17 Coming Out Stories That Warmed Our Hearts This Year

Photographed by Stephanie Gonot.
Like snowflakes, no two coming out stories are exactly the same. Yet, if you were to take TV at face-value then you'd probably only know coming out as a fraught, dramatic, emotional, and sometimes even perilous event.
Coming out can sometimes be like that, of course, especially for people coming out to family, friends, coworkers, or other people who they're not sure will be accepting of their sexuality or gender identity. But, often, it can also be fun and lighthearted, or inspiring, or empowering.
Ahead, we've rounded up some of the most heartwarming coming out stories from 2017 — the stories that made us smile, laugh, and more ready to take on the world.
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Photo: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage.

Jay Z's Mom, Gloria Carter, Comes Out As A Lesbian

Earlier this year, the world learned that Jay Z's mom, Gloria Carter, is a lesbian when he rapped about it in his new song "Smile."

"Mama had four kids, but she's a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she's a thespian... Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take," Jay Z sings.

His mom later explained to the D'USSE Friday podcast that she was tired of keeping secrets from her son. "Me and my son, we share a lot of information, so I was sitting there and I was telling him one day, I just finally started telling him who I was," she said on the podcast. "Besides your mother, this is the person that I am, you know? This is the life that I live."
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Thanks for buying me rainbow sherbet ice cream today

A post shared by Brad Neumann (@bradneums) on

Gay Runners Come Out To Each Other & Then Fall In Love

The first person college track star Justin Rabon ever came out to was his best friend and fellow track star, Brad Neumann. But Neumann had a surprise of his own — he's also attracted to men, and he was worried about what the people in his life would think.

"I remember walking to the track in the middle of the night, just to walk aimlessly in circles, crying with frustration," Nuemann wrote in an essay for OutSports. "I just wanted someone to relate to for the first time in my life. Justin Rabon essentially saved my life."

Soon after the friends came out to each other, they started dating and Rabon transferred schools to be closer to Nuemann. They've been together for more than two years.
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A Game Of Hangman With A Very Important Message

Coming out doesn't always have to be the dramatic and tearful affair we often see on TV and in movies. Sometimes, it can be fun — like when college soccer player Lindsey Farrell came out to her whole team via a game of hangman.

Farrell wrote out enough blank spaces to spell: C-O-A-C-H, I-M G-A-Y.

Still, there were some tears involved. When the team realized what she'd written, Farrell said that she looked up to see "tears were coming out of 17 of my best friends' eyes." (But don't worry, they were happy tears.)
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The Gay Glow-Up

While it's not necessarily a coming out story, Caitlin Crowley's gay glow-up tweet got a lot of people talking about coming out. Her photo, of herself with a male friend in her freshman year of high school and then herself with her girlfriend during senior prom, was a funny way to show solidarity with other queer women.

"Hearing the stories of complete strangers and their own coming out fears really hit me hard, because when I was first coming to terms with my sexuality I didn't know a single lesbian," she told BuzzFeed in October. "To anyone who's still in the closet: Take your time, you are not alone, and you are valid!"
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#awkwardprompics @michaelpavano

A post shared by Anthony Bowens (@bowens_official) on

Wrestlers Show Up For Their Bisexual Friend

Last year, bisexual wrestler Anthony Bowens got a text from his friend that "made his stomach drop," he wrote in an essay for OutSports. It read: "Bro, why didn’t you tell me?"

The text was referring to the fact that Bowens is bisexual, which his friend knew because he had recorded a silly video for his boyfriend's YouTube channel. The (totally valid) reason Bowens hadn't told his friend is because they wrestle together and he was worried that friends from such a hyper-masculine sport like wrestling would take issue with his sexuality.

Luckily, that didn't happen. Instead, his friend and other wrestlers were 100% supportive, which helped Bowens feel comfortable coming out publicly.
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Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images.

An NFL Player Learns To Accept Himself

Ryan O'Callaghan's coming out story is a little less heartwarming, and shows how toxic homophobia in sports can be. The former offensive lineman for both the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs told OutSports in June that he used football as a way to hide.

