The 15 Most Influential People That Came Out in 2011

It is a true statement that coming out isn’t just something that a person who identifies as LGBTQ deals with just once, it’s also something that is addressed almost every single day. The media’s obses

It is a true statement that coming out isn’t just something that a person who identifies as LGBTQ deals with just once, it’s also something that is addressed almost every single day. The media’s obsession with who is and who isn’t gay is unfortunate and intrusive and back in 2011 being openly gay was just starting to be accepted in the respective worlds of sports, politics and movies. Being openly gay used to mean the end of a career in Hollywood but as time, legislation and the conversation about gay rights all progress it is beginning to be irrelevant where a celebrity lands on the spectrum of sexuality.

Coming out is a delicate process that is only made more difficult with daily bullying in school, sports and sometimes even from within the family. When celebrities come out they create a face for the LGBTQ community in the public eye which makes younger generations feel that they have a community and a future. Many of the stars that came out in 2011 did so to shine a light on the horrors of young LGBTQ suicides that had become so prominent by that year. Allowing people to come out or not come out without intervention is the best way to ensure that people are comfortable enough to be who they are.

15 Jared Max

Via youtube

ESPN radio prominently features Jared Max in their sports news and after a couple other prominent men in sports came out Max decided that it was time he joined the club. On the air, the sports radio personality revealed that for the last 16 years he had been out and proud with close friends and family. In the sports world Max remained in the closet and after a decade of hard work became the most familiar voice in New York sports. At almost 40 years old Max decided that it was time to be open about who he was for himself. Max was extremely worried about coming out to the masculine sports community but he says that he was welcomed by his peers and coworkers with open arms. The on-air personality has moved to television and reports the sports headlines for Fox News. He also has a radio show on SiriusXM 115.

14 Johnny Weir

Since his choice wardrobe and demeanor are both flamboyant and effeminate, the sexuality of Johnny Weir was a topic of speculation for many years. Weir refused to answer questions about his sexuality before January 2011 when he officially came out as gay. He is a big advocate for his sexual orientation having nothing to do with his abilities on the ice, so there was no need to reveal it in interviews. One reason for his decision to let the world know that he was gay was a string of suicides among LGBTQ youth across the world. The Olympic athlete was raised Roman Catholic but has experimented with religion even going as far as practicing Kaballah. He has most recently made comments about wanting to convert to Judaism. In the 2010 Winter Olympics two Canadian reporters made offensive and derogatory comments about Weir’s sexuality and appearance to which the public responded with outrage. He made Olympic headlines once again in 2013 when the Olympics went to Russia, a place where homosexuality is considered a sin and persecuted by law. Ever since Weir came out we knew that he’d find a place as an advocate for the community.

13 Gus Johnston

Via squarespace

Gus Johnston is a former professional Australian field hockey athlete and anti-homophobia campaigner. He came out to the public all by himself in 2011 through a YouTube video that was intended to shine a light on homophobia in the sport. Australian world news and media outlets including media giant ABC picked up the story and the small YouTube video went hugely viral. The professional athlete graduated from RMIT University with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising back in 1999. He is now a creative director and co-founder of Digital Pigeon ad agency. Johnston is also an ambassador to Headspace, Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation. In 2006 the government started Headspace to offer the youth of the country support when they are confronted with issues of depression, anxiety, stress, sexual health, alcohol & drug use, personal or family relationships. Johnston made OUT Magazine’s coveted ‘Out 100’ in 2012 and continues to inspire the younger generation.

12 Sean Maher

Via bigstock images

This American actor is most well known for his role as Simon Tam in the science fiction show Firefly and the follow-up movie Serenity. Maher always knew that acting was in his future, he studied drama at New York University and acted on stage in various productions. He has also acted in different productions from television to movies since graduating from NYU in 1997. Maher was featured on countless short-lived television series like Ryan Caulfield: Year One and The $treet. In 2011 Maher starred in the television series The Playboy Club as a closeted gay man that is in a fake relationship with a closeted lesbian cocktail waitress. Maher utilized the platform of this character to come out to the world that same year. He is currently married to devoted husband Paul and the pair have two children together. After their daughter was born Maher took years off of acting to help raise his children.

