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17 of the biggest and most influential coming out stories of 2019

Josh Milton October 11, 2019
A vividly colourful amount of celebrities have come out in 2019 so far. (Getty)

A vividly colourful amount of celebrities have come out in 2019 so far. (Getty)

Coming out is not a pre-requisite to feel like a valid individual, but 2019 has seen waves of celebrities and high-profile figures stand tall and state their sexuality and gender identity for what it is.

More and more people are now living their truths, and this year has seen the LGBT+ community get increasingly more star-studded.

And on National Coming Out Day today, we’ve rounded-up some of the most impactful and moving coming out stories this year so far:

1. Sam Smith.

Sam Smith attends the Nordoff Robbins O2 Silver Clef Awards 2019 (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Singer Sam Smith came out as genderqueer and non-binary in March this year changed their pronouns to they/them in September.

Smith’s coming out story thrusted the identity into the national spotlight and was showered with support and praise from the community and allies.

At the Attitude Awards this week, the star described the last year as a “wild year of self-realisation”.

2. Lil Nas X.

Lil Nas X pouting
Lil Nas X arriving at the MTV VMAs 2019. (Getty)

Lil Nas X hinted at his sexuality in a series of tweets on the last day of Pride month, later telling BBC News: “I am gay.”

The rapper’s revelation made ripples in the industry, with some of his contemporaries criticising him for coming out.

But the ‘Old Town Road’ singer has rocketed even further up the charts since coming out, describing the experience as ripping “the Band-Aid off”.

3. Lilly Singh.

Lilly Singh speaks at Room To Read 2018 International Day Of The Girl Benefit at One Kearny Club on October 11, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Lilly Singh shocked and delighted fans with the news she was bisexual. (Kelly Sullivan/Getty)

For years, thousands of people logged-onto YouTube to watch Lilly Singh.

Then the Superwoman YouTuber told her nearly six million Twitter followers a rather succinct message: “Female, coloured, bisexual.”

“Throughout my life these have proven to be obstacles from time to time. But now I’m fully embracing them as my superpowers,” she wrote.

4. Jonathan Van Ness.

Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness attends the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for GLAAD)

Queer Eye‘s grooming guru, with his luscious locks and array of kimonos and dresses, came out as non-binary and stated his pronouns as he/him.

“I didn’t think I was allowed to be nonconforming or genderqueer or non-binary,” he said to Out magazine.

He later opened up about living with HIV, surging as a high-profile and tough-minded advocate for both communities.

5. Alli Ojo.

Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria. As a result, queer Nigerians in the spotlight are few and far between.

But suspicion swirled when Nigerian actors Alli Ojo posted a picture of herself in front of an LGBT+ Pride flag on her Instagram.

She later spoke candidly about being a lesbian in a now-deleted video, one that promoted hate and discrimination from some followers – highlighting the growing urgency for defiance in the country where being proud is a potent political stance.

6. Valentina.

Valentina attends RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 finale party on June 23, 2017 in New York. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

“I feel like a goddess,” proudly proclaimed RuPaul’s Drag Race star Valentina.

“I don’t completely feel like a man, I don’t completely feel like a woman.”

The 27-year-old drag queen, whose real name is James Andrew Leyva, recently appeared in RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and Drag Tots.

7. Matt Pacifici.

MLS player Matthew Pacifici (L). (Instagram)

The sporting world is not exactly known for LGBT+ players. Dedicated grassroots and local teams may have queer players, but in the big leagues, there aren’t exactly many open players.

So, when former Major League Soccer player Matthew Pacifici posted an adorable snap of he and his boyfriend Dirk Blanchat snuggling up, he quickly scored points with the community.

Pacifici told Outsports that he came out, hoping that others would follow his example. “The more people who come out the easier it will be for other people to follow,” he said.

8. Albert Nabonibo.

Gay gospel singer RwandaGay gospel singer Rwanda
Rwandan gospel singer Albert Nabonibo. (Rwanda updates/ YouTube)

Gospel singer Albert Nabonibo knew what to expect.

Gay sex might be legal in Rwanda, but attitudes towards LGBT+ people are hostile and the topic of sexuality is taboo.

Coming out as gay in August, Nabonibo said he was continue to “sing for God” despite the negative reactions he would inevitably face.

9. Anthony Bowens.

Gay wrestler Anthony Bowens with his boyfriend, Michael
Anthony Bowens with his boyfriend, Michael (Photo by bowens_official/Instagram)

New year, new Anthony Bowens. On January 1 of this year, the wrestler, who came out as bisexual in 2017, said he is actually gay.

