For much of the 20th century, there was a stigma around homosexuality which spread from the smallest towns in Ireland to the most supposedly open-minded cities in America. Even in Hollywood, the land of divorce and drugs, to be found cavorting with a member of the same sex was to see your career go up in smoke. Incredible talents such as Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, and Cole Porter were all rumored to be gay (Porter’s homosexual secret life has since become common knowledge), yet all three were forced to remain closeted for fear of being pushed out of their livelihoods.
Thankfully, times have changed and the first quarter of the 21st century has seen the global attitude towards homosexuality move in a more positive direction. LGBTQ Hollywood notables are no longer forced to hide their sexuality or gender identity, and many have even made a point of coming out in order to give hope to young people struggling with their orientation. In fact, Hollywood is so accepting of its LGBTQ citizens that many recent outings have gone unreported and entirely unnoticed, which is surely a giant leap forward. That being said, coming out is never easy and those who do so deserve acclaim and recognition, which we’re going to attempt to give in some small portion today.
Here are 16 LGBTQ celebrities you didn’t know came out in 2017.
16 Zeke Smith
Although Zeke Smith has spent most of his adult life working as an asset manager - a career totally unsuited to his wacky style and infuriatingly charming personality - he managed to captivate television audiences earlier this year when he began appearing as a contestant on the CBS series Survivor.
Smith’s appearance on the show was marred by the fact he was forcibly outed as transgender by fellow contestant Jeff Varner, who believed doing so would result in Smith’s elimination from the series. Thankfully, Smith’s teammates were nothing less than supportive and it was Varner who was voted off (and later fired from his job in the real world). CBS actually gave Smith the final say on whether the footage should be aired or not. Tired of hiding his status as a transgender male, he gave the network the green light and immediately received a justified outpouring of support from television watchers all over the world.
15 Jake Zyrus
When a young girl by the name of Charice began uploading videos of herself singing on YouTube, the world immediately took notice. Charice not only wrote and performed videos of her own songs but also tackled covers of popular classics, breathing new life into them with her unique voice and personality. When discussing Charice, Oprah Winfrey described her as “the most talented girl in the world”, which, as it turned out, was a half-truth.
In April of 2017, Charice adopted the name Jake Zyrus and came out as transgender, a brave but necessary move for him to be truly happy. Zyrus’ coming out came shortly after an operation to remove both of his breasts and coincided with him beginning hormone replacement therapy. When discussing Charice shortly after coming out, Zyrus explained: “I’m letting her go and be free”.
14 Barry Manilow
As a favorite of middle-aged to elderly women everywhere, unlikely hitmaker Barry Manilow sought to keep his sexuality secret for decades. Fearing coming out would alienate the screaming female fans who account for the vast majority of his ticket sales, the Mandy singer refused to discuss his personal life in interviews and continued to write songs to a female love interest as opposed to a subject with male pronouns. This, of course, was all quite absurd as the general assumption among both the media and his fans was that Manilow was gay.
In April of 2017, Manilow officially came out during an interview with People magazine. As well acknowledging his sexuality for the first time, Manilow revealed that he had wed his longtime business and romantic partner Garry Kief in 2014, shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in California.
13 Daniel Newman
Daniel Newman is one of those unfairly talented people who just seems to be brilliant at everything. The guy has appeared in countless movies, helped score countless others, and even works as a model to supplement his income. As someone of incredible ability, Newman understands that he is looked up to by millions of young people around the world, which is why he decided to come out as gay in March of this year via social media. “When you’re accomplishing incredible things and you’re hiding who you are,” said Newman shortly after coming out, “you’re hurting hundreds of millions of people.”
In the weeks and months which have elapsed since he came out, Newman has worked extensively with GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign in order to create a better world for members of the LGBTQ community.
12 Natalie Morales
Since making her first on-screen appearance in 2006 on an episode of CSI: Miami, Natalie Morales has built up an extensive filmography. The Kendall, Florida native has appeared in movies and television shows including Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, White Collar, and Battle of the Sexes, which hasn’t been released yet but is almost certain to cause controversy when it is. Most famously, Morales enjoyed a recurring role as Lucy on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation.
