Famous women talk coming out

Today is National Coming Out Day, a day when every person who identifies as other than straight is encouraged to come out of the closet. While everyone has an individual decision to make on when and how to come out to the people in their lives — friends, family, co-workers — being honest with yourself and those around you makes not only your life better, but the world better. The LGBT community has come a long way, but we also have a long way to go, and if the early pioneers of the movement had remained quiet and closeted, we would never be where we are today.

Often people go to celebrities or public figures for advice on how to come out or when they knew they were gay. We’ve compiled some quotes from some inspirational women of all walks of life — all sexualities, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all ages — on their feelings about being out or being oJoanuted, and how they feel about living life as an out woman. Some were kicked out of their houses. Some saw their career take a nose dive. Some had absolutely no aftershocks to speak of. Whatever story echoes your own, I feel you’ll be inspired by them all.

“I can’t be a part of the problem. I hate the idea of a label just as much as anyone else but I’m with who I’m with, I love who I love and I’m if not a better actress than I was yesterday and my personal life should have no effect on that. I think that the injustice of people staying in the closet is more than I can bear with a clear conscience and I couldn’t sleep at night if I was a part of that problem, if I was part of the lies.” — Amber Heard

“I’m proud to be a woman. I’m proud to be a black woman, and I’m proud to be gay.” — Wanda Sykes

“Don’t worry about society pigeonholing you or Hollywood pigeonholing you. Just don’t pigeonhole yourself. Stay open.” — Jane Lynch

“I’m coming out! Bum, bum! It’s fun — it’s like a whole new sort of subject to study now. … There are so many stereotypes that I have to learn about. t’s so new and it’s so fun because it’s basically like going to the library and finding like a whole genre of books you didn’t even know existed that now you can relate to.” — Sia

“Gay teen suicides were getting a lot of publicity and Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better campaign. I remember being on the road and talking to my tourmate about it, hoping that my young fans could look up to me, to which she replied, “Dude, then you have to come out.” Everything suddenly made sense. As soon as I got back from that tour I made an It Gets Better video and I told the world.” — Allison Weiss

“I’m not going to hide it. I’ve been very public about it and I’ve had people say, “Well, why don’t you just keep them guessing? You can hit all the markets.” No. Especially if you’re with somebody; it’s so disrespectful. It was hard for me coming out to my parents and for me, I’ve already gone through that hurdle and I’m not going to go through it again.” — Vicci Martinez

“[My sexuality is] a part of me that I really like. But it’s not the totality of me. It’s not a passion of mine to become political in any way, but I do think it’s important to see gay men and women having big careers and very full, rich lives.” — Portia de Rossi

“I am transparent about my sexuality which i feel is — for lack of a better way to express it — completely open; unzipped. I make no distinctions. I do not judge myself when i feel an attraction to someone and that someone could be of any gender or sexual orientation. Chemistry is chemistry and that is something beyond my control. I have no interest in messing with chemistry. I feel lucky to live in NYC where sexuality is as open as anywhere I have ever been.” — Joan Wasser

“Some people know from birth and for some people it takes a bit of time to figure it out. I hadn’t really thought about it at all until I was a bit older — late-teens — and before then I wasn’t really interested in dating anyone. I think I needed to meet other gay people to realize my gayness, and then of course I had to try to get to know them, which can be quite daunting from an outside perspective.” — Katie Stelmanis of Austra

“For all of five minutes [I was upset] and then I didn’t care so much. I tried to look at the bright side — at least now I get more action.” — on being outed, Sara McLeod

“t was really hard at the time and no one should have to come out like that, but things are very different now and you can’t get me to shut up about loving women! I love feeling free to be myself on stage and off.” — on being outed, Jill Jackson

“When I started to grow as a musician, my band would be very supportive of who I am. Actually, in my old band, Black Veil Brides, we wore black makeup all over our bodies, it was our stage makeup and we each had our own style of doing it, I actually would put two equal signs on my hands and an equal sign on the side of my face. Everyone knows I’m a lesbian and no one really cares. I’ve never dealt with homophobia or sexism.” — Sandra Alva

“I came out to my friends in high school. And I came out to my family when I was out of the house after high school and went back and forth with it a lot. But I come from a very accepting family they were always cool with it. Any time it would come up they’d be like, ‘Yeah, go gay rights!’ Very liberal.” — Daphne Willis

“I didn’t realize how many people would identify with my story. So many people have handed me letters or stood on line and told me that they have read their story within my story. When you’re in hiding — I don’t guess that anyone gay has an easy time with it. We’re all so the same. But when you’re in hiding, what you long for is to identify with somebody. I’ve had so many people, young and old, say to me, ‘I would have given anything to have been able to go to a library and check this book out. It would have been so comforting to know that there is another human being who had a story like mine.’” — Chely Wright

