As the world gears up for Coming Out Day this coming Sunday, we honour ten of the top ‘coming out’ stories of the year so far.
Coming Out Day was first celebrated 27 years ago in America, and since then has become a global occasion. This year, to mark Coming Out Day in Ireland, BeLonG To – the national organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people aged between 14 and 23 – will facilitate a Coming Out Workshop at Dublin’s Outhouse.
Coming Out Day is a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out. Coming out – whether it is as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or allied – still matters hugely. When people know someone who is LGBT, they are far more likely to stand in solidarity against discrimination of any form. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.
With this in mind, we think it’s a great time to celebrate ten of the most powerful, and empowering coming out stories of 2015.
1. Leo Varadkar
In January, Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, kicked off 2015 by telling Miriam O Callaghan on her Sunday with Miriam show on Radio One “I am a gay man – it’s not a secret”. It made him the first serving cabinet minister in Ireland to be openly gay, and the most eligible gay bachelor in the country. You’re a game-changer, Leo!
2. Fr. Martin Dolan
Also in January Father Martin Dolan told the congregation of the Church of St Nicholas of Myra in Dublin’s city centre “I’m gay myself” as he urged them to vote Yes in the marriage equality referendum. Showing how much Ireland has changed for the better, despite the continued interference of the Catholic Church in private lives, Fr Dolan’s congregation responded with a standing ovation.
3. Patricia Velasquez
In February, the world’s first Latina supermodel came out in her memoir Straight Walk, citing her desire to live her life “with truth and honesty”. Velasquez slowly came out to her family, each member supportive, but she also felt compelled to come out in a book, mainly because there’s so much prejudice that remains in the Latin community.
4. Caitlyn Jenner
In April, after much speculation, the former Olympian Bruce Jenner who was previously married to Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner, told TV pundit Diane Sawyer: “My whole life has been getting me ready for this. Bruce lives a lie… she is not a lie. I can’t do it anymore.” Since then, Jenner transitioned, taking the new name Caitlyn, and has quickly become an inspriation and icon for the trans movement.
5. Ursula Halligan
A week before the marriage referendum in May, Irish journalist Ursula Halligan came out via a column in the Irish Times, quoting Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It was one of the most moving pieces of writing during the referendum campaign, confronting not only homophobia in society, but internalised homophobia too. We salute Ursula for her unflinching honesty, and her courage. It’s not when you come out that matters, it’s that you do come out, if you can.
6. Matt Cage
During the summer, 26 year-old pro wrestler ‘Money’ Matt Cage (real name, Matt Hallum), came out on Facebook, advocating being open and honest about your sexuality as good for your mental health. “Coming out helps end years of worry and depression that came from living a lie, he wrote. “Depression is a very real thing, and some people don’t understand that. People often times cannot empathise. But know this: we are all human beings. We all have our own way, traits, personalities and things that make us our own person. Keep that in mind.”
7. Nick Gibb
In June, British Schools Minister, Nick Gibb came out as gay in June, announcing that he would marry his partner of 29 years, with whom he had been in a secret relationship. “I think my mother was initially shocked — that’s an age thing — but then very supportive and what she wants is for me to be happy,” he said. “We are close, so to her being a loving family is more important than anything else.”
8. Keegan Hirst
Rugby League star, Hirst became the first British professional in the code to openly say he is gay. “At first I couldn’t even say ‘I’m gay’ in my head, let alone out loud,” he said. “Now I feel like I’m letting out a long breath that I’ve held in for a long time.” He’s become one of several leading LGBTs who are changing the face of homophobia in the sports world.
9. Jonathan Rachel Clynch
Although JRC was outed tabloid newspaper, The Star, the 44 year-old RTÉ presenter had been due to talk about his gender-fluid identity on Marian Finucane’s show, having bravely come out to his bosses in Montrose. JRC received huge support, amid some controversial comments from those who should know better, and promised that she’d talk to Marian at a future date.
10. Adam Rippon
This month, figure skater Adam Rippon came out in Skating Magazine, saying, “When athletes come out and say that they’re gay, it makes it a little more normal and less of a big deal – especially in the athletic community. You have a lot of respect for your fellow athletes for working hard toward a goal. Their sexual orientation takes a backseat to that.”
BeLonG To will facilitate a Coming Out Workshop on Coming Out Day, Sunday October 11 from 3pm to 6pm at Outhouse, 105 Capel Street, Dublin 1. It is open to LGBT young people, aged 14 to 23.
© 2015 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.