In a time when LGBTQ people are facing extraordinary challenges, queer visibility is as important as it has ever been.
After years of progressive strides, 2017 felt in many ways like a giant step backward for LGBTQ equality at the national level. Against that political backdrop, seeing queer actors, artists and other celebrities share their authentic selves was all the more empowering.
The year saw some celebs, like legendary singer-songwriter Barry Manilow, express who they truly are in high-profile, impactful interviews. Others, like “13 Reasons Why” star Brandon Flynn and “True Blood” actress Rutina Wesley, used social media in creative and powerful ways to open up about their sexualities.
Regardless of the paths they took, however, these famous faces helped influence the global conversation on queer acceptance by sharing their journeys.
Below, check out 21 celeb coming out stories of 2017. Each one was a standout moment, and we congratulate them on taking this important step.
Rob Kim via Getty Images
The pop singer said he felt like “a weight and a burden” had been lifted as he opened up about his sexuality publicly
In an emotional post on Twitter, the 30-year-old star revealed he “started to find boys and girls attractive” as a teen, and had “an experience with a male” who he “worked with and grew up with.”
Carter elaborated in a December interview
with the LGBTQ&A podcast, saying, “I definitely embrace my bisexuality and, you know, it’s still new to me because I just started talking about it, really."Read more here
Jason LaVeris via Getty Images
The "True Blood" actress revealed her engagement to her girlfriend, a New Orleans woman who goes by the name of Chef Shonda
, in a series of heartfelt photos
posted to Instagram in November.
Wesley, 38, appeared to reference Shonda as “the light of my life” and the “fire of my loins” in the caption accompanying the post. The photo series concluded with a close-up of an engagement ring, though Wesley did not use the terms “gay,” “lesbian” or “bisexual” in her posts. Read more here
George Pimentel via Getty Images
The "13 Reasons Why" star identified himself as a member of the LGBTQ community
in September when he made a case for marriage equality in Australia.
“We’ve been scared shitless our whole lives, thanks to all the stigmas that surround us,” the 24-year-old wrote in the post
. “Equality takes courage, it worries me that too many people in this world lack the balls to stand up for what is right.”
Since then, he's been romantically linked
to singer-songwriter Sam Smith. Read more here
Christian Vierig via Getty Images
The model capped off a busy New York Fashion Week in September by coming out as transgender
in a candid CNN interview
Quinlivan, 23, began her transition at 16, but decided to open up about her gender identity publicly because of “the political climate in the world right now ― particularly in the United States.”
“If being transgender is something that gets attached to my name throughout my career, then it’s for a worthy cause. But I look forward to the day when it doesn’t matter,” she said
. “The transgender community needs more visibility. And with more visibility will come more acceptance.”Read more here
Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
The legendary singer-songwriter opened up about his sexuality
in an April interview
with People magazine, confirming his three-year marriage to husband Garry Kief.
Manilow, 74, said he'd opted not to come out earlier in his career because he was concerned about how his legions of fans -- dubbed "Fanilows
”-- would react.
“I thought I would be disappointing them if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything,” he said
. Read more here
Amanda Edwards via Getty Images
The "Stranger Things" and "Riverdale" actress came out as bisexual
“I’ve only recently come out as bisexual to my family and friends,” Purser, 20, wrote in a poignant tweet. “It’s something I am still processing and trying to understand and I don’t like talking about it too much. I’m very very new to the LGBT community.” Read more here
Trevor Adeline via Getty Images
In August, Sleiman opened up about his sexuality
in an emotional video as part of a personal effort to combat violence against the LGBTQ community.
The "Nurse Jackie" and "Killing Jesus" actor, 41, announced that he was “a gay, Muslim, Arab-American man” in the video, but didn't stop there.
“Not only am I gay, but I’m also a bottom,” he added in the clip, which was posted to his social media accounts on Aug. 22. “Not only am I a bottom, but I’m also a total bottom, which means I like it up you know where.” Read more here
Michael Tran via Getty Images
The "Heroes" actor publicly opened up about his sexuality
on Twitter in July, but suggested he was inspired to do so after a “prominent gay man” outed him.
The 32-year-old described himself as a “man who proudly loves other men” in a short essay he included with his tweet. He also revealed that he’d married his husband in April. Read more here
Cindy Ord via Getty Images
The 25-year-old who plays Wally West (a.k.a. Kid Flash) on the hit CW show "The Flash," came out as bisexual
in a powerful Instagram post in May.
“I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, & I like guys (yes), I like growing, I like learning, I like who I am and I really like who I’m becoming,” he wrote in the post.
Lonsdale, who grew up in Australia and also starred in the ABC series “Dance Academy” and the blockbuster “Divergent: Allegiant,” was inundated by messages of support on social media.Read more here
Jared Siskin via Getty Images
The Belgian model and fashion star shared her intersex identity with the world
“I have reached a point in my life where I feel ready to share this important part of who I am,” the 29-year-old, who has modeled for the likes of Chanel and Alexander Wang, said. “It is time for intersex people to come out of the shadows, claim our status, let go of shame, and speak out against the unnecessary and harmful surgeries many of us were subjected to as children."
