Cracking the Coming Out Code

by alex & riese

Ricky Martin shot through the closet door yesterday hot-dog-in-a-hallway style (the closet door has expanded an estimated 175% since 2008) following years of speculation, an allegedly career-tarnishing interview with Barbara Walters and several years of suspicious photographs featuring Martin in a Speedo on the beach with another hot guy. Everyone knows that two hot guys together in Speedos quickly becomes two hot guys together sans Speedos.

The world responded to Ricky Martin’s revelation with a collectively snarky “obvs.” But despite our complete and total awareness of Martin’s homosexuality, he seemed like the kind of guy that just might never come out. But does that “kind of guy” (or gal) even exist anymore or is it just a matter of time for everyone these days? Whether the celeb was outed by someone else, comes out to support gay rights or an upcoming memoir or was never closeted at all — the gayspores are multiplying. Fast!

Is there a formula? I asked our trusty design director, A;ex, to help me look for answers in the only place answers are ever truly found — infographics!

Ricky Martin Comes Out

Just Because It’s Obvious Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy to Say

All the joking about Ricky Martin (and last month about Sean Hayes) does miss something. Firstly, who are we to question why Martin or Hayes took so long to come out — many of us did, too, and like Martin, many of us chose a more politically tolerant time to step forward. Secondly, think about how scary it was/is for you to imagine coming out to just your facebook network, let alone millions of human beings who are poised to have opinions about you. Yes, it was obvious. Yes, we all knew. But closeting isn’t always about self-loathing or hypocrisy or sinister, selfish agendas (as perhaps Perez Hilton must say it is in order to sleep at night); it’s about naked, tentative fear. The longer a secret lasts, the bigger and scarier it becomes. And for many young stars with thriving careers who prompt our are-they-or-aren’t-they convos (Ellen Page, Kelly Clarkson, Zachary Quinto, Kanye West); why risk a bump in their career path if they don’t have to?

Sean Hayes Comes Out

Motivated by Memoir

Back in the good old days, the “writing about your secret gay life” thang was reserved for a celebrity’s post-mortem biographer, as it was for stars like Raymond Burr, Greta Garbo, Merv Griffin, James Dean, Marlene Dietrich, and Robert Reed. Most gay actors & actresses lived and died in the closet, and being “out” from the get-go was almost unheard of. But now celebrities are taking the biography into their own hands. Typically composed a good 5-10 years after the actor’s career has peaked, this coordination is crucial for both artistic (“i must reveal my truths”) and marketing (“i must sell many copies”) reasons.

Like Meredith Baxter (who came out in ’09), Ricky Martin‘s “coming out” precedes the upcoming release of his memoir, in which he’ll likely talk about all those years of covert man-on-man lovin’. We’re hoping his homosexy activities began in the Menudo days as that’d be totally loca and stuff. Lance Bass came out in 2006, months before the release of his memoir which detailed all the relationships he’d kept a secret.

However, as our infographic demonstrates, I personally heard from a  confirmed source in 2000 that Lance Bass was way homo. Although Bass himself was dating TOPANGA FROM BOY MEETS WORLD, even Bass’s bandmates have said they had suspected his homosexuality for far before he spoke openly about it to them or dated boys.

Lance Bass Comes Out

Doing it For the Cause

Wanda Sykes came out in 2008 because she wanted to be able to proudly show her support for marriage equality. Similarly, Rosie O’Donnell made her first television appearance as an out homo to talk about the gay adoption ban in Florida. Previously howevs Rosie had been dating Kelli Carpenter and in the 90’s dated bisexual musician Sophie B. Hawkins and has said she pretty much figured everyone knew.

Sometimes, though, coming out is just about timing. Although Rosie didn’t wait for a more politically tolerant time to come out, many others in her position have come out pretty much as soon as it was acceptable to do so, or when dating an already out celebrity, such as Portia De Rossi, Sarah Paulson, David Hyde Pierce, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan and Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Rosie Comes Out

Pages: 1 2See entire article on one page

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our A+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining A+ and supporting the people who make this indie queer media site possible?

