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.
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 empathize, learn from, and admire people unlike — or very much like — themselves.