The Best (& Worst) Coming Out Scenes In Pop Culture History

There's nothing like snuggling up on the couch, turning on the TV, and briefly delving into the lives of others. Through forging strong relationships with characters over years, the best TV shows sow empathy as well as entertainment. Characters become like old friends who can teach and inspire us.
So imagine, in the year 1997, when the famous sitcom star Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian on Oprah in February, and the character she played on her comedy show Ellen came out as well. It was the first time on network TV that any main character had come out as LGBTQ. This watershed moment declared TV a space for everyone's stories to be heard.
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Similarly to Ellen's televised journey toward self-acceptance, the stories featured on this list depict moments of people asserting their truths in bold, brave, raw, spontaneous, or calculated ways. Each character approaches the act of coming out differently. But in watching how these characters' coming out affects their story lines over weeks, TV viewers have a chance to empathise, learn from, and admire people unlike — or very much like — themselves.
Looking for more inspiring LGBTQ stories in film? Check out Shatterbox Anthology's newest feature, Out Again.
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1 of 10
Maxxie comes out to his best friends’ father on Skins.

As any Skins fan can tell you, the first season of the British show about teenagers behaving badly is far and away the best one — and it’s for reasons like this. On this episode, best friends Maxxie and Anwar attempt to solve a quandary at the heart of their friendship. Coming from a devout Muslim Pakistani family, Anwar struggles to accept his friend’s homosexuality. On the flip side, Maxxie considers Anwar’s habits of drinking and having premarital sex to be hypocritical of his faith.

In the last episode of the season, Anwar and Maxxie attempt to bridge their differences. Turns out Anwar’s dad does it for them.
2 of 10
Kurt comes out to his father on Glee.

In season 1 of Glee, star singer, former football player, and ball of unabashed enthusiasm Kurt comes out to his single father, Burt. Burt says he's known Kurt was gay since he was 3, and while Kurt's father isn't "totally in love with the idea," he assures his son of his love. With his nuanced reaction, Burt became one of Glee's most compelling characters.
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Maura comes out to her children on Transparent.

At the age of 75, Mort Pfefferman sits her family down with a big announcement: She's coming out as transgender. From here on out, Mort would like to be called Maura. In the wake of her announcement, the Pfefferman kids face inward, and come to some realisations of their own.
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4 of 10
Rickie Vasquez comes out to Delia on My So Called Life.

Before there was Ellen or Will and Grace, there was a teen drama called My So Called Life. Within the crowded population of My So Called Life's high school, Rickie Vasquez was the show's beloved, sexually ambiguous, eyeliner-wearing ray of sunshine.

In the show's final episode, Rickie discovers the school's new girl, Delia, had a romantic dream about him. Hoping to "capitalise" on his chance to date a woman, he asks Delia out. She responds with shock, having assumed that he was gay. Rickie says, "Yeah, I’m gay. I just don’t usually say it like that." Delia asks, "And how do you usually say it?" And, for the first time on the show, he says, "I don't usually say it at all."
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Ellen Morgan comes out to her therapist on Ellen.

It's 1997, and the beloved sitcom Ellen is in its fourth season. After intense negotiations with its network, ABC, Ellen DeGeneres boldly steered her series into uncharted territory, feature a main character coming out as homosexual.

Ellen (the character's) coming-out scene in the famous two-part "Puppy Episode" mimics DeGeneres' own behaviour. In real life, Ellen DeGeneres came out on Oprah's talk show. Then, since life imitates art, Ellen (the character) comes out to her therapist played by — you guessed it — Oprah.
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Justin comes out to his family on Ugly Betty.

It takes teenage Justin four full seasons to come out to his large, loving family on Ugly Betty. Once he’s ready, Justin doesn’t use words to communicate. Instead, at his mother’s wedding, he heads to the dance floor with his boyfriend Austin and dances alongside his family.
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Jack McPhee comes out to his father on Dawson’s Creek

In this harrowing scene on Dawson's Creek, Jack McPhee admits his sexuality to his father, who is deeply in denial. Though Jack's father turns a blind eye to his other family members' issues, like his wife's mental health, here Jack bravely refuses to let him ignore his sexuality anymore.

Later on in Dawson's Creek, Jack ushered in history with the first man-on-man kiss on network television.
8 of 10
Emily Fields comes out to her parents on Pretty Little Liars.

Swimmer Emily Fields comes out as a lesbian to her father in the first season of Pretty Little Liars, but it’s her mother who struggles with the news. Her mother’s first reaction is concerning. She asks her husband, “How are we going to fix this?” She tells Emily, “The whole thing makes me sick.” Later on in the season, her mother comes around and tearfully apologises for her behaviour.
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And now, the worst...

Oscar Martinez comes out to the entire office on The Office.

Fortunately The Office is a comedy, because if this were to happen in real life it would be psychologically scarring. After Michael Scott uses a slur to describe office accountant Oscar Martinez, he tries to remedy the situation by creating a space for Oscar to come out to the entire office. It's truly cringe-worthy.

Don't worry, though — things turn out A-OK for Oscar. His company Dunder Mifflin offers him three months paid vacation and the company car so he doesn't press charges.
10 of 10
Comedian Robin Cloud imagines what would happen if someone you love forgot that you were gay in her Shatterbox feature, Out Again.

When Cat takes her new wife, Liz, home to meet her parents, she discovers that her mother's Alzheimer’s has progressed—so much so that she no longer remembers that her daughter came out years ago. When her mother catches the newlyweds kissing in the garden, Cat must come out again to affirm, once more, who she is and the people she loves. Don't miss the trailer for this darkly funny short film.
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