"No one is going to assume the big football player is gay," he said.

O'Callaghan battled suicidal thoughts and a painkiller addiction, which he says was tied to shame about his sexuality. Ultimately, it was a coach in the Chiefs organization who helped him come out. Now, O'Callaghan is telling his story in order to help other people who feel the same way he once felt.

"As long as there are people killing themselves because they are gay, there is a reason for people like me to share my story and try to help," he said.
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A 12-Year-Old Comes Out To Her Entire Church

It takes a lot of bravery to come out to anyone, but especially to a room full of people who you're not sure will be happy about your sexuality.

That's what a 12-year-old named Savannah did back in June, when she told the entire congregation of her Mormon church that she's gay.

"I believe that God wants us to treat each other with kindness, even if people are different — especially if they are different," she said.

Unfortunately, one elder of the church didn't allow Savannah to finish her speech and instead turned off her microphone and told her to sit down. Still, she has the support of her mother, who told The Huffington Post that she's proud of Savannah for standing up for herself and others.

"Even now, she doesn’t want any of this to be about her," she said. "She wants it to be about protecting other LGBT kids."
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Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images.

Teddy Geiger Comes Out As A Transgender Woman

Singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger quietly came out as transgender on Instagram in October when a fan asked why she looked different lately.

"Okay… because u [sic] asked nicely… I am transitioning. I started talking about it with a couple of my close friends and family about a month ago and it’s given me the courage to start the process," she said. "Love it or hate this is who I have been for a looooong time."
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Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.

Keiynan Lonsdale Likes Men, Too

Flash star Keiynan Lonsdale doesn't just play a superhero on TV, he practically is one in real life, too — at least, he is to queer people who got to see a successful actor like him come out on Instagram like it's no big deal.

"I like to change my hair, I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, & I like guys (yes), I like growing, I like learning, I like who I am and I really like who I'm becoming," Lonsdale wrote in May. "Spent way too many years hating myself, thinking I was less valuable because I was different.. which is just untrue."
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Photo: Steven Ferdman/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images.

Teddy Quinlivan Becomes A Role Model For Trans Women

In September, model Teddy Quinlivan, who has walked hundreds of shows and starred in editorials from Vogue and other magazines, came out as a transgender woman in an interview with CNN. She did so, she says, because she wanted to be a role model for young trans people, especially since she never had people like herself to look to growing up.

"When I was growing up it was all Jerry Springer and Maury Povich," she told CNN. "I was seeing this exploitation of trans women. They were made to seem like a bad joke. I felt like that was such a negative portrayal. I wasn't like the women on these TV shows, so it gave me a lot of confusion."

She hopes that coming out will help increase the right kind of visibility for the trans community.

"I think the fashion industry plays a very crucial role in that," she said. "The fashion industry dictates what's in fashion, what's cool, what's acceptable. It's not just about who's walking fashion shows...it's about who's on every newsstand in the country."
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Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images.

True Blood Star Rutina Wesley Gets Engaged (To A Woman)

True Blood and Queen Sugar star Rutina Wesley never really came out in the sense of publicly saying the words "I'm gay." Instead, she just started dating a woman and sharing photos of the two on Instagram. In November, she quietly announced her engagement in a similar way, by sharing a photo of an engagement ring along with hashtags like, #StillRingsTrue #AlwaysMORENeverLESSISaidYES and #SheFeedsMySOUL.
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photographed by Alice Gao.

A Roommate's Surprise

Coming out is a never-ending process, which sometimes means having to come out to people you barely know — like coworkers or new roommates. Luckily for one man who was stressing about telling his roommate that he might be gay or bisexual, it couldn't have gone better.

"Probably should have told you this before signing the lease. But I'm bi/gay/still figuring it out. I know you probably don't care but thought I'd let ya know," the man wrote in a screenshot of a text he sent to his roommate, which he posted on Reddit.

