Here's A Look Back At 23 Celebrity Coming-Out Stories That Moved Us In 2021

Carl Nassib, Candace Parker, Kal Penn and JoJo Siwa helped drive the discourse on LGBTQ equality in a year defined by political strife and a pandemic.

Those who hoped 2021 would offer some measure of normalcy after the tumult of 2020 are no doubt feeling a hint of disappointment as another year defined by political division and the COVID-19 pandemic sputters to an end.

But as Tan France suggests in the forthcoming season of Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” the ongoing global health crisis can also be seen as “a moment to really remind ourselves of what really matters to us, which is each other.” And with that sentiment in mind, seeing queer public figures sharing their truth ― often in subtle and creative ways ― in yet another “unprecedented” year feels as impactful as ever.

Actors Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira) and Kal Penn came out in well-received memoirs, while country musician T.J. Osborne and reality star Colton Underwood opted for in-depth interviews with major outlets.

And for WNBA star Candace Parker and “Pretty Little Liars” actor Julian Morris, coming out simply meant a public acknowledgement of their relationships with same-sex partners.

Below, take a look back at 23 artists, athletes and media personalities who expressed their authentic selves to the world in 2021. The LGBTQ community at large continues to face social and political challenges, but each of these notable names helped drive the global discourse on equality by living truthfully.

JoJo Siwa
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The 18-year-old actor, singer and YouTube superstar — who has cultivated a massive following of millions of young fans — confirmed in January that she is a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

This fall, she became the first "Dancing With the Stars" contestant to be paired with a same-sex partner, and won raves for her slick routines with professional dancer Jenna Johnson.

Read more about JoJo Siwa here.
Carl Nassib
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In June, the Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman announced that he was gay, making him the first active NFL player in history to come out.

"I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest," he said in a short video posted to Instagram. "I really have the best life, the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for.”

Read more about Carl Nassib here.
Demi Lovato
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The "Sorry Not Sorry" singer announced in May that they identify as nonbinary, and would be using the pronouns they and them.

“I feel this best represents the fluidity I feel in my gender expression and allows me to feel most authentic and true to the person I both know I am and still am discovering,” they said on Instagram.

Read more about Demi Lovato here.
Kal Penn
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The "Harold & Kumar" actor and onetime White House employee came out as gay in October, and also revealed that he is engaged to be married.

“I discovered my own sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people,” Penn, who is Indian American, told People days before the release of his memoir, "You Can't Be Serious." He went on to note that he feels “very fortunate” to have a family that supports him, adding that he “shared things with my parents and close friends first.”

Read more about Kal Penn here.
Cassandra Peterson
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The actor — beloved by legions of fans as horror icon Elvira — revealed in her new memoir that she has been in a 19-year relationship with a woman.

“For the first time in my life, I’m with someone who makes me feel safe, blessed, and truly loved,” she said of her partner, Teresa “T” Wierson.

After a chance meeting at the Hollywood Gold’s Gym, the two women became close friends and, later, roommates before entering a romantic relationship.

Read more about Cassandra Peterson here.
T.J. Osborne
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The country singer-songwriter, who is half of the Brothers Osborne, told Time magazine in February that he is gay.

After spending most of 2020 in self-isolation due to COVID-19, he said he felt that he owed it to his fans to live openly as his authentic self.

“I’m very comfortable being gay,” he explained. “I want to get to the height of my career being completely who I am. I mean, I am who I am, but I’ve kept a part of me muted, and it’s been stifling.”

Read more about T.J. Osborne here.
Alexandra Shipp
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The "Love, Simon" and "X-Men" actor honored Pride Month in June by coming out as LGBTQ.

In an emotional Instagram post, she said she initially feared that living as her true self would hurt her Hollywood career. Ultimately, she decided, "It’s exhausting chasing other people’s ideas and opinions of who you should be."

“It’s never too late to be you," she wrote. "If I don’t work because of a flawed, racist and homophobic system, then it was never the right thing for me.”

Read more about Alexandra Shipp here.
Colton Underwood
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The former "Bachelor" came out as gay in an emotional "Good Morning America" interview that aired in April.

“I’ve ran from myself for a long time,” he told host Robin Roberts. “I’ve hated myself for a long time. And I’m gay. I came to terms with that earlier this year and have been processing it, and the next step in all of this was sort of letting people know.”

In a controversial move, Underwood went on to document his journey to living truthfully in a six-episode Netflix series, "Coming Out Colton," released in December.

Read more about Colton Underwood here.
Emma Corrin
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The Golden Globe-winning star of Netflix's "The Crown" came out as queer in April, and also updated their pronouns to she/they on social media.

Speaking to ITV News in August, they said they still had "a way to go" toward embracing their truth. "I think that we're so used to defining ourselves and that's the way sadly society works is within these binaries," they added. "It's taken me a long time to realize I exist somewhere in between, and I'm still not sure where that is yet."

Read more about Emma Corrin here.
Joshua Bassett
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The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" actor confirmed in June that he’s “part of the LGBTQ+ community” after a headline-making interview in which he gushed about Harry Styles.

“There are plenty of letters in the alphabet. ... Why bother rushing to a conclusion? Sometimes your letter changes, sometimes you try a different one, other times you realize you’re not what you thought you were, or maybe you always knew,” he told GQ.

Read more about Joshua Bassett here.
Larry Saperstein
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Saperstein, who co-stars with Bassett on the Disney+ hit "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," revealed in June that he is bisexual.