On the 30th of June, 2017, Morales took to social media to reveal that she identifies as queer. The Q in LGBTQ is perhaps the most difficult letter of the acronym to define and is generally up to interpretation by the individual. When asked to elaborate on what queer means to her, Morales simply explained, “that I’m not straight”.
11 Taylor Bennett
The younger brother of Chance the Rapper, Taylor Bennett has had a hard time stepping out of his sibling’s shadow. His career has been relatively underwhelming so far, but at just 21 years of age at the time of this writing, the kid has plenty of time to win awards and sell out Madison Square Garden.
Earlier this year, Bennett announced that he would be marking his 21st birthday by being more open with himself and others. That process began with coming out as bisexual, a brave decision made all the gutsier by the fact he is attempting to make it in the notoriously homophobic world of rap. “I do recognize myself as a bisexual male” Bennett wrote on Twitter, attempting to keep the most significant announcement of his life below 140 characters. He went on to vow to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community throughout 2017 and beyond.
10 Shannon Purser
Shannon Purser burst onto the scene in 2016 when she was cast as Barbara “Barb” Holland in the Netflix original series Stranger Things. Barb was an unlikely hit with viewers and Purser was nominated for an Emmy as a result. Shortly after, she was cast as Ethel Muggs in The CW’s teen drama Riverdale.
At just 20 years of age, Purser has achieved a level of success that many people go their whole lives without experiencing and the Atlanta native is probably only going to add to her accomplishments over the next couple decades. For this reason, Purser thought it best to address her sexuality now, before it becomes a bigger issue than it has to be. Taking to Twitter in April of this year, Purser came out as bisexual following an unpleasant exchange with other Twitter users regarding “queerbaiting”.
9 Cody Alan
There is nothing homophobic about country music in and of itself, but the culture which surrounds it tends to sway in favor of manly men who like their beers cold, their women hot, and their homosexuals converted. For that reason, country music radio host Cody Alan was understandably anxious about revealing to the world that he is gay. Alan’s apprehensiveness was only heightened by the fact that he had already been married (and divorced) to a woman, with whom he has two teenage children.
The South Carolina native was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support he received from those in the country music community when he came out via an emotional Instagram post at the beginning of the year. Since coming out, Alan has entered into his first significant same-sex relationship and seems to have finally found happiness.
8 Aaron Carter
Towards the end of the 1990s, a teenage Aaron Carter skyrocketed to fame after the release of his first single, a cover of Crush on You by The Jets. This was followed by a string of albums, one of which, Aaron’s Party (Come Get It) sold more than three million copies in the United States alone. Over the next couple of years, Carter would have a few semi-notable relationships with a few semi-notable female stars while he desperately attempted to keep his name in the headlines. In 2013, Carter filed for bankruptcy, announcing that he was more than $3.5 million in debt thanks to some poor financial decisions he made during his time as a teenage star.
Recently, Carter found himself in the news once again, this time for a more positive reason. At 29 years of years, he finally decided to open up about his sexuality and took to social media to do so. In a candid letter, posted to Twitter as a screenshot, Carter came out as bisexual and revealed that he had enjoyed his first “experience with a male” when he was 17.
7 Jill Soloway
Chicago native Jill Soloway saw their career take off when they put together a parody of The Brady Bunch entitled The Real Live Brady Bunch, which became something of a cult favorite. This led to Soloway entering the world of television writing, where they would spend four seasons writing for the HBO series Six Feet Under. Soloway would later receive critical acclaim and heaps upon heaps of awards and nominations for their original series Transparent.
If the use of the word “they” in the previous paragraph threw you a little, that’s perfectly understandable as society is still in a state of heteronormativity and is not quite at peace with the concept of nonbinary. Earlier this year, Soloway came out as nonbinary, meaning that they identify as neither male nor female. They specifically requested those reporting on their coming out use singular they pronouns when referring to them.
