or different don’t realize that acting 24 hours a day is the most exhausting thing in the world. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and healthier than I’ve ever been, and that’s what I care about.”
  12. Lilly Wachowski
    In March, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski, sister of director and producer Lana Wachowski, wrote a piece for the Windy City Times after tabloid reporters attempted to out her as transgender against her will. “I am one of the lucky ones. Having the support of my family and the means to afford doctors and therapists has given me the chance to actually survive this process,” Wachowski wrote. “Transgender people without support, means and privilege do not have this luxury. And many do not survive.”
  13. Trey Pearson
    Christian rock star and lead singer of the band Everyday Sunday, Trey Pearson came out as gay in (614) Columbus, as well as an open letter to his fans and friends. “I hope people will hear my heart, and that I will still be loved. I’m still the same guy with the same heart, who wants to love God and love people with everything I have. This is a part of me I have come to be able to accept, and now it is a part of me that you know as well. I trust God to help love do the rest.”
  14. Keke Palmer
    Actress, singer and songwriter Keke Palmer opened up about her sexuality in her music video “I Don’t Belong to You,” in which she leaves a male love interest and ultimately ends up with a woman. “The video was to represent the young woman today - it’s not the traditional woman anymore - and not the specifics of ‘Am I gay? Am I straight? Am I bi?’” she said. “I’m making the rules for myself, and I don’t have to be stuck down to one label.”
  15. Mara Wilson
    Following the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub, author and former child star Mara Wilson opened up about her sexual orientation in a series of tweets. Wilson shared a photo of herself in a gay club at age 18 and went on to Tweet, “Being a ‘straight girl’ where I clearly didn’t belong, but I will say, I felt so welcomed there...But the LGBTQ community has always felt like home, especially a few years later when, I uh, learned something about myself. So thank you.”
  16. Aubrey Plaza
    In July, actress Aubrey Plaza sat down with The Advocate to discuss her various acting roles and her relationship with the LGBTQ community, and in turn ended up coming out as bisexual. When asked if women ever hit on her, the Parks and Recreation star responded, “Oh, yeah. I don’t mind. I know I have an androgynous thing going on, and there’s something masculine about my energy. Girls are into me - that’s no secret. Hey, I’m into them too. I fall in love with girls and guys. I can’t help it.”
  17. Alexis G. Zall
    YouTube sensation Alexis G. Zall came out in a video titled 18 Tips for 18 Years on her YouTube channel a day ahead of her 18th birthday. “I can say without a doubt I feel the most comfortable with myself as a human being that I have ever felt,” Zall said. “It is totally okay to be a girl who likes girls or a boy who likes boys, and me, personally, I am a girl who likes girls.”
  18. Stephanie Beatriz
    After fellow actress Aubrey Plaza came out as bisexual in an interview, Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Stephanie Beatriz announced her bisexuality on Twitter. Sharing a tweet that said, “‘I fall in love with girls and guys. I can’t help it.’ - Aubrey Plaza”, Beatriz simply wrote “Yup.” When a fan responded with one word, “IS,” encouraging her to elaborate, Beatriz responded, “yes y’all,” with four emojis - a girl kissing a guy, the A-OK symbol, a girl kissing a girl and the A-OK symbol.
  19. Elena Delle Donne
    WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne became engaged to former collegiate teammate Amanda Clifton this summer. “I’ve grown up in a family where I have the most unique sister in the world and we’ve always been taught to celebrate uniqueness,” Delle Donne said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in August. “It was easy for me to be who I am and hopefully others can be who they are as well.”
  20. Claire Kittrell
    Claire Kittrell, creator and star of the viral video Gingers Do Have Souls came out as transgender in a YouTube video titled I’m done pretending. #TransPride in August. “I wasn’t going to make this video,” Kittrell said. “I feel like I’m stronger now more so than I’ve ever been because I’m learning to accept myself and I’m learning to be more comfortable in my own skin.”
