Even at the end of a decade marked with tremendous social and political milestones for LGBTQ people, the power of witnessing queer public figures live as their authentic selves can’t be underestimated.
Though the 2010s brought marriage equality to the U.S. and a marked surge in transgender visibility across the globe, the challenges many members of the LGBTQ community continue to face are numerous. Against the backdrop of the Trump administration ― which has dismantled federal protections and resources for LGBTQ people ― seeing queer actors, artists and other celebrities embrace their truths feels even more profound. (It appears mainstream Hollywood is slowlycatching on to the demand for more inclusive entertainment, too.)
In the era of social media, celebrities have more options to connect directly with their fans than ever before, so it’s no surprise stars like Lil Nas X and Lilly Singh opted to use platforms like Twitter and Instagram to share their sexualities.
Others, like “Treadstone” actor Brian J. Smith and NFL veteran Ryan Russell, opted for a tried-and-true, though no less impactful, approach by opening up about their authentic selves in interviews and essays with high-profile media outlets.
As 2019 winds to a close, HuffPost is taking a look back at 20 LGBTQ celebrities who talked about their sexuality this year. This isn’t intended as a comprehensive list, but merely a celebration of some famous faces who helped further the global push for LGBTQ acceptance by sharing their respective truths.
Lil Nas X
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images
The Georgia-born rapper came out as gay in a series of June 30 tweets that pointed to the lyrics and artwork of his debut EP, "7." His tweets were timed to coincide with the final day of LGBTQ Pride Month.
A month later, he set a precedent for LGBTQ artists in mainstream music when he broke the record for the longest-running streak at the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his country-trap smash “Old Town Road.”
In a March interview with “I Weigh” movement founder Jameela Jamil, the singer explained how hearing the stories of other nonconforming people helped them identify as genderqueer and nonbinary.
By September, the four-time Grammy winner announced they were embracing the gender-neutral pronouns "they" and "them."
“I am at no stage just yet to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be nonbinary but I can’t wait for the day that I am,” Smith wrote on Instagram. “So for now I just want to be VISIBLE and open.”
The "Lady Bird" star opened up about her sexuality at the South by Southwest premiere of her latest film, "Booksmart," in March.
That film’s LGBTQ-inclusive script was "completely meaningful" for the actor, who is in a relationship with Bonnie Chance Roberts, a British producer.
"My partner is a woman,” she said. “There’s a love scene between two girls, and they’re fumbling with their sneakers and they can’t get their jeans off. All of those moments, they make me tear up because representation is really important.”
The NFL veteran came out as bisexual in a personal essay published by ESPN in August.
"My truth is that I’m a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover, and a bisexual man," said Russell, who played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is now a free agent.
The lack of an openly LGBTQ person currently playing in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball gives him pause — but he wants to change that.
“I want to be able to dedicate my life to football without feeling like I can’t dedicate my life to truth as well,” he said.
In a June episode of the Facebook series "Red Table Talk," Smith said she is attracted to both men and women, and can see herself in a polyamorous relationship in the future.
"I focus a lot on the emotional connection," the actor and singer said. "I feel like if I were to find two people of different genders that I really connected with and we had a romantic and sexual connection, I don’t feel like I would feel the need to try to go find more.”
"Monogamy, I feel, actually inhibits you from learning those skills of evolving past those feelings of insecurity and jealousy," she added.
"I stuffed the existential crisis of talking about my sexual orientation into a box in my mind for years," he wrote. "Being bi isn’t all of my identity, nor is it the most important part of my identity."
Rush's announcement came days after "Andi Mack" wrapped its three-season run.
Initially, Burnett dated contestant Derek Peth in early episodes of the show, which premiered in August. But as the series progressed, Burnett told Peth that she'd started dating a woman, Kristian Haggerty, before filming commenced.
The season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise” culminated in Burnett and Haggerty's engagement. Sadly, the two have since split.
“I heard so many things from within the queer community about bisexuality being a cop-out or bullshit or the easy way out or something, and that always stuck with me because I felt the pressure from all sides to have [my sexuality] figured out,” he said. “And I think for the longest time, I suppressed more of my attraction to men.”
In an interview with Nylon, Holliday said she feels more comfortable with herself now that she’s figured out she’s pansexual, which means she’s attracted to a person regardless of their sex or gender identity.
“I definitely have a sense of relief,” she said . “I can connect with people on a more intimate level than I was before because I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.”
The Argentinean actor said his path to self-acceptance began in 2015 when he played Jesus Christ in the NBC miniseries “A.D. The Bible Continues.”
“So there I am, hanging on the cross in Morocco,” said Di Pace, who was raised Catholic. “I look up at the sky, and I think, ‘You could still strike me down with lightning. Are you sure you want me to play your son?’”
Instead, he felt “an overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance and freedom that I could never even put into words. A message from God? Maybe.”
Yang came out to the world as gay by releasing an emotional music video in June.
Known for the online series "The Try Guys," the actor-comedian said the video — set to music by electronic duo Odesza — was his "personal way of coming out as a proud gay man who has many unheard, specific stories to tell."
“I withheld because of fear and shame shaped by my background," he added, "but I promise to give my full truth in the rest of my life’s work.”
“I have been through what a lot of people have been through which is being afraid of being who you are,” the U.S. track athlete said. “I struggled with my sexuality for 17 years."
Clement — who won a silver and gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and another gold in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro — added, "Now it’s time to just be yourself and be free. That’s what I’ve become, free."
In June, the "Queer Eye" grooming expert told Out magazine that he identifies as nonbinary.
“Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I’m here for it," said Van Ness, who stated a preference for the pronouns he, him and his. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide."
"It’s this social construct that I don’t really feel like I fit into the way I used to,” he added.
Noting that he was “grateful to be gay,” the actor nonetheless said accepting his authentic self “took me years” and remains an “ongoing” process.
“I’ve been out for years in my private life, but never quite publicly. I’ve played that tedious game,” he said. “Most painfully, I’ve talked about the gay characters I’ve played from a neutral, almost anthropological distance, as if they were separate from me. These evasions are bizarre and embarrassing to me now, but at the time they were natural.”
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia.
Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns,
please check our FAQ or