6 Keiynan Lonsdale
Australian actor Keiynan Lonsdale began his career as a dancer and DJ, but he is perhaps best known for his work as an actor, which has seen him appear in movies and television shows such as The Divergent Series: Insurgent, The Finest Hours, and The Flash.
Earlier this year, Lonsdale, aged 25, took to Instagram to come out as bisexual. In a post that was heart-wrenching and heart-warming in equal measure, Lonsdale wrote that his issues with his sexuality had left him feeling insecure, ashamed, and scared. Citing the many young people who have come out over the past couple of years as the inspiration behind his decision to do so, Lonsdale announced that he was ready to embrace his true identity and has not looked back since.
5 Anthony Bowens
Sports generally get a tough time for creating an atmosphere of toxic masculinity, which isn’t entirely unjustified, and it’s hard to think of a sport in which it is harder to be anything other than a straight male than professional wrestling. For this reason, independent wrestler Anthony Bowens was forced to stay in the closet and keep his relationship with another man hidden from his friends, fans, and even his family. In March of this year, however, Bowens finally found the courage to reveal his true self when he came out as bisexual in a brief but life-altering Facebook post.
“I’m not going to make this a long winded post but I think it’s time,” wrote Bowens, “Just wanted to let everyone know im [sic] Bisexual [sic].” After vowing to change the negative stereotypes surrounding the LGBTQ community in professional wrestling, Bowens was met with a wave of support from his fellow wrestlers. Although Bowens is not currently a member of the WWE roster, being signed by the company would make him the first male member of the LGBTQ community to be given a WWE contract after coming out.
4 Shawn Barber
Canadian track and field star Shawn Barber is one of the premier athletes in the world today. In 2015, Barber removed all doubts as to his supremacy when he traveled to Beijing to compete in the World Championships in Athletics, where he became the pole vault world champion.
Two years after his greatest success, Barber, as so many LGBTQ stars in 2017 do, took to Facebook to announce his coming out. “Gay and proud!” wrote the annoyingly handsome athlete before thanking his parents for their love and support during his time struggling with his sexuality. Barber’s coming out post was flooded with hundreds of comments from friends, family members, and fellow athletes, all commending him for his bravery and wishing him well in the next chapter of his life.
3 Gia Gunn
If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race or are in any way familiar with the drag queen sub-culture, you are more than likely familiar with Gia Gunn. If you have yet to experience Gunn, let it suffice to say that she is one of the sassiest, wackiest, and most consistently entertaining characters to ever enter the drag queen profession, and that’s saying something.
While the drag industry is pretty much dominated by men dressing up as women, Gia Gunn, who was assigned male at birth, identifies as female and came out as transgender in March of this year. Gunn made the announcement in a much-viewed video posted to her Instagram account and revealed that she had been undergoing hormone replacement therapy “for about a year”.
2 Jordan Gavaris
Over the past couple of years, Canadian actor Jordan Gavaris has managed to establish himself as one of the finest television performers in the world. For five years, Jordan has been appearing as Felix Dawkins on the hit BBC America series Orphan Black. Gavaris has received multiple awards and nominations for his work on the series and is likely to receive a whole lot more before the show is through.
Earlier this year, Gavaris casually came out as gay and explained that the only reason he had not addressed his sexuality earlier was that nobody had asked him to. He also explained that he had been out to his friends and family since he was 19 and had never experienced anything but love and support from those he confided in.
1 Thomas Dekker
The sexual orientation of actor and singer Thomas Dekker was the subject of confusion and speculation for years, even for the star himself. Dekker had a troubled childhood, of which he has made no secret, which likely prevented him from reaching sexual maturity until much later than the norm. According to Dekker, he was extremely careless during his teenage years and slept with pretty much every willing woman he could find.
When speaking about his sexuality in 2011, an uncertain Dekker stated that he had only ever been in relationships with women but was “certainly not closed” to embarking on one with a man. In July of this year, he announced that he had come to the realization that he was gay. Dekker topped off his coming out statement by revealing that he had married his husband just a couple of months prior.