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13 coming out stories that made a world of difference

Aaron Day September 25, 2014

For many, coming out can be the hardest decision they will ever have to make. Or sometimes, it can be the best thing to have ever happened.

No one’s story is the same,  but each one at least offers some hope for a day when these decisions won’t have to be decisions at all – when coming out is as easy as declaring your name, age, or place of birth.

We long for the day when coming out isn’t a big deal, or better yet, there is no need to come out, but as there is still a way to go, here are only some of the more recent stories to have emerged, but they are stories that have inspired and touched the hearts of many:-

1. Professor Dinesh Bhugra

Taking a stand as the world’s newest most senior psychiatrist, Professor Dinesh Bhugra came out in an interview last year and said his profession should apologise for the way it has mistreated gay people.

Amid recent background noise from gay conversion therapists and ex-gay activists, Bhurga’s resounding voice is guaranteed to have a tremendous impact on the authority and responsibility of mental health institutions everywhere.

“There are still countries where it’s seen as an illness,” he said. “We need to make a stand.”

The 61-year-old is also professor of psychiatry and diversity at King’s College London, and chair of the Mental Health Foundation.

He was already ‘out’ in his personal life but hadn’t spoken about his sexuality publicly

Bhugra

2. Ellen Page

The Hollywood actress Ellen Page came out in February earlier this year at an event organised by the Human Rights Campaign.

By itself, her coming out story was a massive inspiration for young LGBT people everywhere, but what really made this shine was the speech itself.

Beat-by-beat, Page hits all the right notes. She says: “I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission.”

She then explains: “I’m here today because I am gay,” and the audience just explodes.

Watch the whole thing for yourself:-

3. Tom Daley

In a five-minute YouTube video, the British diving bronze medallist, and star of ITV’s Splash, revealed last year that he had been in a relationship with a man since Spring 2013. Notably, he specifically chose not to use a label to describe his sexuality, but said it was “love at first sight”, when he met his boyfriend.

Daley has been hailed by many including Lady Gaga and Clare Balding (among many others), and has been accepted by his grandparents for the announcement. He was also immortalised in Russian doll form, alongside Sir Elton John, Graham Norton, George Michael and Stephen Fry, in a charity auction.

His video is a moment of touching personal intimacy, one not to be missed:-

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4. Andreja Peijić

In July this year, model Andreja Pejić came out as a transgender woman.

Pejić, who began her career in 2007, was famed for her androgynous appearance, and modelled both men’s and women’s clothes.

Following her transition, she officially changed her name to Andreja, and announced she will only model as female from now on.

She told People: “I want to share my story with the world because I think I have a social responsibility.

“I hope that by being open about this, it becomes less of an issue. I always dreamt of being a girl. One of my earliest memories is spinning around in my mom’s skirt trying to look like a ballerina.

“I kept my dreams and my imagination to myself and became pretty good at acting as a boy. But I was hiding who I was.”

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5. Masha Bast (Мария Баст)

Last year saw Russia under the spotlight during the 2013 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Notably, many took issue with the host country for introducing a law banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

Among these critics was Masha Bast, the chair of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights, who bravely spoke out in mainstream Russian media to oppose the country’s anti-gay law, simultaneously coming out as bisexual and transgender.

She gave advice to young trans people in Russia, saying: “Come out. The sooner, the better. Don’t be afraid of your parents. Too many trans people worry about how society sees them and think they’re a problem for society.”

Masha

6. Wentworth Miller

British-born American actor Wentworth Miller came out as gay last year in a letter sent to the St Petersburg International Film Festival.

The 41-year-old star, known best for his lead role in Prison Break, wrote: “I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government.”

Here is the letter in full (via GLAAD):

Dear Ms. Averbakh:

Thank you for your kind invitation. As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes.

However, as a gay man, I must decline.

I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government. The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.

Perhaps, when and if circumstances improve, I’ll be free to make a different choice.

Until then.

Wentworth Miller

Wilson Cruz, from US LGBT advocacy group GLAAD commended the actor’s decision, saying: “Wentworth’s bold show of support sends a powerful message to LGBT Russians, who are facing extreme violence and persecution: you are not alone.”