“You can’t hide away forever. It’s just stupid and now I’ve come out I feel a lot more comfortable with myself. But it was a bit scary back then because some people do have horrible opinions.” — Lady Sovereign

“I think — I know that for the individual, it is healthier, no matter what you’re doing in your life, no matter what level of success, no matter celebrity or not, just you’re in school or wherever you are, it is healthier for you to speak and walk your truth. You’re just going to be happier and healthier, so I would hope that for anyone. When someone’s in the public eye, it’s twice as much, because you feel like you’re lying twice as much, and lying is a very dark energy to swallow, and it will make you sick.” — Melissa Etheridge

“First and foremost I’m being true to myself. It’s also great to see that we inspire other gay females but they can also see beyond that. Just be yourself and do what makes you happy. That’s what its all about.” — Phanie Diaz

“The [out] people that paved the way for artists like me did a really, really good job. It’s an honor and a privilege to follow in those footsteps.” — Brandi Carlile

“I feel like we’re just being ourselves and I think that’s kind of part of what appeals to people about our band. We’re outspoken queers and we talk about queer issues. We’re loud and proud, we come from the queer community and now we’ve got this opportunity to bring the message to the mainstream and it’s a really rad opportunity.” — Hannah Blilie of The Gossip

“There have been many who helped me so it’s the least I can do — pay it forward.” — Otep

“In the beginning it was just that I didn’t want to talk about my personal life. And then it got to the point where I was obviously — like it sounded like I was denying something, like I was just avoiding the topic. I’m not ashamed of it. Eventually it just kind of happened. … Actually my initial thought was maybe I should have spoken about it sooner and in my own words, rather than have someone else kind of take a few words and make them into whatever they wanted to. ” — Missy Higgins

“I haven’t had a problem being gay. If people have a problem with me being gay, they don’t tell me about it. I’ve never not been gay, so I think I’m very, very comfortable with that part of me. I mean I’ve got lots and lots of reasons to be in therapy, that’s just not one of ‘em! I’ve dealt with that. I dealt with that in high school. I’m comfortable with it, and that puts people at ease.” — Mary Gauthier

“I mean, Harvey Milk really said it best: If you identify within yourself as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender — whatever — and those people around you already love you, tell them, because they won’t care. I think it’s up to us to give voice to that, no matter what job you have or what you do. You don’t have to stand on a rooftop and sing it, but you should do things in a way that makes other people proud of who you are and what you stand for, and not be afraid of that.” — Kristanna Loken

“I talked about it my whole life, but nobody talked to me about it in an interview. I really only opened up to that for myself in my life when I was in my 30s. It’s tough to figure out what does bi mean. … I thought about it in my 20s and being raised Catholic Italian … and I always loved men. I love men and women. The thing is I made some relationships in my 20s and 30s with people, women in my life, that I’ll never forget and that will never end.” —Gioia Bruno of Expose

“Right in the beginning, after I came out, I really didn’t feel like talking about it. I feel like in Belgium the press really had a hard time not talking about it. I just really wasn’t ready for it, because I just didn’t feel like I had anything good or interesting to say about it yet. And I felt like they were a little unrespectful about that. But aside from that, no one’s usually really that interested in my personal life.” — Sarah Bettens

“Well, you know, it’s funny. I just never found it was necessary because I really never kept my life private. Those who knew me, those who worked with me were well aware. For a couple of years now I’ve been hosting [the PBS series] In the Life, and that was just kind of my way of saying, here I am and this is what I feel I should be doing now, and it was sort of a natural evolution for me as opposed to, you know, this great gong in the head.” — Lesely Gore

“My family and friends are all very supportive, and they want more than anything for me to be happy. I am very accepted by all parts of my support system, and that is the most liberating, amazing feeling one can ask for.” — Emily Schromm

“I knew what a lesbian was, but there were no role models. I was raised in the black Baptist church, and there were gay guys who were choir directors, but they weren’t talked about. Deep down inside, I’d think that’s who I am, but I didn’t have the nerve to pursue that. All along I had lesbian and gay friends, but I couldn’t see myself going down that route due to fear. I started meeting more women while working as a comic, met a young lady in 1994 who caught my eye. It didn’t end up being a good relationship, but I grew up a lot … I started being more free and flirty in comedy clubs. From that moment on, it gave me a lot to talk about.” — Carlease Burke

“I didn’t even know what lesbo meant! [It was like] ‘Oh my God! That’s what I am, a lesbian!’ Then I’d go around set to the people I really liked and say, ‘I’m a lesbian. I’m a lesbian.’” — Heather Matrazzo

“I’m very open with my sexuality and I think that’s one of the prerequisites in being able to play all different things. I’m happy with sexuality, period. However, whatever gets you going. Whatever you do, that’s fine.” — Kirsten Vangsness

“I’m happy to talk about it. I’m totally open about it and I’m a very open person.” — Sasha Mallory

