It’s been quite a crazy year for the LGBTQ community, but one silver lining is that more and more people have come out publicly as their true selves. And as National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, is this week, it’s important to remember that coming out is the most powerful tool queer people have. Coming out has the power to change minds, increases our visibility and is able to result in real change for individuals and the broader LGBTQ community.
When you’re a well-known public figure, coming out can be exponentially more powerful, as it both dispels myths about LGBTQ people and gives hope to future generations.
So in honor of National Coming Out Day 2018, we’re highlighting 28 celebrities who came out this year. Let’s welcome them all to the family!
1. Kevin McHale
This Glee star teased his coming out via social media by cuddling with fellow actor Austin McKenzie on Instagram and by tweeting that Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry” is “gayer than me.” In May, McHale said, “If somebody was a big fan and following everything I was doing, like the people I interact with on Twitter on a daily basis, I think there was zero surprise [that I’m gay]. People knew.”
2. Sasha Lane
At Sundance in January, this American Honey actress opened up about being gay while discussing The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the upcoming film about conversion therapy camp she co-stars in alongside Chloë Grace Moretz. “The story really hit home for me, coming from a household where my brother’s gay and I’m gay,” said Lane, 23. “I could relate to [Jane] because, regardless of how free I am in spirit, I grew up in Texas and that is kind of like a box.”
3. Lee Pace
This Guardians of the Galaxy actor had long dodged speculation about his sexuality, even after his Hobbit co-star Ian McKellen accidentally outed him in the press in 2014. But when Pace took on the role of closeted Mormon lawyer Joe Pitt in the Broadway revival of Angels in America earlier this year, he opened up to W magazine — a little bit. “I’ve dated men. I’ve dated women,” the actor, 38, said. “I don’t know why anyone would care. I’m an actor and I play roles. To be honest, I don’t know what to say — I find your question intrusive.”
4. Abbi Jacobson
In April, the Broad City star confirmed she’s dated both men and women, telling Vanity Fair she goes “both ways.” Of her ideal mate, Jacobson says, “They have to be funny, doing something they love.”
5. Ronan Farrow
This Pulitzer-winning journalist came out in April while accepting the Point Foundation’s Courage Award. “Being a part of the LGBT community — which recognized that reporting I was doing early on and elevated it, and has been such a stalwart source of support through the sexual assault reporting I did involving survivors who felt equally invisible — that has been an incredible source of strength for me,” Farrow said.”
6. Joey Pollari
In Love, Simon, Pollari plays Lyle, a possible (but ultimately futile) love interest for the film’s closeted lead. And in Season 2 of American Crime he portrayed a gay high school athlete accused of sexually assaulting another boy. But this 24-year-old’s real-life coming out was relatively smooth. “The only part that was difficult was me coming out to myself,” Pollari told The Advocate back in March. “I think that is the most difficult coming out.”
7. Deidre Downs Gunn
Miss America 2005 went public in an April issue of People detailing her wedding to wife Abbott Jones. “Saying our vows in front of our family and friends and making that commitment to the love of my life was the most meaningful part of the day for me,” she said. Gunn is now an OB-GYN.
8. Karl Schmid
The 38-year-old ABC News correspondent came out as HIV-positive in a courageous Facebook post this year, admitting he had been afraid to be open about his status. “I work in television — on the side of the camera where, for better or worse, it’s considered ‘taboo’ for people ‘like me’ to be ‘like me.’ For 10 years I’ve struggled with ‘Do I or don’t I”? For 10 years [I’ve faced] the stigma and industry professionals who have said, ‘Don’t! It’ll ruin you.'” Upon coming out, Schmid said, “Labels are things that come and go, but your dignity and who you are is what defines you.”
9. Zander Hodgson
This hunky English actor, who has appeared on Coronation Street, Eastenders and Ray Donovan, came out in a YouTube video back in April. “I wanted to tell everyone that I am gay,” Hodgson, 27, told fans. “And although that doesn’t change anything for me, and hopefully not for you, I just thought it was a really important thing to share with everyone.” Since coming out he frequently posts steamy pics on Instagram with his equally studly boyfriend, Troy Pes. “Sexuality is a small part of someone,” says Hodgson, “but it’s a really important part of me, and it makes me who I am.”
