As we get ready to close the chapter on 2016, we’re thinking about the notable events that have shaped the LGBT community this year, including the famous folks who came out—actors, athletes, musicians, politicians and more.
Now, perhaps more than ever, representation matters in all walks of life.
Charlie CarverImeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
The Teen Wolf actor started 2016 with a bang, coming out in an Instagram post in January.
“So now, let the record show this: I self-identify as gay,” he wrote. “I owe it to myself, more than anything, to be who I needed when I was younger,” he wrote in a message that spanned five different posts.
He admitted he worried being out would “be limiting myself to a type, to a perception with limits that I was not professionally comfortable with,” but, with some guidance, realized that didn’t have to be the case.
He closed out his note with a nod to bro Max: “Let the record show my twin brother is just as cool for being straight.”
Stewart and Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson were one of Hollywood’s power couples in the mid-2000s. But she’s been dating Alicia Cargile since July, telling Elle UK, “Right now, I’m just really in love with my girlfriend.”
“To hide this provides the implication that I’m not down with it or I’m ashamed of it,” she added, “so I had to alter how I approached being in public. It opened my life up and I’m so much happier.”
Plaza, a.k.a. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation, came out as bisexual in an Advocate interview from July.
Commenting on her “masculine” energy,” she said, “Girls are into me—that’s no secret. Hey, I’m into them, too. I fall in love with girls and guys. I can’t help it.”
The 32-year-old actress credited having gay relatives—including her aunt, uncle and sister—with teaching her early on that it was okay “to stand out and let your freak flag fly.”
Pearson, frontman of the Christian rock band Everyday Sunday, came out in May, publishing an open letter to fans about how his decision to live openly relates to his faith.
“I never wanted to be gay,” he wrote. “I was scared of what God would think and what all of these people I loved would think about me; so it was never an option for me.”
He described how he married his wife, Lauren, believing he could simply will his homosexuality away.ABC
“Trying not to be gay, has only led to a desire for intimacy in friendships which pushed friends away, and it has resulted in a marriage where I couldn’t love or satisfy my wife in a way that she needed.” (The two are now close friends.)
He said he’s come out publicly to help foster change in the church.
“It’s not just me,” he added. “There are millions of people going through what I’m going through right now.”
Shepard Smith has been with Fox News since it launched 20 years ago, but it’s only now that he is acknowledging he is a gay man at the country’s most conservative television channel.
In October, Smith denied former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes prevented him from coming out before.
“That’s not true. He was as nice as he could be to me,” Smith said. “I loved him like a father.”
In 2014, Gawker reported Shepard wanted to come out publicly but Ailes stopped him. “Shep wanted to and was ready to come out, and Roger just said ’no.’”
The 18-year-old former Disney star might have set a record for shortest coming out annoucement.
After a Snapchat surfaced of her kissing Bella Pendergast went viral, a fan asked “are you bisexual?” on Twitter.
Her reply? “Yes.”
Colton HaynesEarl Gibson III/WireImage
After dancing around the issue with some coy social media messages, 27-year-old Haynes came out in a May interview with EW.
“People want you to be that GQ image that you put out, but people don’t realize what it’s like to act 24 hours a day. I’d go home and I was still acting,” he said.
“People who are so judgmental about those who are gay or different don’t realize that acting 24 hours a day is the most exhausting thing in the world.”
The actor, who has grappled with anxiety and depression, revealed that he was told his father committed suicide after he heard Haynes was gay.
Lilly WachowskiFrederick M. Brown/Getty Images
One half of the acclaimed filmmaking Wachowski siblings (Bound, The Matrix trilogy, Sense8), Lilly came out as a trans woman in March, four years after her sister Lana had done the same.
Lilly’s acknowledgement, however, was predicated by media outlets threatening to out her against her will.
“I knew at some point I would have to come out publicly,” she explained in a statement.
“You know, when you’re living as an out transgender person it’s… kind of difficult to hide. I just wanted—needed some time to get my head right, to feel comfortable. But apparently I don’t get to decide this.”
Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Programs for Transgender Media, insisted “journalists must learn that it is unacceptable to out a transgender person, in the same way it is unacceptable to out a person who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual.”
The Wachowski’s most recent project, Sense8, presented a broad spectrum of gender and sexuality. It returns in December.
Javier RayaGetty Images
The Olympic figure skater came out as gay with the help of some Instagram PDA: the 25-year-old Spaniard, who competed at the Sochi Games, posted a photo of him kissing his boyfriend.
