Famous people that came out of the closet from 2000-2009

22 Sep

With the first decade of the 21st century behind us, it is a good time to look back on memorable and significant events that have taken place.  The LGBT community had some memorable moments. Celebrities came out of the closet, and coming out of the closet is more than just fodder for conversation, it is a significant event because these high profile people have the clout to help people consider changing their views about the queer community which impacts gay and straight people alike. Some of the people that have come out have been very high profile, others a little less famous but significant for a different reason, and a few that were really no surprise but nice to see make it official.

 The following are some of the most significant celebrities to come out the closet between 2000 – 2009. While most came out voluntary, at times it was just as much a matter of beating the media to the punch as some bloggers in particular have made outing celebrities their claim to fame. More important than just naming who came out is looking at how people reacted and any positive or negative impact realized by the declaration of their sexual preference. While it is impractical to name every known person that came out, some people do carry a special significance.

When Esera Tualo came out, he was not the first NFL player to do so – Dave Kopay and Roy Simmons came out in 1975 and 1992 respectively – but his willingness to discuss the atmosphere of the NFL regarding gay men and the discussions it opened proved to be important. It exposed the mentality of the very strongly homophobic overtones in the NFL at that time, which have barely improved if at all. While a few players like Todd Steussie defended Tualo, the overwhelming sentiment voiced or not can best be summed up by former Packer Sterling Sharpe, who said: “He would have been eaten alive, and he would have been hated for it. Had he come out on a Monday, with Wednesday, Thursday, Friday practices, he’d have never gotten to the other team.”

Photo by Lan Bui

Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris who for most of his life was known for his character Doogie Howser came out in 2006 after reports claimed he denied rumors he was gay. Harris told people Magazine he had never done such a thing and was proud and happy to be out. Despite colleagues ->  and friends advising him that coming out would be akin to committing career suicide, those fears were quickly dashed. Harris not only found himself being accepted, but has become perhaps a bigger star that he ever was, oddly enough for playing a womanizing straight man on the TV hit “How I Met  Your Mother.” While many women came out and were accepted, it was believed a man would not be as well received – especially in the U.S. Harris not only disproved that notion, he began opening the door for others to follow suit.

While Michael Stipecoming out in 2001 shocked few people, it was still a big enough deal that when he did it again in 2008 it made some waves. A lot of people missed it the first time around although Stipe has commented at times it mystifies him that this wasn’t known all along citing he had always been open with his band, R.E.M., his family and friends, and of course the men he slept with. While Stipe didn’t incite major social change or drop like a bombshell, as an iconic musician and songwriter for a generation of fans it caused some to reassess whether or not sexual preference is still an issue.

photo by pinguino k

Megan Fox

Transformers starlet Megan Fox coming out in 2009 was hardly a publicity stunt as some first believed, she is already over the top popular as it is. Fox admitted to being bisexual, which is hardly novel anymore among hot you leading ladies in Hollywood. Why her coming out carries significance, however, is that she is one of the hottest properties in entertainment right now, and one of the few women aesthetically gifted enough to dethrone Angelina Jolie – another bisexual woman – from the coveted top spot on the various “Most Beautiful” lists compiled each year. For a generation of young girls particularly her openness is an inspiration and she is living proof that if you have talent and make studios money who you sleep with doesn’t matter.

Kelly McGillisfueled the fantasies of men all the way to 1986 when her role in Top Gun made her one of the most desired women in entertainment. Throughout her career McGillis denied rumors about being a lesbian, married twice, and has two grown children. When she came out in May of 2009, she shared she had fought with her sexuality for 40 years living under the impression God must be punishing her. Although it took her until she was 51 years old to make it public, in part to beat bloggers to the punch, Kelly McGillis demonstrated that no matter how hard you try to repress your self identity, in the end it is easier to accept who you are and just be happy.

Meridith Baxter Birney’s coming out in on the Today show in December demonstrated two important things people should keep in mind about how and why celebrities come out of the closet. Birney had been in committed lesbian relationship for four years prior to her coming out,   and would have kept that her business if not for her impending outing by an internet blogger. Birney’s coming out reminded people that no matter how much talk their is of progress, gay celebrities will be exposed against their will for no truly good reason. It also demonstrated that contrary to the belief many hold that gay celebrities that have seen their fame dwindle come out to revive their career, it is usually a matter of them just wanting to take control of a personal matter before the media does.

 The list of notable celebrities that came out during the decade could stretch on far longer than many would ever imagine, but here are a few other notable celebrities that made this their decade of coming out.

Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson admitted to having experimenting with women but stated she never really had a steady girlfriend and wouldn’t elaborate on how far her experiments went.

David Ogden Stiers who is best remembered for portraying the snooty Boston socialite surgeon, Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H, came out in may of 2009 and cited in several interviews that he remained in the closet so long because he feared losing work as an actor.

Portia de Rossi came out and eventually married Ellen DeGeneres, who came out in the ’90s, before California shut down same-sex marriage. Although de Rossi had been out in certain circles prior to meeting Ellen, it wasn’t until 2005 she was fully out to the public and her entire family.

Wanda Sykes’ 2008 coming-out party was something she felt was long overdue and helped her as she said be freer in all aspects of her life and career. The result of that freedom paved the way to marriage, a smash HBO comedy special, and her own late night talk show.

No less important than the above, Clay Aiken T.R. Knight, Samantha Fox, Lindsay Lohan, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, David ->  Hyde Pierce, Kristanna Loken, John Amaechi, Chad Allen, Lance Bass, Adam Lambert, Luke McFarlane, Dan Choi, Reichen Leumkhel, Cynthia Nixon, Suze Orman, George Takei and Pete Williams. With each person that comes out society changes in some way as it causes people to at least in passing discuss the issues surrounding sexual identity which in some cases can lead to a better acceptance diversity. For that, each time a person comes out it is important, and will remain to be important until it is finally a non-issue that some people are straight and others are gay.

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