Coming out stories: 5 LGBT+ heroes share their powerful, inspirational experiences
Coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or any other LGBT+ identity isn’t always easy. It can be a difficult, emotional and trying time — but it can also be beautiful and empowering.
Being open about your identity to family, friends and loved ones can often feel like an incredibly daunting prospect, and it’s understandable to be afraid.
But thankfully for most LGBT+ people, their coming out stories are just one chapter of a vibrant, full life.
All LGBT+ coming out stories are different. Some people come out when they’re ready, while others are accidentally — or sometimes on purpose — outed by others.
Plenty of queer people who come out are met with love, acceptance and support.
However you decide to come out, remember that you are deserving of love and acceptance. It’s not your job to educate people on your sexual or gender identity, but sometimes people will have questions and might need time to adapt.
Here, we reflect on some frank, empowering and emotional LGBT+ coming out stories that reflect just how varied the experience is — and serve as a reminder that coming out is rarely the cataclysmic, earth-shattering event you envisioned.
1. NikkieTutorials came out as trans after being blackmailed, but she still did it on her own terms.
When YouTuber and make-up artist NikkieTutorials posted a video titled “I’m Coming Out”, plenty of fans expected her to reveal that she was bisexual or a lesbian. Instead, the make-up guru told her fans that she is trans and transitioned when she was a teenager.
“Today I am here to share something with you that I’ve always wanted to share with you one day, but under my own circumstances, and it looks like that chance has been taken away from me,” she said.
“So today, I am taking back my own power and I have to tell you something.”
Jager explained that she has always striven to be her own person on her own terms. “It’s time to let go and be truly free,” she said.
“When I was younger I was born in the wrong body, which means that I am transgender.”
While Nikkie was forced to reveal her gender identity by blackmailers, she turned a disturbing and upsetting experience into an empowering one by taking back control of her own coming out story.
2. Paris Lees spent years coming out as trans, and while it was often difficult, it was also empowering.
Trans journalist and activist Paris Lees’ experience is typical of many coming out stories in that it look place over a long period of time, as she revealed in a powerful article for The Guardian written in 2013.
In the article, she explained that children at school started bullying her when she told them she was a girl at the age of four.
“They hadn’t believed me; they’d just laughed,” Lees wrote. “Adults weren’t keen on me saying it, either, and I soon got the message that I wasn’t (and never could be) a girl – I had a penis and that was that. I’d understand when I was older, apparently.”
A few years later, she started wearing tights to school and chose to use the girls toilets. But it wasn’t until later, after a challenging period in her life and a bereavement, that “resolved to start a new life”.
“As I was waiting for my A-level results, though, a lesson arrived to teach me how short life can be – Mama died, unexpectedly,” Lees wrote.
“She was 54. I was heartbroken. A fortnight later I ditched the last of my boys’ clothes, stopped smoking and resolved to start a new life as a girl at university in Brighton.”
3. Jameela Jamil recently opened up about the challenges she faced in coming out as queer.
The Good Place star Jameela Jamil came out as queer in February 2020 and in March she revealed that she is bisexual. Sadly, hers was one of the difficult coming out stories — she felt forced to open up about her identity after facing backlash for her role as a judge on the voguing competition Legendary.
The signs were there all along though, as Jamil pointed out. A few years ago, she added a rainbow emoji to her name on Twitter – a subtle hint that she was a member of the LGBT+ community – but that wasn’t enough.
Following the backlash, Jamil hit out at her detractors, writing: “This is why I never officially came out as queer.”
She said it is “not easy within the south Asian community to be accepted” as a queer person but she always tried to answer the question honestly when asked.
“But I kept it low because I was scared of the pain of being accused of performative bandwagon-jumping over something that caused me a lot of confusion, fear, and turmoil when I was a kid. I didn’t come from a family with *anyone* openly out. It’s also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you’re already a brown female in your thirties.”
4. Phillip Schofield had the incredibly difficult job of coming out as gay to his wife.
Coming out stories that happen later in life are common, but they come with their own unique set of challenges, as was seen when This Morning host Phillip Schofield opened up about his sexuality.
The television presenter had the difficult job of coming out to his wife of 27 years Stephanie Lowe and his two daughters.
“My family have held me so close, they have tried to cheer me up, to smother me with kindness and love, despite their confusion,” Schofield said at the time.
He also delved into the challenges facing his family, saying he was “very conscious of the hurt” that would surface.
“This can’t be anything other than a painful process for [Lowe].”
But perhaps the best response came from his mother. When the TV star came out to her, she replied: “Oh, OK. Well, I don’t care. And that’s the same with everyone.”
5. Canadian swimmer Markus Thormeyer came out to his teammates and their perfect response is everything.
Canadian Olympic swimmer Markus Thormeyer shared his coming out story in a powerful essay for Outsports earlier this year.
In the wide-ranging article, Thormeyer spoke of the challenges he faced in coming to terms with his identity. When he finally felt ready, he wanted his teammates to know.
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“I’m not a dramatic person, so I didn’t want to make a big scene when I was coming out,” he wrote. “I just wanted it to happen organically in normal conversation.
“One day, we were all hanging out and the topic of relationships came up in conversation. This was my moment. I casually said that I had never been on a date with a guy before and I was kind of scared of it. That I’d probably be a nervous wreck and ruin it.
“Then, without a sliver of judgment or skipping a beat, my friends told me that I’d probably be fine on a date as long as I just had a good time and just was comfortable being myself.
“Knowing that I had such amazing teammates supporting me so strongly regardless of my sexual orientation was one of the best feelings in the world.”