Even though so much has progressed over the years with the ruling on same-sex marriage, coming out as a gay man or lesbian woman can still be a super intimidating and frightening experience. There is always that chance of receiving criticism from people who do not support the LGBT community. Imagine being a celebrity and having to come out of the closet. Disclosing your sexual orientation to the entire world without knowing how your fans or other members of society will react is extremely nerve wracking.
It used to be that announcing you were gay to the public and your fans was career suicide, but with openly gay and proud celebs such as Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John paving the way for new, young talents in Hollywood, coming out of the closet is becoming an easier, less daunting task. Still, many celebs prefer to stay off the grid about their sexuality, and rightly so.
Some of your favorite actresses and actors from your favorite TV shows or movies growing up may just now be coming out publicly. In the past, it was not exactly good for a striving actor’s career to classify themselves as “gay” or “lesbian.” Some are just now able to begin talking about their sexuality and the pressures they felt to keep quiet.
It only makes sense that some gay celebrities choose to come out or live as a homosexual quietly and under the radar. Some of these celebrities were previously married to members of the opposite sex, only to later realize their true sexual identity. Some were married or dating to cover up their homosexuality from the public.
Check out this list of 20 famous people you didn’t know were gay.
20. Kelly McGillis
McGillis is most recognizable from her role in Top Gun with Tom Cruise. Top Gun premiered in 1986; it took McGillis until 2009 to discuss her homosexuality publicly. Kelly won over a legion of male fans for her role in the film. In 2010, she entered into a civil union with girlfriend Melanie Leis, a music company executive. The two had allegedly been keeping their relationship a secret for the past nine years. Prior to her relationship with Leis, McGillis had been in relationships with only men.
The relationship also came under strain, sources close to them in the U.S. say, because of the actress’ refusal to acknowledge Miss Leis as her partner. Now, McGillis speaks openly about joining the late-in-life lesbian phenomenon, saying “my kids have always been very understanding, but it was their friends, and their friends’ parents, that weren’t very accepting. My kids suffered a great deal because I was with Mell, and that bothered me a lot, and so I chose never to talk about it.”
19. David Hyde Pierce
David Hyde Pierce is best known for playing Dr. Niles Crane in the popular nineties show Frasier. Many people do not know that the actor is a homosexual man and has been in a relationship with the same man for over two decades. It took Pierce and his [now] husband, Brian Hargrove, many years to go public with their relationship and sexuality.
“It was very important to me never to pretend, never to hide. In 1985, my partner Brian and I were new in the business and were not comfortable letting people know that we were gay. We had separate apartments. We went about our business. We met this lovely married couple down in the grocery store below the apartment building where we all stayed. A month later, we finally had the courage to come out and let them know that in fact, we were a couple. They said, ‘We knew when we saw you shopping.”
18. Gillian Anderson
Gillian Anderson is a former actress on the hit series X-Files She hid her sexuality from the public for a long time. In 2012 she spoke with an infamous gay magazine, Out, and told readers that she had been in a relationship with another girl throughout high school. In 2014, Anderson spoke out about her relationship with another woman. The woman had died from a brain tumor and Anderson felt as though she owed it to her lover not to hide their relationship.
Anderson said she was grateful because the woman had been offered money to sell a photo of them, but chose not to.
“There was a point years after we split when she phoned to tell me to say she had been offered a large amount of money to sell a photograph of us together and had chosen not to do it. It was a very big decision because she really could have used the money. I felt it was very important to take the onus off that type of relationship, to say this happened and I feel no shame about it.”
17. Jonathan Knight
Ex-boy band member, Jonathan Knight, of New Kids On The Block, waited until after his days of fame to reveal to the world his orientation. For years, the pop-star performed for screaming girls around the world, but no one knew he was hiding such a big secret.
“I think it’s so funny, there was an article in a magazine and I was reading the comments and there’s still so many people who were like, ‘Wow I didn’t know he was gay,'” Jonathan said after he was publicly outed. “It’s just like, relax people, we’re no different than anybody else.”
Although Knight says that he never intended to keep his sexuality hidden, he felt pressured to help the band maintain their heartthrob boy band image.
16. Matt Dallas
Who remembers the ABC Family series Kyle XY from back in the day? Well, turns out, the actor who played Kyle XY, is gay! The actor didn’t come out until years after the show had aired and the Dallas has remained mostly off the radar ever since. In 2013, he came out on Twitter with a simple tweet writing “Starting off the year with a new fiancé, @bluehamilton. A great way to kick off 2013!”
