Chances are, a celebrity you admire identifies themselves as a member of the LGBTQ community. Thanks to an environment of increased visibility and tolerance, more and more folks are coming forward to live freely as their authentic selves.
Read on to learn a bit more about the personal journeys of all the colorful personalities we know and love.
Sci-fi icon George Takei, who played helmsman Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek for 30 years, came out to the public as a gay man in 2005. He announced his 18-year relationship with partner Brad Altman in response to former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to disallow same-sex marriages in the state.
He has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ issues, using his platform to campaign for marriage equality and human rights. When gay marriage was finally legalized, Takei and Altman were the first couple in West Hollywood to apply for a marriage license, tying the knot in a ceremony attended by 200 people, including Trek co-stars Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nicholls, and Walter Koenig!
We came to know actor Samira Wiley as inmate Poussey Washington in the popular Netflix show Orange Is the New Black back in 2013. Audiences loved her performance, and she quickly became a fan favorite, landing a major role in 2017’s sci-fi drama The Handmaid’s Tale.
Wiley credits her success to her supportive parents, who are actually co-pastors on one of the first churches in the Washington D.C. area to perform same-sex marriages. In fact, they actually presided over Samira’s gorgeous rainbow-hued wedding to her wife, screenwriter Lauren Morelli.
The two met won Orange Is the New Black and the chemistry was instantaneous. After announcing their engagement in 2016, they married a year later.
Kristen Stewart’s love life has been a hot topic in the tabloids almost as long as she’s been famous. Back when she first rose to prominence, Stewart made waves for her relationship with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, as well as the ensuing cheating scandal when she was photographed with married film director Rupert Sanders.
After Kristen and Rob split in 2013, the actor was seen stepping out with Annie Clark, better known as indie rock musician St.Vincent. She also dated a former assistant and stylist.
She’s now in a seemingly committed partnership with Victoria’s Secret model Stella Maxwell, but publicly stated that she would still be open to date men in the future.
From walking top runways in Paris and Milan to her burgeoning acting career, British “It girl” Cara Delevingne is recognized as one of the world’s most influential fashion models. The openly bisexual model, actor, and author took the haute couture world by storm with her signature look and fierce presence on the catwalk.
She’s been very candid about her personal life, speaking out on struggles with depression and ADHD as well as her experiences as a queer person in the entertainment industry. In 2018, Delevingne told Vogue that she identifies as genderfluid, shortly after going public with her relationship with model Ashley Benson, whom she’s lived with since mid-2019.
Going from boy band heartthrob to LGBTQ icon is a major transition, but Lance Bass handled the change gracefully. The former *NSYNC singer shocked fans with his declaration that he was gay in a 2006 People magazine interview. He stated that he had to keep his sexuality a secret for much of his career for fear that it would negatively affect the band’s popularity.
He met visual artist Michael Turchin in 2011 and began dating shortly after. The pair got engaged in 2013 and married a year later at the Park Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles with four former *NSYNC members present. Bass has since been an outspoken activist for not only the gay community, but child welfare, the environment and, perhaps most surprisingly, space exploration.
Precocious Jodie Foster practically grew up in the Hollywood spotlight, snagging her first professional gig as the Coppertone girl at age three. With critically acclaimed breakout roles as a young teen in films like Taxi Driver and Freaky Friday, Foster quickly became one of the most well-known actors in the industry, despite her youth.
All this early fame led her to become an extremely private adult, rarely discussing her private life with media outlets and tabloids. She and longtime partner Cydney Bernard had two kids together but split in 2008, though they remain friends and co-parents. She then met photographer and actor Alexandra Hedison. They married in 2014 after dating just one year.
As one of the most award-winning musicians of all time, Sir Elton John’s personal life has always been a subject of public interest. The legendary pianist and composer first came out as bisexual back in 1976 but, in the early ’90s, clarified that he identifies as gay.
He’s been happily married to husband David Furnish for five years, though the two have been together since 1993. They have two children together, delivered via surrogate, and live happily in London. They reportedly write love notes to one another every Saturday. So cute!
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
When Modern Family first aired in 2009, the show was praised for its positive, realistic portrayal of all types of families, including a same-sex couple with an adopted child. Jesse Tyler Ferguson plays Mitchell Pritchett, a smart, type-A lawyer who is raising a daughter with his goofy long-term partner, Cameron.