10. Janelle Monáe
This acclaimed actress-singer put rumors of her sexuality to bed in April when she told Rolling Stone, “Being a queer black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women, I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.” Monáe, who’s been linked to Westworld and Thor: Ragnarok star Tessa Thompson, said she initially identified as bi, but now she relates to what she’s read about pansexuality. “I’m open to learning more about who I am,” she says.
11. Collin Martin
Back In May, Martin — a midfielder for Minnesota United FC — tweeted how happy he was that his team was hosting a Pride night. “Today, I’m proud that my entire team and the management of Minnesota United know that I am gay,” the footballer, 23, tweeted. “I have received only kindness and acceptance from everyone in Major League Soccer, and that has made the decision to come out publicly that much easier.”
12. Amandla Stenberg
The Hunger Games actress initially came out as bisexual at age 17, but in June she told Wonderland magazine that she’s gay. “I was so overcome with this profound sense of relief when I realized that I’m gay — not bi, not pan, but gay — with a romantic love for women,” said Stenberg, who next appears in The Hate U Give. “My sexuality is not a byproduct of my past experiences with men, who I have loved, but rather a part of myself I was born with and love deeply.”
13. Tessa Thompson
“I’m attracted to men and also to women,” the Thor: Ragnarok star told Net-a-Porter back in June. But Thompson was a bit more cagey about whether she was dating Janelle Monáe, who came out herself this year. “We love each other deeply. We’re so close, we vibrate on the same frequency. … If people want to speculate about what we are, that’s OK. It doesn’t bother me,” Thompson said.
14. Bex Taylor-Klaus
Bex Taylor-Klaus came out as gay in 2016 but further identified as nonbinary in a July interview with Autostraddle. Having appeared on The Killing, Arrow, Here and Now and Netflix‘s animated series Voltron: Legendary Defender, Taylor-Klaus wants Hollywood to know they are not defined by their identity. “I’ve been told, ‘You’ve gotta be femme for this, you’ve gotta be skinny for this,'” says Taylor-Klaus. “I want to be strong and present differently every day. … I can look anyway you want me to look; I can be a chameleon. … No matter how femininely I’m dressed I can still bring the masculine, and vice versa.”
15. Max Bemis
In a nine-page letter to fans this past August, this Say Anything frontman came out as “bi-ish or queer, or a straight guy who can also like boys.” Bemis, 34, wrote, “I always talked or joked about it with my friends and found it to be blatantly clear I was [queer]. … I was bullied for it and called a ‘fag’ (without irony).” Bemis adds that his queerness was often dismissed because he’s married to a woman and has struggled with mental health issues.
16. Josie Totah
Totah appeared on the Disney Channel show Jessie as well as Glee, 2 Broke Girls and the movies Spider-Man: Homecoming and Other People before landing a starring role on the short-lived NBC sitcom Champions, on which she portrayed a gay teen who meets his birth father for the first time. In August she came out as trans in an essay for Time magazine. “I can only imagine how much more fun it’s going to be to play someone who shares my identity, rather than having to contort myself to play a boy,” Totah said.
17. Robert Páez
An Olympic diver from Venezuela, Páez wrote in an April essay for Outsports that he knew he was different from an early age, “despite not knowing what exactly that meant.” But eventually, he says, “I understood that this was and would be my truth forever, and my own self-acceptance was only in my hands. It was up to me whether I lived in happiness, or sank and lived in a lie that never would be.” Páez added that his family accepts him with open arms, but “accepting ourselves and respecting ourselves are big first steps. Life is too beautiful to be hidden in a closet.”
18. Garrett Clayton
This ex-Disney star played gay porn idol Brett Corrigan in 2016’s King Cobra, but he didn’t come out himself until this past August, when he Instagrammed about his new movie Reach and shared that he was in a relationship with screenwriter Blake Knight: “When I read the script for Reach, I immediately knew it was a film I had to be a part of. I have personally dealt with suicide within my own family, intense bullying in high school, and — on top of it all — myself and the man I’ve been in a relationship with for a long time (@hrhblakeknight) have both experienced shootings within our hometown school systems.”
