In 50 years, our country has gone from punishing homosexuality as a crime to passing legislation that guarantees marriage equality to same-sex couples. The legacy of discrimination against the LGBTQ community runs deep and makes coming out a difficult decision for many celebrities to make. Whether a star is afraid to share their truth or simply doesn't feel the need to let the public know, when they do come out — especially later in their careers — it can be life-changing for fans who might be struggling with their own decision to come out. "Alias" alum Victor Garber spoke openly about his sexuality in 2013 at age 63 during an interview with Greg In Hollywood, though he explained that he was never in the closet to begin with. In fact, a year prior, Victor had mentioned his partner (now husband), artist Rainer Andreesen, saying they'd been together "almost 13 years in Greenwich Village." Still, the news was touted as his official "coming out" and widely celebrated. In honor of Victor's 69th birthday on March 16, 2018, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at all the stars who've come out later in their careers. Keep reading for more…
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In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres appeared on the cover of Time magazine along with the words "Yep, I'm gay." Two weeks later, the 39 year old's eponymous primetime comedy series aired its now-famous "Puppy" episode in which her character announces over an airport microphone that she is gay. Since 2004, Ellen's been in a committed relationship with Australian actress Portia de Rossi, who became her wife in 2008.
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Singer-actor Ricky Martin (seen here with his artist husband, Jwan Yosef) endured years of speculation about his sexuality before he was finally comfortable enough to tell the world that yes, he is a gay man. In 2010, 38-year-old Ricky — who was once a member of the Latin boy band Menudo — penned an essay on his website in Spanish and English confirming his homosexuality, explaining, "These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn't even know existed."
Longtime actress and former "Two and a Half Men" star Holland Taylor never tried to hide her sexual identity, but in 2015 at age 72, she decided that it was time to speak openly about the fact that she is a gay woman. Seen here with her partner of three and a half years, "American Horror Story" actress Sarah Paulson, Holland told a reporter for WNYC, "…most of my relationships have been with women and I don't like talking about them because I don't like talking about the politics of it all because I'm not political about it. I think we're ridiculous in this country about it. Ridiculous."
In 2017 at the age of 73, legendary music star Barry Manilow told the world that he's gay. The "Mandy" singer shared that he was afraid for years that his fans "would be disappointed" if they learned the truth about his sexual orientation. The notoriously private star also revealed that since 1978, he's been in a committed relationship with his manager, Garry Kief, whom he married in a small ceremony in 2014.
In 2012, TV anchor Anderson Cooper came out via email to author and political blogger Andrew Sullivan. In the email, 45-year-old Anderson (who's the son of fashion legend and actress Gloria Vanderbilt) wrote, "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud." Since 2009, Anderson's been in a committed relationship with nightclub owner Benjamin Maisani.
In 2012, "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts fought for her life battling myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease of the blood and bone marrow. After receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant, Robin had a lot to be grateful for. In a December 2013 Facebook post, the TV anchor, then 53, made her first public disclosure about her relationship with another woman when she wrote, "At this moment I am at peace and filled with joy and gratitude. I am grateful to God, my doctors and nurses for my restored good health. I am grateful for my sister, Sally-Ann, for being my donor and giving me the gift of life. I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together."
Former "Doogie Howser, M.D." star Neil Patrick Harris has said he first realized he was gay while on the set of "B.L. Stryker" in 1989 when, jokingly, Burt Reynolds gave him a kiss. However, it would take him another 17 years before he felt comfortable sharing his truth with the world. In 2006, the 33-year-old "How I Met Your Mother" star — who'd been dating then-boyfriend, now-husband David Burtka for three years at that point — released a statement that said, "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love." In 2014, Neil and David married. They are dads to twins.
Jodie Foster had spent her life in front of the camera since launching her career as a child model and actress. The "Silence of the Lambs" and "Nell" star had also long avoided talking about her sexuality, at least until 2007, when she thanked her (now-ex) partner, Cydney Bernard, at the Women in Entertainment Power 100 event, saying "…my beautiful Cydney, who sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss." While friends and family knew the actress-turned-director was a lesbian, she didn't make a public proclamation until 2013 at the Golden Globes when she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. While on the podium, Jodie teased, "I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago, back in the Stone Age. In those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends, and family, co-workers and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her. To everyone she actually met." While her decision to publicly come out at 50 was celebrated, critics complained that Jodie avoided directly confirming her homosexuality in her Globes speech. Since 2014, Jodie's been married to photographer Alexandra Hedison.