Blue Hamilton is a musician and the pair recently adopted a son together. Last year, the couple brought home a two-year-old from Arizona in need of a loving home, the boy’s name is Crow.
“The car ride home, we decided that he was gonna be ours and we weren’t gonna give him up, there was supposed to be a six-month trial period, and there was about a six-minute trial period before we knew he was gonna be ours.”
15. Wentworth Miller
Best known from the series Prison Break, Wentworth Miller had a lot of women in tears when he revealed he was homosexual. One look at him and it is easy to see why the beautifully chiseled actor had girls drooling over him in the FOX series.
42-year-old Miller has said that he feels more open and honest since revealing his sexuality to the public.
“I feel more fully expressed,” he tells Details Magazine. “After Prison Break, I came to grips with the fact that my public persona was in misalignment with how I actually felt.”
“I was out to a handful of people in my twenties, and once I hit 30, I was out to family and friends. But professionally, I was feeding a fantasy. I created this air of ‘We don’t address that thing.'”
Most importantly, Miller just wanted to express that actors and actresses are not the characters that they are playing onscreen.
“They’re our projection of who we want them to be. I think it’s possible to have a man-crush if you’re not gay or to have a crush on a guy you know to be gay if you’re a woman. Attraction is fluid, and I think our imaginations are strong enough to hold a container for all of this complexity, even if we know on a subconscious level something’s not what it appears to be.”
14. Cynthia Nixon
Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon is known for her character on the series, Miranda. While her character is a married woman with a child, Cynthia actually ended her marriage to her husband in 2003 and married girlfriend, Christine Marinoni in 2012.
Nixon met Marinoni at a same-sex marriage rally back in 2004. Both Nixon and her girlfriend were extremely active in the drive to legalize gay marriage. Marinoni, 45, is an education activist. The couple lives in a ritzy, million dollar Greenwich Village home.
The couple’s son, Max Ellington Nixon-Marinoni was born in February of 2012. Nixon also has two children from her first marriage with English professor, Danny Mozes.
Nixon is one celebrity who has spoken out about her sexuality and claims that she is gay “by choice.”
“While I don’t often use the word, the technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual. I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.”
13. Queen Latifah
Singer, actress, and talk show host, Queen Latifah, has never “officially” stated her sexual preference to be men or women. It seems this Queen’s sexuality has always been a topic of conversation and is treated more like an “open secret” as she is often seen holding hands and kissing her girlfriend in public.
The actress is heavily involved with supporting the LGBT community. At one point, Latifa was coupled up with her apparent girlfriend, Ebony Nicholas.
Latifah is a spokeswoman for Cover Girl and lends her face to a variety of other big name brands. By coming out as a gay woman, officially, could have a massive influence on the LGBT community. She has, however, openly spoke about her active efforts in bridging the gap in marriage equality.
“Who you choose to marry is really up to you and it’s not something you should be judged on. I don’t find being gay or lesbian to be a character flaw. Couples should be protected under the laws of this country period. It actually angers me.”
12. Alan Cumming
It was kind of just assumed that Good Wife actor, Alan Cumming, was openly gay. A few years ago the actor admitted to being bi-sexual in a lengthy interview about his sexuality with Instinct. He is currently married to Grant Schaffer. The pair tied the knot in 2012.
“I have a healthy sexual appetite and a healthy imagination, I still define myself as a bisexual even though I have chosen to be with Grant. I’m sexually attracted to the female form even though I am with a man and I just feel that bisexuals have a bad rap. I feel that’s what I am. I see a worrying trend among LGBT people, that if you identify yourself in just one way, you close yourself off to other experiences. My sexuality has never been black and white; it’s always been gray. I’m with a man, but I haven’t closed myself off to the fact that I’m still sexually attracted to women.”
11. Ellen Page
Actress Ellen Page has played many straight, female characters in her past. She is probably most known for her breakout role in Juno. But Page has not been shy about sharing her homosexuality and support for the LGBT community. She is very much an advocate for LGBT rights.
Page believes that she has not been cast for as many straight roles since she came out openly as a lesbian.
“Zachary Quinto [of Star Trek fame] is out, and he stars in one of the biggest blockbuster franchises,” the 28-year-old actor told Elle magazine. “I have four projects coming up – all gay roles. People ask if I’m concerned about getting pigeonholed. No one asks: ‘Ellen, you’ve done seven straight roles in a row – shouldn’t you shake it up and do something queer?’”
She has also publicly claimed that homophobia is just as prevalent of an issue in Hollywood as racism still is today.