The accompanying caption read “Many of you know, others can imagine by the pictures and others will be surprised, but I have to say that right now I feel like the luckiest person in the world!”
Less than a week before National Coming Out Day, the Grey’s Anatomy actress came out as bisexual during an speech at the True Colors: 40 to None Summit on LGBT youth homelessness.
“Because of the intersections that exist in my own life: Woman, multi-racial woman, woman of color, queer, bisexual, Mexican-Irish American, immigrant, and raised by families heavily rooted in Catholicism on both my Mexican and Irish sides,” she said, “I am deeply invested in projects that allow our youth’s voices to be heard.”
Robin Lord Taylor
The Gotham actor had kept a low profile about his personal life until this June, when he tweeted in celebration of his fifth wedding anniversary to his husband.
Sadly, while got many well wishes, he also got some ugly remarks. That those remarks came just days after the horrific tragedy in Orlando made it all the harder to stomach.
Greening, Education Secretary under British PM Theresa May, came out during London Pride, tweeting “Today’s a good day to say I’m in a happy same-sex relationship. I campaigned for ’Stronger In’ but sometimes you’re better off out! #Pride2016”
Greening was previously Secretary of State for International Development and became the first out cabinet minister in the UK.
Her announcement received an outpouring of love from constituents and colleagues, including former Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne.
Greening’s announcement fit in perfectly with Pride London’s theme of “No Filter.”
Elizabeth GilbertJohnny Louis/WireImage
Earlier this year Gilbert, the celebrated author of Eat, Pray, Love, announced her relationship with Brazilian businessman José Nunes—called “Felipe” in the 2006 memoir—was over.
She’d fallen in love with a woman: Syrian-born filmmaker Rayya Elias, a longtime friend recently diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer.
“Death—or the prospect of death—has a way of clearing away everything that is not real,” she wrote on Facebook, “and in that space of stark and utter realness, I was faced with this truth: I do not merely love Rayya; I am in love with Rayya. And I have no more time for denying that truth.”
She chose to go public with the relationship—and Elias’ diagnosis—because she needed to live in truth “even more than I need privacy, or good publicity, or prudence, or other people’s approval or understanding.”
The star of Another Gay Movie was never in the closet, per se, but he never addressed his sexuality, either—until an interview in Out magazine this spring, which identified the host of tru TV’s Carbonaro Effect as an “openly gay, Long Island-born trickster.”
Asked if magic ever helped him get a date with a cute guy, he replied, “Honestly, if it weren’t for hypnotism, I probably would have never lost my virginity.” Carbonaro quickly added, “I’m kidding, of course. That comes off a little creepy.”
The legendary skateboarder spoke about his sexuality for the first time in on an episode of Vice Sports’ Reda for the World with Giovanni Reda.
“People ask, ’Why are you doing this now and not earlier?'” he confessed. “Because I was pretty freaked out, you know what I mean? I was really scared, and people would have perceived it a lot differently, I think, had I said this 15 years ago.”Ed Templeton
Anderson was able to slip by because he was, in his words “a big, tough skateboarder,” adding his fellow skaters “weren’t gonna question that… Nobody thought anything.”
He says carrying the secret of his sexuality may have pushed him to take more risks on his board. “A part of me was so irritated and angry from holding that in so it made me more of an animal on my skateboard.”
Elena Delle DonneLeon Bennett
As if playing in the Olympics this summer wasn’t exciting enough, 26-year-old WNBA champ Elena Delle Donne came out to Vogue magazine, announcing her engagement to girlfriend Amanda Clifton.
“They came into my home, spent a couple days with me—and [my fiancee] Amanda is a huge part of my life,” said Delle Donne, an MVP with the Chicago Sky.
“To leave her out wouldn’t have made any sense. It’s not a coming out article or anything. I’ve been with her for a very long time now, and people who are close to me know that, and that’s that.”
This 25-year-old water polo player from Spain discussed his sexuality for the first time publicly in an interview with Shangay magazine.
“I’m out of the closet in my environment,” said Victor Gutierrez, one of at least 48 out athletes at the Rio Games. “My family knows I’m gay, my friends too. And I’m living in such a positive way with my sexuality that I felt a responsibility to share it with others.”
He’s never been judged on anything but his performance, but says anti-gay attacks are an issue in his hometown of Madrid. “It is a reality that we live in.”
Lauren JaureguiChristopher Polk/Getty Images
During the presidential campaign, Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui criticized Donald Trump’s politics, blasted his supporters’ ignorance and announced “I am a bisexual Cuban-American woman and I am so proud of it.”