Join A+!


Cofounder and Design Director of Autostraddle. Professional web/graphic designer. Whiskey enthusiast. Drumming hobbyist. A past speaker at the 2010 BlogHer Conference ("Good Blog Design: The Role of Layout in an Online Medium"), 2013 Salon LGBTQ Conference ("Innovative Best Practices for Brand-Blogger Campaigns") and featured in the Los Angeles Edition of Refinery29's 30 Under 30 in 2013. Co-owns and manages Tully's Training, a dog training company in Los Angeles. Twitter: @a_ex Instagram: alexxxvegaaa

Alex has written 100 articles for us.


  1. Dude, I wish people would come out of the closet, because I think it puts a human face on our struggle when people are like “Oh, I know a gay person who is not scary” Or at least is scary for reasons unrelated to said gayness.

    BUT. I understand why people don’t. Guys, coming out is terrifying. My dad’s bff is a lesbian and I didn’t come out FOR YEARS. Because you just never know how your family and the whole world is going to react and it is the most exposing and scary thing. Some kids can just come out and do it, and that is so courageous but it is also something I could not do. I knew I was gay for 7 years or so before coming out. I almost got married. And my life is not in front of millions.

    • Yeah I think that we forget their feelings are just like our feelings, even if the rest of their existence is nothing like our existence. Also I think sometimes ppl want to wait ’til they’re in a good relationship to not put too much pressure on a bad relationship or to avoid having to deal with the fallout ‘alone.’

        • My moms bff in beauty school when I was a wee tyke was a big old queen and I was still afraid to come out to her. Also, I found Ricky Martin’s twitter yesterday and tweeted him a congrats & thanks for coming out, because every out celeb really does help. I know how scary & then freeing it was for me to come out, I can’t imagine the emotions on a celebrity scale.

          • It was terrifying for me to come out, and like I said, my dad’s BEST FRIEND IN ALL THE WORLD is a lesbian. But still, there was the feeling that I might be rejected, because you never know, and that was horrifying.

            Honestly, I think if my Mom was still alive, I would still be closeted, so I really can’t throw shade at people in the closet, even though I want everyone to knock down their closet doors and storm into the streets in a wave of glitter and rainbows for a big homo musical.

          • “I want everyone to knock down their closet doors and storm into the streets in a wave of glitter and rainbows for a big homo musical.”

            …exactly how I came out. Except I used an insane amount of vodka and silly string as well. Good thing the cops in WeHo were sympathetic. =)

            my parents, not so much.

    • Well said. I think people like Perez tend to forget (or maybe just don’t care) that famous people are faced with the exact same fears that the rest of us have, you know, being accepted by family, their friends etc. Fame doesn’t make you immune to religious or conservative or disapproving loved ones.

    • parents are a hard one. my Grandma was a lesbian (and out to her family and dating women in the 1950’s (!!!) and beyond – go Grandma!), my parents have numerous gay friends, I spent every summer as a child staying at the home of my Mom’s gay cousin and his husband, and I still told EVERYONE ELSE before I told my parents. I was even out at work for over a year before I told them. There was no way they were going to do anything other than be awesome but parents are difficult.

    • YES. I live in a country with same sex marriage and out, gay, conservative politicians (not that it’s really socially accepted to be gay). My parents are super liberal and politically active, supporting gay rights, fighting for gay rights. They never had a problem with any of my supergay friends. I have never been as terrified as before I came out, including moments when I thought I was going to die.