11 Randy Phillips

Via YouTube

In September of 2011 the military repealed their highly disputed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, previous to this month service member were not allowed to openly be gay. Phillips is an airman for the US Air Force and came out to his parents through a YouTube video that garnered much media attention. Phillips is a video blogger that operates under the tag ‘AreYouSurprised’ and in videos previous to his coming out video Phillips had never shown his face. In his most popular Youtube video Phillips came out to both his mother and father over the phone, this is also the first time that Phillips showed his face on camera. Another big video for ‘AreYouSurprised’ or Randy Phillips is that which features his co-workers discovering his web presence for the first time. After coming out Phillips was looked up to by many of those in the armed forces that were still too scared to come out.

10 Rick Welts

Via The Mercury News

Currently Welts is putting his expertise as an American sports executive to good use as President and Chief of Operations for the Golden State Warriors in the Bay area. Before working in the Warriors Welts was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Phoenix Suns from 2002 to 2011. At one time Rick Welts was even reported to be the third-highest-ranking official in the National Basketball Association (NBA). In the Spring of 2011 Welts came out publicly as gay when being interviewed for The New York Times. This admission made him the very first prominent American sports executive to come out publicly. Welts had two very private relationships prior to his coming out interview, the second of which ended in 2009 after Welts refused to live a public life with him. In 2011 Welts announced that he was relocating to Northern California to live with his partner and work at the championship winning Warriors franchise.

9 Don Lemon


Based in New York City, Don Lemon currently hosts CNN Tonight. Lemon was born in a small town in Louisiana where he attended public school. After high school the young man was accepted to Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York where he studied broadcast journalism. After his college studies Lemon bounced all around America from his very first job WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama to his work at WCAU in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2003 Lemon began reporting for NBC News’ operations in New York City which included working as both a correspondent and anchor on the various shows NBC manages. In 2011 Don Lemon released his memoir entitled Transparent and came out as gay along with many other personal and emotion admissions. In his time working for CNN he has been just as candid about issues within the black community and even made a comment about policemen that garnered a national petition. Lemon is still reporting for CNN and continues to ask more of the media community.

8 Glenn Anton Hysen

Via outsports

A footballer of Swedish descent, Hysen is also openly gay. In the Spring of 2011 Hysen came out to Swedish football magazine Offside and became, as said by The Daily Mail, the first Swedish footballer to come out as gay. At the time Hysen was only the second active footballer to come out. Playing football, American soccer, runs in Hysen’s family as his father was born in Liverpool and played for Liverpool FC. His brothers Tobias and Alexander Hysen are also both footballers. Before going pro Glenn Hysen was on the Swedish Under-17 team and then received a training contract from BK Hacken for a couple of years. Unfortunate injuries kept him from joining BK Hacken and the Swedish Division 2 team Utsiktens BK in 2010. After coming out Hysen has worked in construction and won Season 7 of hit television series Let’s Dance. He was the first openly gay winner to win the dancing competition.

7 Graeme Taylor

Via YouTube

Right at the end of 2010 Graeme Taylor became national news as an openly gay young high school freshman that had a lot to say about equality. A student made anti-gay homophobic comments in economics class and Taylor spoke up about it. His econ teacher Jay McDowell removed the boy from the class and then faced a suspension from his job. Graeme Taylor spoke up vehemently on behalf of the teacher, even going as far as addressing the school board at his hearing. Taylor spoke up on behalf of all teenagers struggling with their sexual identity. He spent time in 2011 being interviewed by the one and only Ellen DeGeneres on her show Ellen, it was this interview that he eloquently stated “I’ve been in classrooms where children have said the worst things – the kinds of things that drove me to a suicide attempt when I was only 9 years old.”

“These are the things that hurt a lot,” Graeme added. “There is a silent holocaust out there, in which an estimated 6 million gay people every year kill themselves.” The inspirational boy is one of our favorite coming out stories of the year.

6 Phyllis Siegel & Connie Kopelov

Via New York Daily News

We had to make this item two people because together they were the first same sex couple to wed in New York City on the very day that the east coast metropolis legalized gay marriage. Siegel was 77 and Kopelov was 85 when they were finally allowed to wed in the public eye after 23 years of committed affections. The day was monumental for everyone from the citizens to the government. Openly gay city council speaker Christine Quinn witnessed their ceremony which was officiated by City Clerk Michael McSweeney. Siegel and Kopelov became the face of thousands of marriages that took place on that beautiful 2011 day across the state of New York. So although this is a list of people that came out in 2011, we think that Siegel and Kopelov did more than just come out they spoke out for same sex love everywhere. Connie Kopelov passed away in May of 2016 at the age of 90 years old.