  21. Bella Thorne
    In August, actress Bella Thorne shared photos and a video on Snapchat in which she is kissing a girl, immediately prompting questions from fans. When asked on Twitter if she was bisexual, Thorne replied, “Yes.” She received an outpouring of love and a few hours later tweeted, “Aww thank you for all the accepting tweets from everyone. I love you guys #pride.”
  22. Eva Gutowski
    Following her breakup from her now ex-boyfriend, YouTube star Eva Gutowski took to Twitter to announce that she is bisexual. “I am ready for myself to fall in love with someone, no matter who they end up being, and have been since I was 12. Boy or girl,” she wrote in a series of tweets. “Why would you limit your love to half of what it could be, based off of being scared to ‘not be normal.’ No, love is for everybody to share.”
  23. Ricky Dillon
    YouTube star Ricky Dillon posted a video on his channel titled My Sexuality, throughout which he explains that his sexuality is something he cannot easily define. “I, first of all, don’t know what I am,” Dillon said in the video, which has been viewed more than one million times. “If I’m asked, my simple answer is, ‘I’m nothing. I’m none of the above. I don’t know what I am.’...If I were to label myself, I would be closest to asexual.”
  24. Reid Ewing
    Reid Ewing, who is perhaps best known for his role in the Emmy Award-winning sitcom Modern Family, confirmed that he is gay on Twitter in November of 2015. Ewing first took to the social media platform to comment on the attractiveness of a man on a Good Morning America segment. When a Twitter user asked, “Did you also just out yourself?” Ewing replied with a straightforward response, “I was never in.”
  25. Shawn Balentine
    Shawn Balentine became the first openly gay stuntman in Hollywood after sharing an emotional Facebook post in January. In the post titled Layers, Balentine explains that he was reluctant to show his vulnerable side and rarely allowed himself to wear his heart on his sleeve. “Now it’s time to peel back the layers,” he wrote. “I’ve been waiting until I was ready to come out as [a] gay man on my terms. I’m ready now.”
  26. Nyle DiMarco
    Winner of America’s Next Top Model & Dancing With the Stars, Nyle DiMarco came out as sexually fluid. At HRC’s National Dinner he spoke about the intersectionality of our issues & embracing our differences. “My passion is...inspiring young people who are struggling with their identities to love themselves for who they are. As a sexually fluid deaf man, I know that embracing all of our identities is the way to thrive & overcome limitations & prejudices."
  27. Rebecca Sugar
    Creator of the animated T.V. series Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar came out as bisexual at Comic-Con in July. At a panel for her show, a fan asked Sugar what inspired her to focus on women’s empowerment as well as LGBTQ themes when writing. “Well, in large part it’s based on my experience as a bisexual woman,” Sugar said & was met with resounding applause from the audience. She continued to discuss the importance of these themes, not just for her but for other LGBTQ people, especially youth.
  28. Elizabeth Gilbert
    Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, announced she was in love with her best friend Rayya Elias. In a Facebook post Gilbert explained she realized she was in love with Elias when Elias was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “In the moment I first learned of Rayya’s diagnosis, a trap door opened at the bottom of my heart (a trap door I didn’t even know was there)... I love her, & she loves me. I’m walking through this cancer journey with her, not only as her friend, but as her partner."
  29. Brian Anderson
    Pro skateboarder Brian Anderson came out as gay in a video interview with VICE Sports. “I think of how I felt when I was younger &, you know, totally scared. A lot of these kids that don’t have hope are really scared to death. Hearing what I went through & to know how everything got better for me & I got a lot happier & felt more free, & didn’t have all of the shame buried inside my body, you become a happier person. So to convey that message was really important to me.”
  30. Holland Taylor
    Actress Holland Taylor opened up about her relationship with fellow actress Sarah Paulson in an interview last November. In an interview with Anna Sale on the podcast Death, Sex & Money, Taylor said, “I haven’t come out because I am out. I live out...It’s the most wonderful, extraordinary thing that could have ever possibly happened in my life.”