Intersex children are frequently forced to undergo “corrective” surgery as infants to assign them as either male or female, a controversial practice that many medical professionals have condemned.Read more here
Steve Mack via Getty Images
The “Orphan Black” star came out as gay in a June interview
with New York Magazine's Vulture blog.
The 27-year-old star, who plays the “exuberantly gay
” Felix Dawkins, seemed a bit surprised to be questioned about his sexual orientation.
“Nobody ever asks me,” he said. “I’ve never been asked.”Read more here
Jason LaVeris via Getty Images
The "Parks and Rec" actress celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month in June by coming out as queer
in an essay for Amy Poehler's "Smart Girls" site
The 32-year-old star noted that she is “not attracted specifically to any type of gender,” but instead is “attracted to people.”
“I don’t like labeling myself, or anyone else but if it’s easier for you to understand me, what I’m saying is that I’m queer,” she wrote
. “What queer means to me is just simply that I’m not straight. That’s all. It’s not scary, even though that word used to be really, really scary to me.”Read more here
CJ Rivera via Getty Images
The "Younger" actor married his boyfriend
, Eric Berger, in October, and came out as gay in the process.
Amboyer, 32, had been in a relationship with Berger for 10 years, but had not spoken publicly about his sexuality before. He told People
that he'd been “strongly advised” to “stay quiet” about his personal life as he established himself as an actor.
Moving forward, Amboyer said he wants to live his live "with integrity and pride,” citing openly gay stars Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto as his inspirations. Read more here
Gabriel Olsen via Getty Images
The "RuPaul's Drag Race" star marked Trans Day of Visibility (March 31) by coming out as transgender
“I thought I would dedicate today in the spirit of being visible to share my transition with all of you,” the 27-year-old said
. “I have been on hormone replacement therapy now for about a year and I identify as female."
Gunn joined "Drag Race" veterans Carmen Carrera
and Monica Beverly Hillz
in going public about her gender identity after appearing on the show. Read more here
Gustavo Caballero via Getty Images
The country singer and CMT host came out as gay
in January, an important step in a musical genre lacking significant representation from the LGBTQ community.
“This is not a choice I made, but something I’ve known about myself my whole life,” Alan, 44, said at the time
. “Through life’s twists and turns, marriage, divorce, fatherhood, successes, failures -- I’ve landed on this day, a day when I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.”
In September, he proposed to his boyfriend
, Trea Smith, while on vacation in Jamaica. Read more here
Gabriel Olsen via Getty Images
In July, the 20-year-old musician came out as gay on Instagram
Chance, who became an internet sensation after a 2010 video of him
performing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at a school talent show went viral, explained that he has known he’s gay since he was 16 but “decided not to publicize my sexuality largely due to a matter of privacy, as I was still trying to find comfort and confidence within my own skin.”
Chance, who released a single, "Seasons," in June, also had a message for others grappling with their sexuality.
“While this message is most definitely overdue, I encourage anyone who is navigating their sexuality to devote as much time as they need to the process of finding self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love,” he wrote. Read more here
Roy Rochlin via Getty Images
The "Arrested Development" and "Search Party" star told Out magazine in May
that she identifies as bisexual.
"I think balancing my male and female energies has been a big part of me growing as an actor,” the 28-year-old, who is at work on a queer-themed film, said. "As a woman, an Arab-American, and a member of the LGBTQ community, I have to use whatever voice I have."Read more here
Randy Shropshire via Getty Images
The 28-year-old rapper came out as gay in January
, adding his name to a growing roster of hip-hop artists who are breaking the mold
in a musical genre not typically viewed as queer inclusive.
“As a fashion icon, I can't tell u about everybody else's closet," he wrote in a Jan. 20 tweet. "I can only tell u about mine, and it's time I've come out.”
He added, “And since y'all love breaking news, here's some old news to break, I'm gay. And now I've told u about my life, maybe u can go life yours.” Read more here
Johnny Louis via Getty Images
The LCD Soundsystem vocalist and synth player came out as transgender
The 43-year-old opened up about her identity for the first time in an interview
with Grindr's publication, INTO.
“This is my fifth decade being alive,” she explained, “and in each of those decades, there’s been a time where I’ve tried to say, ‘Hey, I think I’m transgender!’ This was even before that word existed.”
For now, she’ll continue to go by “Gavin,” but said that may change in the future. Read more here
Paul Archuleta via Getty Images
The “Dynasty” actor opened up about his own sexuality
in September, almost 30 years after his iconic show went off the air.
The 72-year-old, who played the homophobic villain Adam Carrington in the ’80s soap opera, came out as gay in an interview
with the Daily Beast. His secrecy, he said, was tied to the times.
“When I was growing up it [homosexuality] was a crime, and then classified as a mental illness ... so you’re dealing with that,” he said
. “And the shame, the breathtaking lack of self-esteem, has only just begun to seep out of my soul.”Read more here
Leon Bennett via Getty Images
In April, the "Walking Dead" actor opened up about his sexuality publicly
, coming out to fans as bisexual on his social media platforms.
Newman, 36, said he felt compelled to come out after volunteering at a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth.
“When you are accomplishing incredible things and you’re hiding who you are, you’re hurting hundreds of millions of people,” he said
. “So, by us staying quiet, we’re partially to blame for kids getting beat up and ridiculed, stereotypes and stigmas."Read more here