Published: Tuesday December 17, 2013 MYT 1:50:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 17, 2013 MYT 3:37:13 PM

10 comings out that paved the way for Tom Daley

Celebrities and athletes declaring their sexuality aren't as shocking as they used to be. Doesn't make it any easier, but at least it’s honest.

It’s been a busy year for LGBTs everywhere. Same-sex marriages are being passed into law around the world, as actors, athletes and pop stars openly celebrate their right to love. Despite the excess of gossipy websites and glossy tabloids, recent comings out have been gentle affairs. In the past, such declarations were dramatic, stage-managed events. But the new strategy of discussing one’s sexuality is so nuanced that their orientation is hardly breaking news – not nearly scandalous enough to ruin a career.

Actress Maria Bello came out in an op-ed for the New York Times. Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons squeezed it into an NYT interview. Basketball player Jason Collins talked about it with Sports Illustrated instead of People magazine. Music mogul Clive Davis wrote it in his memoir. Anderson Cooper put it in an email to another journalist. Footballer Robbie Rogers posted a blog entry on his website. Wentworth Miller said it in a letter to the St Petersburg Film Festival. And Ben Whishaw, who played Q in Skyfall, released a press statement.

British sportsman and Olympic diver Tom Daley joined the pride parade this month, with a candid and tender video on YouTube. He didn’t have to do it, but his video has been warmly received. It’s been viewed 10 million times and gotten 180,000 likes, while athletes and celebrities across the world have posted their congratulations on social media. The bigger surprise though came out later – that his boyfriend is Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who’s 39 and 20 years older.

Here are 10 notable comings out that paved the way for Daley’s revelation.

Alan Scott

Not since The X-Men’s Northstar became Marvel’s poster boy for gay superheroes, and Archie Comics introduced out and proud boy-next-door Kevin Keller to Riverdale, has a comic book character rocked it with his queerness. Following another DC Comics reboot in 2011, Alan Scott – the first human Green Lantern – was reinvented as a leading gay man. Unlike Northstar who got a fabulous wedding in Astonishing X-Men, Scott’s boyfriend was killed in an accident while he was rescued and turned into a superhero. Tweaking Scott’s origin was a milestone considering the raging heterosexuality of the most popular human Lantern, Hal Jordan.

Anderson Cooper

Anderson’s sexuality was known for years before the CNN anchor officially came out of the glass closet in July 2012. In an email to fellow journalist and The Dish blogger Andrew Sullivan, posted on The Daily Beast, Anderson stated matter-of-factly: “I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” His declaration was inspired by a story about the “casual comings out” of other celebrities, when he realised that there “is value in standing up and being counted”. His letter also sparked a conversation about rights to privacy and the importance of gay role models.

Denise Ho

Two Asian pop stars had dramatic comings out in recent years. Filipino singer and Glee guest actress Charice confirmed she was a lesbian in a weepy TV interview in June. But it was Denise Ho’s reveal at last year’s Hong Kong Pride Parade that rallied fans and supporters. She became the first mainstream female Cantopop star to declare her queerness, telling a cheering crowd, “As a celebrity, I have an obligation, a duty to stand forward for the sake of love and equality.” “Silence is no longer an option,” she added.

(L-R) Alan Scott, Anderson Cooper, Denise Ho, Elle DeGeneres, Frank Ocean.

Ellen DeGeneres

One of the most anticipated comings out ever was Ellen’s threefold event in 1997 – on the cover of Time magazine, on Oprah, and on her TV sitcom Ellen. The Puppy Episode, watched by 42 million viewers, made her the first gay lead character on primetime TV and is credited with paving the way for shows like Will And Grace and Ugly Betty. But the backlash was just as considerable – after a public break-up with actress Anne Heche, Ellen was out of work for three years. She told Time, “I never wanted to be the lesbian actress. I never wanted to be the spokesperson for the gay community. I did it for my own truth.”

Frank Ocean

No mainstream black male hip-hop artiste had ever come out until Ocean in July 2012. Jay-Z, Dr Dre, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes all threw in their support, despite the homophobia in hip-hop. In Ocean’s poetic letter on Tumblr, he avoided the words “gay” and “bisexual” – which some criticised – and instead wrote about love. He told GQ, “People should pay attention to that in the letter: I didn’t need to label it for it to have impact. Because people realise everything that I say is so relatable, because when you’re talking about romantic love, both sides in all scenarios feel the same s***.”

Jason Collins

NBA player Collins became the first male pro-athlete in a major US team sport to come out during an active career when he addressed it with Sports Illustrated in April 2013. Collins was aware his orientation wasn’t easy for some. “Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road,” he said. But fellow basketball star Kobe Bryant praised his decision, as did Martina Navratilova who called him a “game-changer” for team sports, which she said was one of the last areas where homophobia remained. Nike also stuck with their man.

(L-R) Jason Collins, Mitch Downe, Randy Phillips, Orlando Cruz, Zachary Quinto.

Mitch Downe

Characters with obviously gay traits have populated Saturday morning cartoons since the Flintstones were having a gay old time. Snagglepuss, Velma from Scooby Doo, Peppermint Patty, Eric the Cavalier from Dungeons And Dragons, SpongeBob – these ‘toons were part of our childhood before primetime characters like Smithers from The Simpsons came along. Then out popped 18-year-old jock Mitch Downe in the 2012 animated film ParaNorman, making him the first openly gay character in a mainstream kiddie flick. Conservatives went nuts over director Chris Butler’s “secret gay agenda”, but he defended his movie, saying Mitch’s sexuality tied in with ParaNorman’s lessons about bullying and fear of those who are different.

Randy Phillips

US Air Force officer Randy Phillips spent months documenting his life under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, posting his anonymous videos on YouTube, before the policy was struck down to allow LGBT personnel to serve openly in the US military. Phillips finally showed his face to record his coming out to his dad – and later his mum – in a clip that went viral in September 2011. Then came a wave of similar postings from other soldiers who pointed to Phillips as their inspiration. Journalists noted that the timing of his revelation showed “Phillips has masterfully used social media to place himself at the centre of a civil rights success story”.

Orlando Cruz

In a scene from the movie Billy Elliot, his dad tells the aspiring 11-year-old dancer, “Lads do football or boxing or wrestling. Not friggin’ ballet.” Never mind that danseurs Adam Cooper and Mikhail Baryshnikov are fit as athletes. Last year, LA Galaxy footballer Robbie Rogers, Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz and WWE wrester Darren Young all emerged from the closet. Cruz said, “I’ve been fighting for more than 24 years and I want to be true to myself.” When the champ won his first fight post-coming out, a cheering crowd proved he had KO-ed prejudice in the ring. “I was very happy that they respect me. That’s what I want – them to see me as a boxer, as an athlete and as a man in every sense of the word.”

Zachary Quinto

Wentworth Miller going public with his sexuality in August this year, in protest of anti-gay legislation and violence in Russia, proved extremely popular. But Zachary Quinto’s coming out in New York magazine in 2011, while discussing the suicide of gay teen Jamey Rodemeyer, gave LGBT kids a bigger reason to believe it does get better. Explaining his decision, the Star Trek star wrote in a blog post: “In light of jamey’s death – it clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it – simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.”

Additional reporting by Jerome Kugan


Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Tom Daley, coming out, gay and lesbian, sexual orientation, gay athletes, gay superheroes, gay cartoons


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