The past year has been a bumper one for high profiled and influential people coming out publicly.
Below are 12 people to whom we are grateful to for coming out in 2012 because it is through their public affirmation of their identity that they can inspire others who may need the courage to also come out.
1) Lana Wachowski — Matrix and Cloud Atlas director Lana Wachowski, one of the famous Wachowski siblings, shared with the world this year that she was living gender aligned as a woman, publicly affirming her trans identity and delivering a moving and unmissable speech at a Human Rights Campaign event where she said that she came out in order to give trans kids a reason to think they too can live their lives openly and with the support of their friends and family.
Local to Global Justice/flickr
2) Kyrsten Sinema — A former Arizona state senator, Sinema became the first openly bisexual lawmaker to be elected to Congress this year, making no secret of her sexuality or her strong secular views during her campaign.
3) Megan Rapinoe — US soccer player and Olympic squad member Megan Rapinoe revealed that she is a lesbian in an interview with Out Magazine just before the London Olympics. In so doing she became one of only a handful of out players throughout the world. Rapinoe’s team went on to win gold.
4) Frank Ocean — Musician and producer Frank Ocean came out as a bisexual this year in an open letter published on his blog, a move that was hailed as a game-changer in hip-hop circles where a notorious anti-gay sentiment has, until now, been the dominant trend. Ocean received a great deal of support from his peers and from his fans.
5) Matt Bomer — Star of White Collar and Magic Mike acknowledged in February that he was gay when he thanked his partner and talked about their children in an awards speech. Since then Bomer, whose sexuality had been an open secret for years, has talked about how at high school he was forced to “cover his tracks” in order to feel safe.
6) Denise Ho — Global star Denise Ho became the first female pop singer in Hong Kong to openly affirm she is a lesbian when she declared in November, “For many years, when I faced questions from the media, I always felt that sexual orientation is a personal matter, that there is no need to label yourself or tell the public. But in 2012 when one would expect more acceptance and progress (in terms of gay equality), I find that there is still discrimination and prejudice. I feel that silence is no longer an option.”
7) Anderson Cooper — Everyone’s favorite CNN show host confirmed in a July email to Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast what many already knew, saying, ”The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” Cooper’s coming out was hailed by GLAAD and other LGBT interest groups.
8 ) Laura Jane Grace – Grace, previously known as Tom Gabel of the band Against Me!, came out publicly in May as a transgender woman, telling the Rolling Stone that her battle with gender dysphoria had been a lifelong struggle but that she is now transitioning with the love and support of her wife and children.
9) Jason Somerville — Professional poker player Jason Somerville, winner of the 2011 No-Limit, Hold’em event at the World Series of Poker, chose Valentine’s Day this year to officially come out, making him the first male pro-poker player to ever acknowledge being gay, saying in part, “I became more empowered by the growing personal freedoms I felt as I increasingly was just myself by default, less and less often censoring my thoughts, desires, and feelings. The small personal ‘victories’ piled up, I gained a lot of forward momentum, and the positive changes started to snowball.”
wisaflcio/flickr (JoCasta is on the right)
10) JoCasta Zamarripa — Democratic State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa became the first openly bisexual member of the Wisconsin Legislature this year, adding to her status as the state’s only Hispanic lawmaker. “It has always been my goal in office to be transparent and honest with my constituents but before the primary in 2010, I didn’t have the valor and courage to come out,” she told JS Online. “I feel remiss that I didn’t come out then.”
11) Orlando Cruz — Professional boxer Orlando Cruz became the first openly gay boxer still active in the sport when he came out in early October, acknowledging his sexuality and saying in an interview, “I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career. I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”
12) Tammy Smith — This year Tammy Smith became the US military’s first openly lesbian brigadier general when she was promoted in August and at the same time acknowledged she is in a same-sex marriage. This also made her the first general officer to come out while serving.
Why Coming Out Still Matters
Coming out still remains important for LGBTs as we work toward equality because it is only in publicly affirming our identities in a climate that still assumes heterosexuality and birth-gender alignment that visibility and therein impetus for equality under the law can be achieved.
It is also vital that those LGBTs in the public eye come out because they are uniquely placed to set an example for LGBT and questioning youth that being LGBT need not be a barrier, either to a successful career or a life of fulfilling relationships.
Image credit: Thinkstock.