Though his on-screen husband (Eric Stonestreet) is heterosexual in real life, Ferguson has been openly gay throughout his career and proudly announced his marriage to husband Justin Makita in 2013. Together, they started a charity called “Tie the Knot” which sells custom-made bow ties and donates the profits to marriage equality campaigns.
Ricky Martin rocked the ’90s airwaves with his smash hit “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” bringing notoriety to the Latin Pop genre and opening doors for countless musicians to follow in his footsteps. He began his career at just 12 years old as a member of pop group Menudo, gaining international acclaim with major hits as a solo artist.
He came out as gay in 2010 following the end of his 14-year relationship with Mexican TV host Rebecca de Alba. He became a father to twin boys Matteo and Valentino via surrogate in 2008 and, in 2018, married artist Jwan Yosef. The two announced the birth of their first daughter, Lucia, later that year, and are planning on more!
Talk show maven Ellen DeGeneres has been a pillar of the LGBTQ community since coming out on her TV sitcom. The controversial episode, which aired in 1997, marked one of the first times a well-known actor announced their sexuality in such a positive way.
DeGeneres’ sitcom may have suffered in popularity following the announcement, but the resilient star has since become one of the world’s most popular entertainers.
Today, Ellen can boast that she’s hosted the Grammys, Oscars, and Emmys. She’s won countless awards and even been granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She’s happily married to longtime partner, actor Portia de Rossi.
Originally achieving fame as the nerdy Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, actor Jim Parsons was thrust into the public eye after the show became a smash hit. The show’s 12-year run was so popular that, in 2018, Parsons was the world’s highest paid television actor. He even became an executive producer of a successful spin-off series, Young Sheldon.
Parsons has been openly gay since 2003, when he officially came out to his family about his serious relationship with graphic designer Todd Spiewak. They’re often seen attending red carpet events together, as they dated an impressive 15 years before tying the knot in an emotional ceremony in 2017.
American Idol contestant Adam Lambert won over the nation with his pitch-perfect vocals and flashy fashion sense. During the airing of his season, tabloid photos surfaced that showed him kissing another man. Rumors began to swirl about whether Idol was ready for a gay winner.
The rocker confirmed the news in an interview with Rolling Stone just weeks after he was first runner-up in the finale. Despite his controversial loss, Lambert went on to become one of the show’s most successful alumni, selling over 3 million albums worldwide. Not too shabby!
Celebrity fitness expert Jillian Michaels has whipped hundreds of contestants into amazing shape on the hit reality show Biggest Loser. Her tough-as-nails approach combined with her personal history of weight struggles made her a favorite among viewers.
Later, she also launched a very successful line of self-branded fitness media, including an app, books, workout videos, even a video game! In 2012, she was engaged to Heidi Rhoades, and the pair welcomed two children — a daughter, Lukensia, and son, Phoenix. Sadly, they called off their engagement in 2017, but remain friends and co-parents.
As the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul has built a multi-faceted entertainment empire with no equal. His smash-hit reality show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, has been running since 2009, and spawned at least three spin-off shows, including a U.K. version of Drag Race.
Though he’s always been open about his gender fluidity and sexuality, RuPaul has kept the details of his personal life under tight wraps. That changed in 2017, when he announced on Hollywood Today Live that he and longtime partner Georges LeBar married earlier that year.
When not working, the two spend their time at LeBar’s 50,000-acre ranch in Wyoming, about as far away from showbiz as they can get!
Neil Patrick Harris
With a starring role as Doogie Howser, M.D. back when he was just a fresh-faced teen, Neil Patrick Harris became a fixture in Hollywood early in his career. He had a second big break when he was cast as the philandering Barney Stinson on the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
In contrast to his on-screen womanizing character, off-screen, Harris is a sensitive family man with a loving husband, David Burtka. They met in 2004 and fell in love shortly after. They proposed to each other separately, but waited five years to announce the engagement, well after having twins together via surrogate. They married at an intimate ceremony in Perugia, Italy, in 2014.
The public got to know Robin Roberts first as the congenial host on Sportscenter, and later as co-anchor to both Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. Today, she’s won numerous awards for her work and has covered such major events as Hurricane Katrina and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
After taking a hiatus for a health scare in 2012, Roberts returned to broadcasting. She had been “out” to friends and family since first dating Amber Laign in 2005, but didn’t announce her orientation publicly until 2013.