10. Raven Symone
Disney Channel’s hit teen star Raven-Symone came out of the closet long after her time on That’s So Raven. The actress admitted to feeling pressured to hide her feelings and did not want her sexuality to interfere with her “Disney” image.
Raven is currently a host on The View and is known for her controversial opinions and point of view. The actress refuses to be labeled as “gay” or even as “African American.” She spoke of her feelings towards being labeled after the Supreme Court marriage equality decision. “I don’t want to be labeled gay, I want to be a human who loves humans.” Raven continued, “I’m tired of being labeled, I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.”
Raven has been dating model AzMarie Livingston, since 2013. The couple have no plans of getting married, at least not yet. Her partner recently scored a new role in the FOX hit series, Empire.
9. Maria Bello
This actress came out to the public back in 2013 and may be best known for her notorious role in, A History of Violence, Bello has played a variety of straight characters. The star is now in a relationship with her best friend of many years and has one son. Her son Jackson was 12 years old when Bello was ready to come out. She had suspected that Jackson had some ideas about what was going on with her before she decided to come clean.
“I was with someone romantically and I hadn’t told him,” she admitted. “I had become involved with a woman who was my best friend, and, as it happens, a person who is like a godmother to my son.”
Bello also spoke openly about how she came to discover her sexuality and identity and when she recognized her feelings for her partner.
“As I continued to look through photos, I came across a black-and-white one of my best friend and me taken on New Year’s Eve. We looked so happy, I couldn’t help but smile,” she said. “It didn’t occur to me, until that soul-searching moment in my garden, that we could perhaps choose to love each other romantically.”
8. Matt Bomber
Another heartthrob the ladies have lost to the men! White Collar star Matt Bomber has never really hidden his homosexuality. Bomber has three children with his partner, Simon Halls.
Bomber shocked the public in 2013 when he announced to the public that he had been married to a man for three years while accepting an award at the Desert AIDS Project’s Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards in Palm Springs by giving a special shout-out to Halls and their three children.
“I’d really especially like to thank my beautiful family: Simon, Kit,Walker, Henry,” the White Collar star said. “Thank you for teaching me what unconditional love is. You will always be my proudest accomplishment. God bless you.”
Bomer tells Details he first read the play when he was high school freshman back in his suburban Houston hometown. “At that time, I was clueless and obviously in a different place in relation to my sexuality,” he said. “I was in romantic relationships with girls—whatever that means at 14. And it completely rocked my world…It’s just an amazing call to arms.”
7. Jim Parsons
Many fans of Big Bang Theory did not know that Parsons was gay. After all, his character on the show, Sheldon, hardly shows any interest in anything other than science. He proposed to boyfriend in the days after he took home the Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. Though the actor had not previously spoken out about his sexuality, he never attempted to hide the fact that he and Spiewak were a couple.
The actor expressed his feeling of relief after coming out to the public and no longer having to hide his sexuality from the world.
“I took [my partner] Todd with me to events…and then finally one day while working on Harvey I did a piece with Patrick Healy for The New York Times and he just point-blank asked, ‘Was working on The Normal Heart meaningful to you as a gay man?’ And I was like, ‘Well, yeah. Yeah.'”
6. Victor Garber
Fans were shocked to find out that Legally Blonde actor Victor Garber was gay in 2012. He now appears on red carpets with his partner, Rainer Andreesen. Garber said that he had been living with his partner for a long time. The couple has been together for fourteen years. While Garber has not exactly hidden his sexuality, he has also not prominently spoken out about it.
“I don’t really talk about it but everybody knows, he’s going to be out here with me for the SAG Awards.”
When asked about his proudest achievements, Garber said, “my relationships with my family and my friends. My companion Rainer Andreesen and I have been together almost 13 years in Greenwich Village. We both love New York.”
7. Lily Tomlin
Star of the Netflix original series Grace and Frankie, Tomlin actually plays a character of a woman (Frankie) in the midst of a divorce after finding out her husband is gay. In real life, Tomlin considers herself a lesbian. The actress came out in 2001, although she was never really secretive about her sexuality.
The 76-year-old came out as gay and married Jane Wagner, with whom she often worked, back in 2013. The actress had said that earlier in her career she turned down films that said “thoughtless things about women.”
“When you’re first in the business you’re so innocent and free, the script would literally leap out of my hands into the trash can. Then afterward you get to know more and more people and you make more compromises.”
6. Jodie Foster
Award-winning actress Jodie Foster came out as a lesbian woman at the 2013 Golden Globes. Although, the actress had been in a same-sex relationship for years and years prior to that. She and her former partner Cydney Bernard, with whom she had two sons, ended their 20-year relationship back in 2008.