Comedic actress Jane Lynch, who began her acting career in 1988, never actually "came out" because she never felt she had to. However, while talking with the Huffington Post's Queer Voices in 2015 at age 54, Jane did talk openly about her sexuality. Outing others, she said, is "a horrible thing. You might be dealing with a very fragile part of someone's psyche. So I think everybody has to go their own path." The openly lesbian actress, who found mainstream fame as Sue Sylvester on "Glee," thinks that her predecessors, like Rosie O'Donnell and k.d. lang (who came out in a different era), "cleared a path" for her that made it easier to live her life on her terms.
Former "Dynasty" star Gordon Thomson spent a lifetime playing heteronormative characters on the small screen before finally coming out at age 72 in 2017. While giving an exclusive interview to The Daily Beast, Gordon talked about his frustration with how gay characters were handled in the '80s and his own reservations about coming out due to society's perception of homosexuality in the past, explaining, "It's not something I've ever announced. I'm assuming that people know, and now that I'm my age, that's fine. I don't go out of my way because it's my generation, I think. I'm probably as homophobic as any gay man alive because of my background."
When Elizabeth Gilbert skyrocketed to fame in 2006 as her memoir "Eat Pray Love" climbed to the top of nearly every bestseller list, fans knew her as the lady who'd traveled the world and found a new lease on love with a man she'd met in Bali, Jose Nunez, who was described in the final chapter of her book. However, in September 2016, Elizabeth announced to the world via Facebook that she and Jose were divorcing because she'd fallen in love with someone else — her best friend, Rayya Elias, who'd been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer. In the touching post, Elizabeth, then 47, wrote, "…something happened to my heart and mind in the days and weeks following Rayya's diagnosis. Death — or the prospect of death — has a way of clearing away everything that is not real, and in that space of stark and utter realness, I was faced with this truth: I do not merely love Rayya; I am in love with Rayya. And I have no more time for denying that truth." Sadly, on Jan. 4, 2018, Rayya passed away with Elizabeth by her side.
On "Sex and the City," Cynthia Nixon played Miranda, a tough-talking lawyer who ends up marrying a bespectacled bartender named Steve. In real life, Cynthia is a bisexual woman in a lesbian relationship who first indirectly came out in 2004 at age 38. She later became more vocal and open about her sexual orientation, in large part after getting engaged to girlfriend Christine Marinoni in 2009. The couple married in 2012 and are raising Cynthia's two children from a previous relationship with English professor Danny Mozes as well as their son together, who was born to Christine in 2011.
Legendary British music star Elton John burst onto American airwaves in 1970 with his self-titled debut album and soon became one of the most popular musicians in the world. In 1976 when he was 29, Elton gambled on his fame when he shared with Rolling Stone magazine that he was "bisexual." At the time, his admission wasn't well-received. The "Bennie and the Jets" singer got hate mail calling him a pervert and some fans refused to buy his new albums. Thankfully, the heat later died down and Elton was able to slowly revive his career in the '80s. In 1984, Elton married female sound engineer Renate Blauel in Australia. But the nuptials caused the singer "huge guilt and regret" that led him to end the union in 1988 after he found the courage to officially come out as a gay man. Elton has been with husband David Furnish, with whom he shares two sons, since 1993.
He was the object of many teenagers' obsession in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he was a member of the popular boy band *NSYNC, but Lance Bass felt he couldn't admit that he was gay, fearing it would end his career and negatively affect his music group's success. So he lived in silence, keeping up appearances until 2006 when he decided enough was enough. In a cover story with People magazine, 27-year-old Lance — with the support of his former bandmates — revealed that he is gay and "wasn't ashamed" of it. In 2014, Lance married actor Michael Turchin.
Comedic actress Rosie O'Donnell first broke into Hollywood in 1986 on the series "Gimme a Break!" where she played Maggie O'Brien and soon after moved from TV to film in movies like "A League of Their Own" and "Sleepless in Seattle." Rosie always knew she was gay but didn't know quite how to tell the world. In 2002 at age 32, after 16 years in the industry, Rosie decided to come out while performing stand-up in New York. Although she anticipated backlash, she found there was none. In fact, an audience member even yelled out "big whoop" after Rosie made her announcement. Interestingly, Rosie had originally planned to come out in a 1992 interview with Cosmopolitan magazine. However, the disclosure was cut from the final version of the story by the editor-in-chief in a move Rosie claims was done to "protect" her career.