Not many musicians can claim that they’ve been nominated for a Grammy 15 times over the course of a 50 year career, but Barry Manilow is one of those artists whose work stands the test of time. Despite his status as one of the world’s best-selling artists, the singer keeps his personal life notoriously private.
We know he married Susan Diexler in 1964, but the two ended up divorcing two years later. He secretly started dating his manager, Garry Kief, in 1978. The two successfully kept everything quiet until 2015, when the marriage was revealed by the media. He was upset by the leak, but acknowledged the truth in a 2017 interview with People.
Raven-Symoné got her first big break when she was just three years old as the adorable Olivia on The Cosby Show. The talented actor and singer continued her successful career into her teens, starring in her own Disney channel show That’s So Raven and the super-successful movie The Cheetah Girls.
She hasn’t slowed down, releasing four albums, starring in TV shows, even a role on Broadway! She voiced her support of same-sex marriage via twitter in 2013 and, a year later, discussed her relationship with model and actor AzMarie Livingston in an interview with Oprah. In defining her sexuality, Raven said she is tired of being labeled and wants to be seen as “a human who loves humans.”
American Horror Story actor Sarah Paulson’s talent for portraying all types of characters. The versatile actor has also starred on Broadway and in hit films like Bird Box and Ocean’s 8.
She has stated that she is “fluid” about her sexuality, and has been in committed relationships with both men and women.
In 2015, she confirmed that she was dating playwright Holland Taylor, a move that was considered controversial — not only because they’re both women, but also because Taylor is 32 years older than Paulson. Regardless of the age difference, they seem like a very happy couple.
Jane Lynch already had quite an impressive resume, but her stint on the musical sitcom Glee as the contentious coach Sue Sylvester brought her into the living rooms (and hearts) of millions of Americans. Though her character is often manipulative and malicious, Lynch herself is known to be quite the softy.
She’s been openly lesbian and an advocate of LGBTQ causes for many years, and was married to clinical psychologist Dr. Lara Embry for four years before they divorced in 2014. In 2019, she began dating Jennifer Cheyene, and the couple now share a home and 3 dogs together. She says we shouldn’t expect them to exchange rings any time soon, though — after her divorce, she’s much more cautious.
Musician Melissa Etheridge gained acclaim in the early ’90s for her unique brand of folk rock music and unique voice. She’s been nominated for 15 Grammys and won two, and has also won an Oscar for Best Original Song. In 1993, after the public began to suspect that hey lyrics were hiding a deeper truth, she came forward and told fans that she is a lesbian.
Her long term relationship with Julie Cypher, who gave birth to two children during their time together, ended in 2000. Two years later, she began dating actor Tammy Lynn Michaels. Unfortunately, that relationship did not last — they split in 2010 after having two kids. In 2013, however, it seems the singer found true love with Linda Wallem, marrying in 2014.
You may recognize Lily Tomlin’s face in the hit Netflix show Grace and Frankie, but the seasoned actor has had a comedic career spanning over 50 years! Her first major role was on the sketch comedy show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, playing various zany characters like Ernestine and The Tasteful Lady. ’90s kids may recognize her voice as Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.
Since first dating partner Jane Wagner in 1971, Tomlin never felt the need to “officially” come out to the press. She was offered an opportunity to do so via TIME in 1975, but declined because she felt it would detract from the coverage of her work. Tomlin and Wagner married in 2013 after a whopping 42 years together. That’s pretty darn impressive!
During the 2008 Summer Olympics, 14-year-old diving prodigy Tom Daley was all the media talked about. His cute looks and serious talent made him a media darling, and his tender age meant that he was the youngest competitor that year.
Like many other teens, Daley decided to start a YouTube channel, where he talked about different aspects of his life, including his 2010 announcement that he was in a relationship with a man. That man turned out to be American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, and the pair married at a 20th century mansion in England in May 2017. About a year later, the couple welcomed a baby boy.
Sam Smith skyrocketed to world fame with their smooth, soulful voice after being featured on the hit song “Latch” by Disclosure. “In the Lonely Hour,” their debut album, was nominated and won the Record of the Year at the Grammys, and singles from that album topped both US and UK charts for months.
In 2014, Smith came out as gay, citing their past relationship with actor Johnathan Zeizel as a major inspiration behind the hit songs “Stay with Me” and “I’m Not the Only One.” In later years, the singer also announced that they identify as non-binary and prefer using gender pronouns they/them.