"Is it really that unexpected tho?" the actor wrote in a caption accompanying a TikTok selfie video in which the words "Plays a character with a girlfriend on TV, is bi irl" appear on screen.

Read more about Larry Saperstein here.
Candace Parker
via Associated Press
The WNBA star celebrated a pair of personal milestones in December, including her second wedding anniversary with wife Anya Petrakova.

"To know me or you is to know our love,” the Chicago Sky captain wrote on Instagram, adding that the couple have a baby on the way. “This journey hasn’t been easy. I am proud of us and what we have built and who we have grown to become both individually and together."

It's believed to be the first time that Parker has acknowledged her same-sex relationship publicly.

Read more about Candace Parker here.
David Archuleta
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The "American Idol" veteran revealed in June that he is “some form of bisexual,” but said he has never been in a relationship with a man.

"I’ve had to learn how to love myself even when I don’t understand why I am the way that I am, but to learn that that’s how God has created me and I have to discover that,” the singer, who is Mormon, told "Good Morning America" in an interview. “And there are so many millions of other people who’ve gone through the same thing as me, where they try to change who they are."

Read more about David Archuleta here.
Tommy Dorfman
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The “13 Reasons Why” actor publicly clarified her gender identity in July, telling Time magazine that she'd been living as a transgender woman for the past year.

"I view today as a reintroduction to me as a woman, having made a transition medically,” said Dorfman, before noting why she won’t be changing her name. “I’m named after my mom’s brother who passed a month after I was born, and I feel very connected to that name, to an uncle who held me as he was dying. This is an evolution of Tommy. I’m becoming more Tommy.”

Read more about Tommy Dorfman here.
Jack Dylan Grazer
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Much like his character in the Pixar hit “Luca,” Grazer took steps toward living his truth this year, telling fans via Instagram Live that he is bisexual.

The actor's revelation came amid a flurry of online speculation that “Luca,” released on Disney+ in June, was a coded (if kid-friendly) take on the LGBTQ experience.

Read more about Jack Dylan Grazer here.
Laganja Estranja
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The "RuPaul's Drag Race" veteran opened up about her transgender identity for the first time in June.

A Texas native, Estranja told Entertainment Weekly that her career as a drag performer helped her embrace her truth in a way that "made it more explainable to the masses." Now, however, she is "able to come off stage and take my makeup off and still see a beautiful woman in the mirror."

Read more about Laganja Estranja here.
Luke Prokop
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The Nashville Predators prospect came out as gay in July, becoming the first hockey player under contract to an NHL team to do so.

“It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life, but I could not be happier with my decision to come out,” he wrote on Twitter. “From a young age I have dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams.”

Read more about Luke Prokop here.
Kumi Yokoyama
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The Japanese soccer player, who is a forward for the Washington Spirit, came out as transgender in June.

"In the future, I want to quit soccer and live as a man," Yokoyama, who uses the pronouns they and them, said in a video posted to YouTube.

They went on to note that they felt more comfortable living as their true self in the U.S. as their gender identity would not be recognized in Japan.

Read more about Kumi Yokoyama here.
Kehlani
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The R&B singer, who uses the pronouns she and they, came out as a lesbian in a short video posted to TikTok in April.

"I'm just gonna fucking say it, because everybody keeps bringing it up to me," she quipped in the video. "I finally know I'm a lesbian!"

Elsewhere in the clip, she joked that she had encountered some unexpected challenges when trying to "to have these heart-to-hearts with my family and my friends."

"I'm like, 'Guys, I finally know that I'm gay — like, I'm gay gay,' and they're like, 'We know. Duh, stupid. Duh,'" she said.

Read more about Kehlani here.
Julian Morris
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In December, the "Pretty Little Liars" actor came out in an Instagram post in which he celebrated his 18th anniversary with his partner, artist Landon Ross.

Though the London native did not use the words “gay” or “bisexual,” the post was reportedly his first public acknowledgement of his sexuality. In an Instagram story posted a day later, he said he was “really moved by all the love and support” he had received from friends and fans.

Read more about Julian Morris here.
Ronen Rubinstein
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In April, the actor credited his portrayal of a young gay man on Fox's "9-1-1: Lone Star" with helping him embrace his authentic self.

“I fully identify as bisexual,” he told Variety in an interview. “I literally just got goosebumps saying that. It feels so good to talk about it, it feels so good to finally be comfortable with it.”

His “journey” toward self-acceptance, he said, was prompted in part by his performance as T.K. Strand, the gay son of Owen Strand (Rob Lowe) on "Lone Star."

Read more about Ronen Rubinstein here.
Corey Walsh
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The professional BMX rider, who is based in Canada, said in March that he was "stoked" to come out as gay.

"Trust me, I’m not the person who wants to let people in on my personal life and in a perfect world I would not have to," he wrote on Instagram. "But the reality is there are a lot of people still struggling with the same situations and I just wanted to let people know that they are not alone."

"I feel like the world is shifting into a more understanding place and now is the time to open up the conversation within our communities every chance we get," he continued. "So here we are."

Read more about Corey Walsh here.
Kaitlyn Weaver
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The Olympic figure skater, who hails from Canada, said in June that her time in self-isolation during COVID-19 prompted her to confront her reality as a queer woman.

"Figure skating has a long way to go to grow into a fully inclusive sport, and I promise to do my part to help pave the way for other queer-identifying people," she wrote on Instagram. "Women can be more than one archetype. Relationships are layered, complex and beautiful. All bodies belong on the ice."

Read more about Kaitlyn Weaver here.