Wentworth

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7. Baroness LIZ Barker

During the England and Wales equal marriage debate in the House of Lords last year, Liberal Democrat peer Liz Barker stood to make a speech in which she spoke of her love for another woman – revealing publicly for the first time that she, herself, is in a same-sex relationship.

She was among the first to speak and said she had to “declare an interest”.

“Many years ago, I had the great good fortune to meet someone,” she said. “She and I have loved each other ever since.”

She went on to say it was a “great relief” to read the letter by the Bishop of Salisbury to Lord Alli, in which he argued “Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly”.

8. George Takei

Although not a recent coming out story by any stretch, George Takei’s decision to go public with his sexuality in 2005 skyrocketed him into new fame and has left a lasting impact ever since.

Takei, better known as Mr. Sulu from the hit TV series (and subsequent six movies) Star Trek, now has over 7 million likes since joining Facebook in 2011.

The move was initially prompted by then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s veto of same-sex marriage legislation. He said, “It’s not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through. It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen.”

Takei said that by coming out, he hoped his story would help to improve the self-image and visibility of gay Asian-Americans.

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9. Robbie Rogers

The former Leeds United player, US-born Robbie Rogers came out as gay early last year.

He retired and revealed his sexuality at the same time, but shortly after returned to play football in the US, inspired countless others to come out, and spoke passionately about LGBT rights issues.

It has since been announced that Rogers’ coming out story will form the basis for a new comedy TV series.

RobbieRogers

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10. Frank ocean

In 2012, musician Frank Ocean revealed his first love was with another man at age 19.

He wrote: “4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together…There was no escaping. No negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life.”

Since that time, he has received widespread acclaim for both his personal courage and his success as an influential LGBT hip-hop artist.

Last year, he was even named in Out magazine as the most powerful LGBT figure in America’s music history.

Russell Simmons wrote for Global Grind: “Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we?”

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11. Chelsea Manning

Last year, the US solider Chelsea Manning publicly came out as trans on the day after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her involvement in leaking a large number of secret documents to Wikileaks.

“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” the Army private wrote in the statement. “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.”

However, the military has since continued to deny Manning the gender reassignment treatment she needs.

This story matters because it has the potential change the way we treat and respect the human rights of trans people. If Manning is successful in acquiring her treatment, this is nothing but a big step forward for the estimated 5,000 active trans military personnel and 130,000 trans veterans in the US.

Additionally, the story of Manning’s transition also prompted the Associated Press to release a reporting memo to ensure that journalists use the correct female pronouns in their publications.

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12. MICHAEL SAM

Missouri All American Michael Sam came out as gay in February earlier this year.

It wasn’t until May however that he finally made history, becoming the first openly gay player on an NFL team.

This sent shock waves through American media like nothing else. Celebrating his draft, Sam embraced and kissed his boyfriend on live TV.  While this act received a lot of negative press, with 47% of Americans calling it “inappropriate,” it also signalled an inspiring message of for LGBT sportspeople everywhere.

Since coming out, Sam has also seen support from US First Lady Michelle Obama, who tweeted to say she was “proud” of his achievements both on and off the field.

13. Daniel Pierce

We can’t say 19-year-old Daniel Pierce’s coming out story was a happy one by any means, but it’s definitely one which carries an important message.

In August, Daniel caught the attention of thousands online after he recorded and posted his family’s homophobic reaction to him coming out.

The video, which went viral, showed Pierce being attacked and verbally abused by his parents. He was hit, shouted at, and called a “damned queer” and a “piece of shit.”

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In an interview, Daniel Pierce said he recorded the video for his own protection. He said: “What I hope people take away from watching that is it still happens.

“A lot of people don’t realize that it happens. They see all the positive videos and the negative video never gets seen so if one family maybe watches it and maybe changes their mind in how they are going to handle it about their son or daughter coming out, one family and I will be happy.”

Since that time, Daniel set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise living expenses. With the support of thousands, he has managed to reach an astounding $98,000.

His story is a reminder that coming out is not always straightforward or fair. But it also helps us imagine new ways of supporting those who are disowned and abused by their families.

Watch the clip below (warning – homophobic violence):

More: Americas, US

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