After struggling with a lifetime of body image issues and gender dysphoria, Smith said, “I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out…”
Legendary journalist and TV host Anderson Cooper started his career reporting on the shocking and often grisly conditions of developing world nations affected by war. Seeking respite from the violence, he returned to the U.S. and worked for various news outlets, eventually hosting his very own show on CNN, Anderson Cooper 360°.
Cooper has never hidden his sexuality, but did make a public statement in 2012, confirming that he is proudly and openly gay. He dated businessman Benjamin Maisani for many years before parting ways in 2018. He was rumored to have moved on, having been seen out and about with handsome doctor Victor Lopez, but nothing official has been announced yet.
From A League of Their Own to The Flintstones, comedian Rosie O’Donnell has played a host of beloved characters in her long showbiz career. Her witty style and penchant for silliness has earned her the title of “Queen of Nice,” and she’s been a staple on The View for several years. O’Donnell has also been very outspoken about politics, which has occasionally caused some tension.
She’s been quite forward regarding her identity as a lesbian since publicly coming out in 2002. She’s since been married twice — Kelli Carpenter in 2004, then to Michelle Rounds from 2012-2015. These days, she’s still very outspoken about political issues, most notably LGBTQ adoption rights.
If you had to guess comedian Wanda Sykes’ first job, we’re betting you wouldn’t have said, “NSA contracting specialist.” She actually began her stand-up career at a talent show in 1987 and quickly found her niche. She worked as a writer on The Chris Rock Show, and appeared in numerous ads and TV shows, quickly becoming a familiar face in the comedy scene.
Sykes first came out in 2008 at a rally opposing the passage of Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in California. Her family disapproved at first, refusing to attend her wedding to Alex Niedbalski. They later reconciled, and have come to love and accept the couple and their two children.
Sykes continues to be an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and has won multiple awards for her activism.
SNL has long been known as an incubation chamber for some of the best comedic voices ever, and Kate McKinnon is no exception. She’s become a fan favorite over the years with spot-on impressions. Starring roles in movies like the Ghostbusters reboot and The Spy Who Dumped Me have cemented her reputation as one of America’s funniest women.
McKinnon is one of just three openly gay SNL cast members in the show’s long history. She has been forthcoming about her sexuality, crediting her childhood crush on X-Files star Gillian Anderson with her realization that she was gay at a young age. She’s been linked to photographer Jackie Abbott since the couple was seen embracing at the 2017 Emmys after her win was announced.
Lil Nas X
Though he started his career as a relatively unknown content creator, up-and-coming musician Lil Nas X redefined music genres after his country-rap song “Old Town Road” went viral in 2018. The song became even more sensational after a dispute about whether the tune was “country” enough to be included in the genre’s Billboard charts.
With Billy Ray Cyrus’s remix, “Old Town Road” smashed records on both charts, and every move Lil Nas X made was huge news. In Pride Month 2019, he broke the internet with a tweet to “listen closely” to his song “c7osure” accompanied by a rainbow emoji. He confirmed he is gay with a follow-up tweet, making him the first artist to come out with a No. 1 record.
Johnny Weir first won America’s heart with his amazing ice skating and flair for dramatic, flashy costumes. Until 2011, the national champion skater and two-time Olympian was evasive when asked about his sexuality, stating who he dates has nothing to do with his sport.
However, in his 2011 book, Welcome to my World, Weir officially confirmed he is gay, in hopes that his story will inspire other young LGBTQ people facing persecution.
Weir married lawyer Victor Voronov that year, but the couple divorced in 2015. He’s now one half of a popular Olympic figure skating commentator duo with friend and fellow skating phenom Tara Lipinski!
The world of professional sports, especially with typically male-dominated games like football, has a long way to go with acceptance and awareness of LGBTQ issues. Sports stars are too often associated with toxic traits and homophobic slurs among teammates.
When Michael Sam joined the St. Louis Rams in 2014, he became the first openly gay player ever drafted in the NFL — a major landmark in football.
The announcement became an even more controversial topic when, after being drafted, an overjoyed Sam kissed then-boyfriend Vito Camissano on live TV. Unfortunately, reactions were mixed, and Sam would retire from the NFL for mental health reasons just over a year later.
This article was originally published on History 101: Notable LGBTQ celebrities who are openly proud.
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