19. Kazuyo Katsuma
Katsuma, 49, worked her way through the ranks of companies like McKinsey and JP Morgan to become one of Japan’s most influential businesswomen — and one of the Wall Street Journal’s “50 Women to Watch.” In May, she revealed she was in a relationship and living with a woman, LGBT activist Hiroko Masuhara. Coming out, Katsuma has said, “melted the ice in my heart.”
20. Tadd Fujikawa
Just last month this 27-year-old professional golfer, who had already made history as one of the youngest players in the PGA, also became the first openly gay man in the sport. “So … I’m gay,” Fujikawa wrote in a lengthy Instagram post. “Many of you may have already known that. I don’t expect everyone to understand or accept me. But please be gracious enough to not push your beliefs on me or anyone in the LGBTQ community. My hope is this post will inspire each and every one of you to be more empathetic and loving towards one another.”
21. Brigette Lundy-Paine
“I come from a very queer family,” the Atypical star told The Advocate about her coming out back in September: “I think it was just like a teary phone call to my mom when I had my first girlfriend. And then after that it was kinda like, Oh, I don’t have to really tell anybody else. I just date who I want and [don’t] have to put up with it.” The actress, 25, adds, “I have yet to figure out if I ever will date a straight guy again. It’s all about testing the waters.”
Like many younger celebs, the “Done for Me” singer, 23, came out via social media, tweeting that she was queer — “not bi, not straight.” She said, “[I’m] attracted to women, men, REALLY attracted to queer men, non-binary people, intersex people [and] trans people” in a tweet she later deleted, explaining she had been corrected about how to identify the gender spectrum. “Point is, I love love, and that love lies in every gender there is.”
23. Jason Mraz
The singer-songwriter sparked speculation about his sexuality by writing “I am bi your side” in a poem for Billboard‘s Pride month series, then confirmed he has “had experiences with men, even while I was dating the woman who became my wife.” Mraz upset some by claiming he felt he was Two-Spirit, an identity usually identified with the Native American community.
24. Brendon Urie
The Panic! at the Disco frontman revealed he’s experimented with men, despite insisting in 2015, “If I had to classify myself, I’d say I’m straight.” In July, though, he changed how he identifies to pansexual. “I’m married to a woman, and I’m very much in love with her, but I’m not opposed to a man,” Urie told PAPER magazine. “Because to me, I like a person. … If a person is great, then a person is great.”
25. Hurley Haywood
This 69-year-old ex-racer, who won a record five times at Daytona, revealed he was gay in his memoir, Hurley: From the Beginning. In the book he recounts a mother telling him that his kind words to her gay son saved the teen’s life: “Hearing from that mother — well, it was very emotional,” he says. “And I thought, if my voice is strong enough to help one kid, it might help two kids, or five or a hundred.”
26. Cory Michael Smith
In the upcoming indie 1985 this Gotham actor plays a young gay man with AIDS who returns home for one last holiday with his family. “This story, a story about AIDS and stripping away politics, stripping away activism, stripping away the medical drama of it, what you’re left with is something so personal about family and connecting with family and keeping secrets with family,” Smith told The Daily Beast back in March. “It just overwhelmed me.” Smith added that his own family accepted his own coming out with love, even if it took “a lot of time.”
27. Lucas Hedges
The Lady Bird actor, who will next appear in the gay conversion therapy drama Boy Erased, told Vulture he’s no Kinsey zero. “I recognize myself as existing on that spectrum: Not totally straight, but also not gay and not necessarily bisexual.” As a kid, Hedges adds, “I felt ashamed that I wasn’t 100 percent — because it was clear that one side of sexuality presents issues, and the other doesn’t as much.”
28. Bert and Ernie
These longtime Muppet companions were publicly outed in September when ex-Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman revealed that when he worked on the show he modeled their relationship after his boyfriend and himself. “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.” Initially Frank Oz, who voiced Bert, insisted the puppet pair were just heterosexual roommates. Oz later tweeted that he felt that, as straight men, if he and Jim Henson tried to create gay characters it “would be inauthentic.” Oz later added, “However, I have now learned that many view them as representative of a loving gay relationship. And that’s pretty wonderful.”