Not only did his new roommate take the news swimmingly, but he shared the surprise news that he is also bisexual.

"Also thank you for opening this window because I've been stressing about telling you, but I'm bi myself haha so we can just be a big ol' bi/gay/figuring things out house lol thanks again for telling me man!" he texted.
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Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images.

Sam Smith Opens Up About His Fluid Gender Identity

In an interview with The Sunday Times in October, singer Sam Smith said that he feels "just as much woman as I am man." (We've continued to use he/him in coverage since Smith never asked to go by different pronouns.)

Smith told The Sunday Times that he enjoys dressing in women's clothing and shoes, has several pairs of high heels at home, and at one point in his life "didn't own a piece of male clothing, really." What he describes is a fluid gender identity, for which he doesn't seem to feel the need to label. In fact, he said in the interview that he's not even sure what label he'd use for his gender — and that's completely okay, because there's no need to label your gender or sexuality anyway, and Smith is showing us all that it's okay to just be yourself.
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Photo: Noam Galai/WireImage.

Model Hanne Odiele Comes Out As Intersex

Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele made history earlier this year when she became the first high-profile person to come out as intersex. Odiele, who has worked with the likes of Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs, explained to USA Today what it means to be intersex, or born with genitals, gonads, or chromosomes that don't fall under the traditional definitions of male or female.

She chose to speak out in part, she said, because she was coerced into surgeries as a child and teenager that still happen to many other intersex children. She wanted to come out to break taboo and advocate against these surgeries, which are done to make intersex children more "normal."

“I am proud to be intersex,” she said. “But very angry that these surgeries are still happening.”
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Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.

Parks & Rec's Natalie Morales Comes Out About Her Fluid Sexuality

Like many LGBTQ+ people, Natalie Morales felt a sense of shame about her identity as a teenager. She wrote in an essay on Amy Poehler's website, AmysSmartGirls in June that she felt the need to hide her relationship with a woman in high school because there was no support for LGBTQ+ students. After breaking up with her girlfriend, she continued to feel like she couldn't be open about her interest in women.

Now, however, she feels more support for queer people like her and wanted to be yet another voice LGBTQ+ teens can turn to when they're feeling different.

"The reason I decided to share this with you and with the world is because even though me telling you I'm queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me," she wrote. "I think it's important that I tell you that this familiar face you see on your TV is the Q part of LGBTQ, so that if you didn't know someone who was queer before, you do now. I also think it’s important that if there are any scared kids out there, like I was, I can tell you that whole 'It Gets Better' campaign is true."
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A Guy Comes Out To His Mom, Thanks To A Vacuum

Sometimes the simplest things can spark a coming out story — like, for instance, a vacuum.

That's what happened for track athlete Ben Lindaman who wrote in an essay for OutSports in June that he accidentally came out to his mom and a $700 Dyson vacuum was to blame. Lindamen had met "a very handsome man who worked at Dyson in Chicago," and later learned that his mom was coveting the expensive vacuum, so he texted his handsome friend and was able to get it for only $200.

The problem was, his mom also found a discount (for $600) and was about to buy the vacuum for herself. So Lindaman had to spill the beans and tell her that he already bought it for her. Then, because moms are always suspicious, he had to explain how a broke college student was able to buy a $700 vacuum.

"Fighting through the nerves and sweaty palms, and dancing around the idea of telling my mother, I finally pulled the trigger and spilled the goods," he wrote.

Luckily, he didn't have much need to worry. Because all his mom had to say was, "I still love you with all my heart."
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Kristen Stewart Is So Gay, Dude

Kristen Stewart made queer women everywhere happy this February when she finally (very publicly) addressed rumors about her sexuality on Saturday Night Live. While she was already 99.99% out of the closet thanks to multiple public relationships with women, Stewart had never spoken about being queer.

Then, she said the words "I'm, like, so gay dude" in her SNL monologue roasting Donald Trump for being obsessed with her and her ex-boyfriend Robert Pattinson (she has the tweets to prove it) and changed the lives of queer women forever.

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