5 Dan Savage

Via Bilerico Report

The journalist and media pundit had been out for many years by 2011 but his out lifestyle became nationally known after him and his partner Terry Miller created the ‘It Gets Better’ project in 2010. Come 2011 many huge stars had taken part in the ‘It Gets Better’ video campaign and young LGBTQ were positively affected while countless straight allies were born. Their main goal with the project was to help find a way to prevent the mass suicides of LGBTQ youth. The queer advocate writes a popular and internationally syndicated sex and relationship column entitled Savage Love and lives in Seattle with his partner Terry Miller. Since the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign Savage gained attention when he spoke up against Rick Santorum when he made offensive homophobic comments. He is not afraid to make very public and blunt statements to anyone who will listen, clashing both with conservatives and the gay community.

4 Lieutenant Daniel Choi

Via Huffington Post

Lieutenant Choi was an American infantry officer in the United States Army until he was kicked out after coming out publicly on the Rachel Maddow Show. Sure, sure he didn’t come out in 2011, he came out in 2009; but he became a national highlight when the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was repealed. The reason that Choi was important in this fight is because he became an LGBTQ advocate and a vocal opponent of the policy that military personnel could not reveal their sexual identity and be soldiers in the armed forces. After receiving his discharge letter Choi wrote an open letter to United States Congress and President Obama stating that the DADT policy, saying "It is a slap in the face to me. It is a slap in the face to my soldiers, peers and leaders who have demonstrated that an infantry unit can be professional enough to accept diversity, to accept capable leaders, to accept skilled soldiers." He started the Courage Campaign that gathered almost 200k signatures calling for the repeal of DADT.

3 Jonathan Knight

Via queerty

The combination singer-dancer was famous for his role as the big brother from uber popular boy group New Kids On The Block. Knight was the oldest member of the band and the first to leave before the ultimate split in 1994. In the early nineties Knight was paired romantically with teen singer sensation Tiffany although they both declined to comment on the fact that they were dating. In an interview in 2011 Tiffany outed Knight unknowingly, she was under the impression that people already knew that Knight was homosexual. The singer commented after the press blew up on the matter saying that just because he lives in a world where everyone writes “I’m Gay” on a magazine cover doesn’t mean he has to. The singer never hid his sexuality but also never pushed it into people’s faces. He lives with husband Harley Rodriguez, the couple have been together since 2008.

2 Judge Vaughn Walker

Via Gay San Diego

Judge Walker is most famous for overturning Proposition 8 and finding it unconstitutional in 2011. He was outed by the defense and his sexuality was made into an arguing point against his ability to overturn the proposition. This was what prompted him to come out to the public in the Spring of 2011. The Judge told the press that he was an openly gay man and had been in a relationship with a doctor for the last 10 years. He was the very first known gay United States federal judge although he didn’t completely confirm his homosexuality until a couple of months after stepping down from his chair. Vaughn Walker has been the presiding judge in a couple of cases for gay rights that over three decades helped to build a more substantial place for LGBTQ individuals in the world. Judge Walker is now a private attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area and lectures both at Stanford University School of Law as well as UC Berkeley School of Law.

1 Zachary Quinto

Via bigstock images

This talented actor has been working in Hollywood for awhile but his breakout role was as hero serial killer Sylar on American television show Heroes. He has also played Spock on the reboot of Star Trek and done amazing work on the cult classic TV show American Horror Story. Quinto chose to come out to the American public in the Fall of 2011 after another tragic teen suicide. Specifically, the suicide of bisexual teenager Jamey Rodemeyer, was when Quinto decided that living a homosexual life quietly was not enough effort to bridge the gap from where gay rights were and where they should logically be. Even before he came out publicly Quinto starred in roles that gained awareness for LGBTQ struggles. The tall, dark and handsome actor has been in a couple of public relationships since then. Quinto is currently in a relationship with model and artist Miles McMillan, the pair live together in a Manhattan apartment.

Sources:,,, and

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The 15 Most Influential People That Came Out in 2011