“Over the last 6 months or so I’ve started to identify less and less with that label to the point where it doesn’t feel like it’s ‘me’ anymore,” he said at the time.

“As people move on in their lives, the way they view the world and themselves tends to change and I’m no different. Which is why if you are to label me, I prefer to identify as gay.”

10. Bella Thorne.

Bella Thorne attends the LA Premiere of Universal Pictures’ “J.T. Leroy” (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Opening about her sexuality during an appearance on Good Morning America, the former Disney Channel singer-actor – who previously described herself as bisexual – said that she discovered she’s “actually a pansexual” after someone explained to her “really thoroughly what that is”.

“I didn’t know that,” Bella Thorne noted. “You like beings. You like what you like.

“Doesn’t have to be a girl or a guy, or a he or she, or they or this or that. It’s literally you like personality. You just like a being.”

11. Dustin Laurence.

Rotterdam: The Netherlands' Duncan Laurence celebrates after winning the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 at Expo Tel Aviv on May 19, 2019,
The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence celebrates after winning the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 at Expo Tel Aviv on May 19, 2019, (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty)

It’s basically gay Christmas. Eurovision this year saw Duncan Laurence, the Nertherland’s entry, win the crown.

A number of other contestants this year were also LGBT+, but bookies favourite Laurence, who came out as bisexual in a press conference before the contest, ultimately soared.

“I am more than just an artist, I am a person, I am a living being, I’m bisexual, I’m a musician, I stand for things,” he said to reporters.

12. McKrae Game.

Hope for Wholeness founder McKrae Game came out of the closet this summer (Facebook/McKrae Game)
Hope for Wholeness founder McKrae Game came out of the closet this summer (Facebook/McKrae Game)

“It’s all in the past,” wrote McKrae Game, a man whose history is founding one of the largest conversion therapy ministries in the US.

But his future is now one of being openly and proudly gay, as he wrote in a moving Facebook post.

Also called reparative therapy, medical organisations across the world have widely debunked and rejected the treatment as traumatising and psychologically scarring, especially to minors.

13. Joshua Rush.

Joshua Rush in a white shirt
Joshua Rush attends Nickelodeon’s 2019 Kids’ Choice Awards. (Rich Fury/Getty)

Joshua Rush has come out twice in his life. Once on-screen, another off-screen.

In 2017, the Disney Channel actor became the first to say the word “I’m gay” on there show Andi Mack.

While in 2019, he came out as an “out and proud bisexual man”.

14. Mavournee Hazel.

Neighbours star Mavournee Hazel. (Instagram)
Neighbours star Mavournee Hazel. (Instagram)

Demisexuality falls between the spectrum of sexuality and asexuality. Straight, gay, lesbian and bi people can be demisexual.

It’s a label for people who only experience sexual attraction to people the form an emotional connection with, which is what Neighbours actor Mavournee Hazel explained in an interview this year.

“I used to think there was something wrong with me or that I was broken because I wasn’t into the dating game, but as I got older I realised there is a whole spectrum,” she said.

15. Ryan Russell. 

NFL veteran Ryan Russell (right) with his boyfriend, the professional dancer Corey O’Brien (Instagram/@corey_obrien)

American football plater Ryan Russell flexed his writing muscles in a heart-warming essay for ESPN in August, where he came out as bisexual.

“Out of love, admiration and respect, I want the next team to sign me valuing me for what I do and knowing who I truly am,” Russell said.

“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.”

16. Tess Holliday.

Model Tess Holliday comes out as pansexual
Tess Holliday, who has come out as pansexual. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty for Refinery29).

Plus-size model and body-positive activist Tess Holliday misheard a question one day at a bar in Mexico when a man asked her: “Are you bi?”

“I said, ‘Thank you so much for asking. I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship to my own queerness, and I think the word pansexual speaks to me more than bi does.’”

“He said, ‘Thank you for telling me about that, but actually, I said, Are you buying?’”

17. Willow Smith. 

Willow Smith has come out. (Edward Berthelot/Getty Images for Christian Dior)

The 18-year-old daughter of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith came out as on an episode of Red Table Talk, a regular Facebook Watch series in which three generations of the Smith family have open conversations about “taboo” subjects.

Willow Smith gave a crash course on polyamory to her mother, Jada, and grandmother, Adrienne, before opening up about her sexuality, explaining that her ideal relationship would be with a man and a woman.

“Personally, male and female, that’s all I need,” she said

More: coming out, Jonathan Van Ness, lil nas x, national coming out day, Sam Smith, Valentina

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