She has since gotten married to her partner, photographer Alexandra Hedison. Hedison had previously dated talk show host Ellen Degeneres in the early 2000s.
Foster, who has been in show business for 48 years, has witnessed from the inside the transformation of a business where homosexuality was — and, in some cases, still is — something to be shushed and hidden away to the point of covering it up with fake marriages. Foster has seen the industry from its most prejudice times to some of the most accepting times.
5. Sarah Paulson
American Horror Story actress, Sarah Paulson, is openly gay and loving the ladies. The actress previously dated Cherry Jones until 2009. She is currently dating actress, Holland Taylor, who is over three decades older than Paulson. 31 years of an age difference between the two, to be exact. Paulson and Taylor have received a rather large amount of attention surrounding their relationship and the age gap.
“There’s a poignancy to being with someone older, I think there’s a greater appreciation of time and what you have together and what’s important, and it can make the little things seem very small. It puts a kind of sharp light mixed with a sort of diffused light on something. I can’t say it any other way than there’s a poignancy to it, and a heightened sense of time and the value of time.”
“I had a complicated home life, and my teachers, predominantly my theater teachers and my English teachers, were very dedicated to taking care of me in a particular way,” she continued. “And in doing so, I think I developed a very easy rapport with people older than myself.”
4. Zachary Quinto
Fellow American Horry Story star Zachary Quinto came out as a gay man in 2011. He is currently dating Miles McMillian.
The actor has also starred in a variety of shows like Heroes and films like Star Trek.
During 2011 when he was coming out to the public, Quinto had scored an acclaimed role as Louis Ironson in Angels in America, an off-Broadway play about a man who abandons his AIDS-stricken boyfriend. This role inspired Quinto to discuss his much-questioned sexuality for the first time.
Quinto calls his work in the off-Broadway play the “most challenging thing I’ve ever done as an actor, and the most rewarding. At the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done, and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed.”
3. T.R. Knight
Most known for his role as Dr. George O’Malley in Grey’s Anatomy, T.R. Knight is openly gay and married. He married his partner in 2013.
The actor even claimed that the reason he left Grey’s Anatomy was because of an altercation on set with another cast mate. Isaiah Washington, was famously fired from the series after directing homophobic slurs towards his then-costar T.R. Knight.
During an on-set argument, the actor called Knight a “f—ot” and used the derogatory term once again at the Golden Globes. Knight had not been publicly out at the time. The incident caused Knight to ask the production company for an early release from his $14 million contract.
“There just comes a time when it’s so clear that moving on is the best decision. My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about his character, George],” stated Knight.
One of the guests at the couple’s nuptials was Knight’s friend and former co-star Katherine Heigl (their characters, George and Izzie, were also BFFs and at one point lovers on the show).
2. Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen is famous for playing the legendary role of Gandolf in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. McKellan’s sexuality is hardly ever addressed, but the actor is openly gay and proud. McKellan hardly talks about it because it is practically old news!
The X-Men actor decided he had to come out in 1988 at the age of 49.
The 76-year-old star said that he had been using acting as a disguise to hide his sexuality and that he was ashamed of who he was.
He has since stated that coming out has made him a better actor than ever. He has said that his feelings are more real and his actions are played out with more intent because there is nothing that he feels he has to secretly hold back. He said, “I regret and always shall that I didn’t see the significance of coming out at a much earlier date because I think I would have been a different person and a happier one. Self-confidence is the most important thing that anybody can have. You don’t have that if part of you is ashamed or hiding something.”
1. Jonathan Bennett
Mean Girls, Jonathan Bennett, A.K.A. Aaron Samuels, is gay! The star of this cult classic film got a lot of female attention after Mean Girls came out. Turns out, Johnny boy wasn’t even into it!
He was previously rumored to have been in a relationship with Matt Dallas, who you read about above.
Julianne Hough may have accidentally outed Bennett while the two were filming for Dancing With The Stars back in 2014. Hough was asked whether there was any romantic interest between her and Bennett, and she responded that the actor was gay. Even though it is pretty much known, Bennett has yet to make any sort of public announcement about his sexuality.
Bennett is currently the host of Cake Wars on The FOOD Network which kicked off in April. “You have to just have some knowledge of making cupcakes. Cupcakes are easy,” he said, noting that the contestants are what really make the show. “They’re good ones. I call it Dancing With The Stars in the kitchen… with cupcakes.”