Anderson Cooper came out on July 2 via an e-mail that was posted on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Beast blog. Though Cooper’s sexuality had long been an open secret, it was not an issue he had ever addressed in public. He cited personal and professional reasons for his silence: as a reporter in war zones, he might endanger himself and his co-workers, he told Sullivan. In addition, he hoped to keep the focus on his subjects, not himself. But Cooper was compelled by incidents of discrimination across the country to “(make) clear where I stand,” he wrote. “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.”
Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris told People magazine in November 2006 that he is gay. His announcement came in response to reports that he had denied he was gay to other media sources. “I am happy to dispel any rumours or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest,” Harris told People. Harris, who plays the über-heterosexual Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, has since earned four consecutive Emmy nominations for the role, disproving the assumption that once an actor comes out as gay, audiences will not buy him as a straight character.
Suze Orman, host of a financial-advice talk show, came out nonchalantly in a Q&A with the New York Times Magazine in February 2007. When asked about her personal life, Orman matter-of-factly explained that she was in a seven-year relationship with one of the producers of her show, who is a woman. She added that she wished that she and her partner could marry to secure their ability to leave money to each other. Later she announced on Twitter that they married in South Africa in 2010.
Broadway actor Zachary Quinto, who had avoided confirming or denying his sexuality, came out — without drama — in a New York magazine profile in October 2011. Unlike Ellen DeGeneres’ TIME cover announcing she is gay, Quinto’s sexuality was not the focus of the story. He had acknowledged his very public role as a gay-rights advocate in a New York Times profile a year earlier, but had skirted the question of his own sexuality. “I would much rather talk about (the issues) than talk about who I sleep with,” he told the Times in 2010. When profiled by New York, Quinto again spoke about his advocacy work, but this time acknowledged his sexuality. The actor, who has played several gay roles, was playing a gay character in Angels in America at the time. Acknowledging almost casually that he is gay, Quinto spoke about his feelings about the role and current events. “As a gay man, it made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed,” he told New York.
When comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres came out, she intentionally made the biggest splash she could on two media fronts. She made history by coming out in an exclusive TIME cover story in April 1997, then had her fictional self come out on her semi-autobiographical TV sitcom. In the fall of 2006, DeGeneres had suggested to her sitcom’s producers that her character discover that she is a lesbian. After rumours about DeGeneres’ real-life sexuality churned for months in the media, the actress came out publicly in the TIME interview and revealed that she was in a relationship with a woman. “This has been the most freeing experience, because people can’t hurt me anymore,” DeGeneres said. The high-profile announcement and the media frenzy it prompted made DeGeneres a landmark figure in the history of gay rights.
The role, quite frankly, changed his life. Playing the character of Martin Dysart in Equus, George Takei portrayed a polished psychiatrist who battles his own inner demons. It was a departure from Mr Sulu, whom he had played throughout three TV seasons and six films of Star Trek. And it was the role of Dysart that inspired Takei to announce his sexuality, coming out publicly in Frontiers magazine, a biweekly Los Angeles publication. Takei, 68 at the time, said he had been with his partner Brad Altman for 18 years. “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,” he said. Highlighting his role as a civil rights activist, he likened prejudice against gays to racial segregation. And he has embraced political activism, taking on Tennessee’s “don’t say gay” bill.
Once dubbed Newsweek’s “Queen of Nice,” Rosie O’Donnell’s coming out couldn’t have been more blunt. “I’m a dyke!” she announced onstage as part of her act at New York City’s famed Caroline’s comedy club. Her timing was that of a comedian, but this was no joke. “I don’t know why people make such a big deal about the gay thing,” she told the crowd, which had gathered to benefit ovarian-cancer research. Her coming out coincided with the end of her six-year talk show, after which she cut her hair and proceeded to focus more on activism, marrying her now ex-wife Kelli Carpenter in 2004, just weeks after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed same-sex marriages in the city.
After more than a decade of denying his sexuality amid speculation, Latin pop star Ricky Martin acknowledged in a post on his website on March 29, 2010, what the world had long suspected: he’s gay. “I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am,” he wrote. Months later, on Oprah’s couch, the 38-year-old Martin said it was the birth of his twin sons, by surrogate, that had inspired him to be open about his sexuality. “What am I going to teach them, how to lie?” he said. After he came out, Martin said, he was relieved. “I felt liberated,” he told Oprah. “I felt I could finally say that I love myself completely.” The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement shortly after Martin’s announcement. “When someone like Ricky Martin comes out, hundreds of millions of people now have a cultural connection with an artist, celebrity and, perhaps most importantly, a father who happens to be gay,” the statement read. “His decision to model this kind of openness and honestly can lead to greater acceptance for countless gay people in the US, in Latin America and worldwide.”
The former ‘N Syncer’s coming out may not have been a surprise, but it was big enough to trump Johnny Depp. Lance Bass confirmed months of speculation in People’s July 2006 I’m Gay cover story — reportedly bumping the Pirates of the Caribbean actor out of the top spot. Bass discussed his then relationship with Amazing Race winner Reichen Lehmkuhl and expressed peace and happiness with his declaration.
In exclusive interviews, friends like Christina Applegate and former bandmate Joey Fatone stated that they’d known for years, but Bass had kept the information private out of respect for the other members of ‘N Sync.
All things considered, Jim Parsons, star of The Big Bang Theory, did not come out with a bang. Parsons brought partner Todd Spiewak to the 2010 Emmy Awards, where he won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and thanked Spiewak in his acceptance speech. Then rumours swirled that Parsons was engaged, although he had not commented on the relationship. It became an open secret that the sitcom actor was gay.
But any remaining speculation came to an unceremonious end when a New York Times profile mentioned his sexual orientation and relationship status in one fell swoop. The article, published in May, discussed Parsons’ role in The Normal Heart, a play that chronicles a young gay activist’s fight against AIDS: “The Normal Heart resonated with him on a few levels: Mr Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship, and working with an ensemble again onstage was like nourishment, he said.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.