When Ian McKellen came out nearly three decades ago at age 49, he'd already been a stage and film star for 24 years. The British actor, most recently known for his role as Magneto in the "X-Men" franchise, said acting was his "disguise" but that homophobic legislation in the U.K. at the time inspired him to speak out and "tell the truth." Years later, Ian went on to say, "I regret and always shall that I didn't see the significance of coming out at a much earlier date because I think I would have been a different person and a happier one."
In November 2008, 44-year-old Wanda Sykes came out at a Las Vegas rally in support of marriage equality after California passed Proposition 8 making same-sex marriage illegal. The comedian and actress, who'd previously been married to a man for seven years, had met and fallen in love with a woman named Alex in 2006, whom she'd married a month before the rally. Of her decision to announce she was a lesbian, Wanda — whose Hollywood career had spanned a decade by then — said, "I kind of shocked myself. I was in the middle of it, and it was from anger."
Although British music star George Michael had long been rumored to be gay, he didn't publicly come out until April 1998 in an interview with CNN, spurred by an earlier arrest in a Beverly Hills park bathroom (George was caught in a "lewd" act by officers). In the interview, George, then 34, talked about how his first homosexual experience took place when he was 27 and admitted that he hadn't been in a relationship with a woman for "more than 10 years." He also disclosed that his later songs were "fairly obviously about men" and that while he felt "stupid" about the arrest, he didn't feel any shame. On Dec. 25, 2016, George died of heart failure in his home in Goring-on-Thames, England. His body was discovered by his boyfriend of seven years, Fadi Fawaz.
"Top Gun" actress Kelly McGillis came out as a lesbian in 2009 at age 51 after working on the big and small screens for decades. Her moment wasn't a big announcement but rather an answer to a question posed by a reporter who'd asked whether she preferred to date men or women. Kelly replied, "Definitely a woman," recognizing the moment as a chance for her to finally live her truth after spending her life pretending to be heterosexual.
On Aug. 21, 2013, "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller, who'd been acting since 1998, penned a letter to the director of the St. Petersburg Film Festival informing him he wouldn't be in attendance because of how gay people were being treated in Russia. His letter, which was later posted on the GLAAD website, said, "As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes. However, as a gay man, I must decline. I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government. The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly. Perhaps, when and if circumstances improve, I'll be free to make a different choice." Wentworth, who was 41 at the time, later shared that coming out made him feel "more fully expressed."
"Family Ties" star Meredith Baxter came out as a lesbian in 2009 at age 62 in an interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show following a 38-year career in Hollywood. The actress shared that her sexual revelation "came later in life" after three failed marriages and five children and that upon meeting a woman and exploring the feelings she had, it felt like an awakening. In 2013, Meredith married longtime girlfriend Nancy Locke.
Japanese-American actor George Takei was best known for his role as Sulu on "Star Trek" from 1966 to 1969, but in 2005, the TV, film and theater star made headlines once more at the age of 68 with the announcement that he is gay. He shared his sexual orientation in an issue of Frontiers, a Los Angeles magazine dedicated to the gay and lesbian community. Of his decision to come out, George said, "The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay. The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young." George has been married to longtime partner Brad Altman since 2008.
"Juno" star Ellen Page came out in 2014 while in Las Vegas at the Human Rights Campaign's Time to Thrive LGBTQ conference. In a heartfelt eight-minute speech, Ellen, then 26, said, "I'm here today because I am gay, and because maybe I can make a difference, to help others have an easier and more hopeful time… I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission." In 2018, Ellen revealed that she'd married dancer Emma Portner.
On Aug. 2, 2013, 27-year-old former child star Raven-Symone tweeted in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage, writing, "I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you." The former child star later spoke with Oprah Winfrey in 2014 about the tweet, confirming that she did have a girlfriend but didn't feel comfortable with labels about her sexual orientation (or even race). Later, in 2016, she revealed that being a part of the Disney brand was what made her hide her sexuality for so long even though she's known she was gay since age 12.