“[I want] just to live my life openly and freely and with joy and thanksgiving, I reckon. [Laughs.] Just be.” — Cherry Jones

“It’s the best — because I’m free. I’m completely able to be exactly who I am. Everybody knows who’s gay in this business. Let’s face it. I mean, we could sit here, if the cameras weren’t rolling, and name all the people that we know are gay in this business. So if it wasn’t public knowledge, and I was sitting here having this interview because I’m selling my book, I would be scared to death that you were gonna catch me in something. I’d be scared to death that you’re gonna ask me and I’d be figuring out how I’m gonna dodge that, and what I’m gonna say. And just, it’s so ridiculous. And so to have to hide anything is just a horrible way to live. And I think you’re selling your soul to the devil to just to have fame and have money and have, you know, whatever.” — Ellen DeGeneres

“I’ve been that way since I can remember. I remember growing up and loving when I knew there was a girl like me who I looked up to. I figured I should return the favor. You don’t have to be ashamed.” — Evan Rachel Wood

“They ask you at auditions about your life, and I am not someone who, when asked about my life, is going to hide a huge part of it. So of course I came out — I think in my first audition.” — Kim Stolz

“There really wasn’t a decision that I made. I didn’t feel like there was an alternative. I was completely unwilling to lie about who I was, or to try and hide who I was with. That was never something that I would even consider doing. It wasn’t until I started getting bigger parts and being seen for more stuff when we [she and manager John Essay] had to actually have a conversation about it, which I totally didn’t want to have. And of course, my manager is looking at it from a business side of things and saying, ‘I absolutely support you and I support who you are, but I would like to have a conversation about what lengths you’re willing to have your personal life dictate your professional life if it comes to that point.’ And I absolutely understood where he was coming from, and in another place it was really frustrating. But I’ve got to say, we only had to have that conversation once, about two months ago. And I was pretty straightforward with him, and I think he absolutely understood where I was coming from and was supportive of that. But he needed us to have that conversation to make sure we were on the same page.” — Jasika Nicole

“I think the responsibility that we have as gay Americans to the extent that we can — and we ought to be really ambitious about the extent to which we can — we have to be out. That’s the thing that we owe the people who came before us who are the pioneers, and that’s the thing we owe the next generation of gay people in terms of clearing the way and making life easier for them. I think that there is a moral imperative to be out, and I think that if you’re not out, you have to come to an ethical understanding with yourself why you are not. And it shouldn’t be something that is excused lightly. I don’t think that people should be forced out of the closet, but I think that every gay person, sort of, ought to push themselves in that regard. Because it’s not just you. It’s for the community and it’s for the country.” — Rachel Maddow

“Gay people probably say this all the time, that there’s never any “right” time to come out. I had my first serious girlfriend when I was a freshman in high school. I would go out and hang out with my girlfriend outside of school and I’d be gay, but then when I went back to school, you know, I was straight with all my friends because I’d known them since middle school or elementary school and I was afraid of how they’d react to me. It started getting out there — you know, you can’t hide for too long without people who know you finding out. They started making little comments like ‘Oh, there goes that gay girl over there’ or ‘There goes that dyke over there’ and things like that, and it just got to the point where every friend that I’d had, I no longer had. I felt really alone at school, so I ended up transferring schools. People started to want to fight me because they felt like I was lying about who I was, which I felt was none of their business. So for my senior year I went to a new school and was completely out. My family knew … well, my mom knew. Everybody knew. To me, my mom is my family, so … she kicked me out. She got comfortable with it over time, but it took her some time. My mom’s religious and she had a hard time accepting and a hard time understanding it. But she’s come around, you know, she’s watched me be gay on TV every single day, and at the end of every episode she still says, ‘Oh Kayla, I’m so proud of you.’ Whereas two years ago she would’ve hidden under a rock.” — Kayla Ferrell

“I’m not someone who endlessly talks about her personal life for no reason, but obviously, as someone who identifies as bisexual, those are issues I really care about — and frankly, I don’t see why everyone doesn’t care about them. So when I was asked to participate in that PSA, it was just an obvious, “Well, of course I will.” — Anna Paquin

“The outcome with my family is something I am still dealing with to this day. My family doesn’t agree with it, understand it or like it, but if they love me as much as they say they do, I know they will accept me.
I know it’s hard for them as well so I’m trying to be as calm and understanding as possible. All I care about is being happy and that’s exactly what I am. I don’t want to change for anyone, I just want to be true to myself whether people like it or not.” — Ayiiia

“I think in the beginning of my career I was cautious, but not once was I told by someone not to be open. Once Jennifer and I began a family, I vowed that I would never deny them. I was always open to employers, colleagues but then came out to the public.” — Cat Cora

“I have never, ever hidden my sexuality, because to me being a lesbian is like having blue eyes. I always live truthfully. ” — Tabatha Coffey

Did any of these quotes speak to you? Who are you coming out to today?