  2. I still haven’t come out to most of my family. I’ve been too scared to tell my parents because I have no idea how they will react. It’s stressful hiding that part of me but I just don’t know how and when I should tell them :(

  3. Lindsay’s timeline

    2003: Freaky Friday – Anna’s kinda dykey…ooh Jodie Foster played her in the previous version….that’s it, only babydykes can play Anna Coleman!
    2004: Being with Sam err I mean hearing Sam’s song makes Lindsay ‘cool’ (Mean Girls)
    2005: Herbie – Jeez, Maggie likes to skateboard and put her hands in her pockets while wearing sexy jeans – dyke! Oh, and how conservative of you Disney, an African American lesbian director (Miss Angela Robinson) and a lesbian leading lady – loves it
    2006: Paris Hilton: DYKE! You fucking dyke!*Lindsay cries, no response from her*
    Meanwhile, a blog reports that Lindsay is bearding with her beard du jour. And Paris and Britney tell her they never loved her and it was all a showmance :( = heart crushed
    2007: Sam and Lindsay travel the world together and get outed. Lilo+ Sam sighting = beard employed Another one = beard employed etc
    Denial: She’s my best friend! That’s all I swear
    Car crash fight: you lesbian bitch! (disassociation theory) I wanna prove I’m not a lesbian so I’ll call you one, lovergirl! P.S Hook-up later, yeah?
    2008: Major bearding episode organized, Lindsay on top of 3 guys. See, she’s straight people, coz she can kiss men in front of cameras! Sam = :'( that’s MY girl
    Angela Robinson/the writers affectionately mock her using Nikayyy who keeps Jenny Schecter happy and *ahem* satisfied (for a while at least). Gets outed :( And she gotta be out to have her girl :'(
    And finally, Lindsay says f-YOU homophobic parents/management/people this is MY girl Sam. Have you met MY Sam? She’s beatiful and she’s MY girl. Get your 15 year old Full House ass away from MY girlfriend, Ashley!
    ~The End becuase then in 2010 she returned to the closet at the urging of her management~

  4. Love the infographics, guys :)

    I’m all for people coming out, but Perez Hilton is kind of an asshole about it. I support outing people who actively oppose LGBT rights and such, but if not he should mind his own business and let people come out when they’re ready.

  5. Perez makes me angry, he needs to stay out of people’s personal lives. He’s no asset to the community by putting pressure on others, not everyone is gonna be ready even if others think they should be. Ugh.

  6. i wish i had graphics to make an infographic:
    1992 When We Knew: lucy is a strikingly handsome/charming boy for her girl scouts halloween party. 1999 When Everyone Knew: a different type of obsession with the spice girls. 2006 The Outing: “i don’t think you’re interested in men at all” -ex bf. march 26 2010 The Big Reveal: “i’m pretty sure i’m not interested in men at all” -lucy

    • I love this idea!!

      When the homo-inclined knew: 1990, I had a cute butch little girlfriend in kindergarten that used to put down her coat n the sandbox so I didn’t get my dress dirty

      When everyone knew: 1992, little butch girlfriend holds hand of boy instead. Jenny is v. distressed. Dad tells Jenny there are plenty of fish in the sea. Jenny does not believe him. Clearly, lesbian feelings on display early.

      The Outing: 1999, Jenny gets caught kissing ‘best friend’ by Mom. Jenny swears she was ‘just experimenting’

      The Big Reveal: 2005. Jenny’s Mom is dead, life is miserable, so she figures she may as well come out while everything’s a mess.

  7. We also have to realize that some may have been out to the people who count. Like if I was famous I could be out to my family and coworkers but I would not feel obliged to tell everyone. If the people that count know why should I need to tell a million strangers? Maybe if it had an impact on somethig like prop 8 but other than that I would feel like it’s not anyones business

  8. This is one of these issues where i have so many feelings, i just can’t process them enought to make a decision. On the one hand, i think everyone should be able to come out in there own time, because we all know it’s terrifying, and it is NEVER ok to out someone else.

    but then i think, if you’re in the public eye and are dating people of the same sex, hitting gay clubs, and everyone already knows, why not just admit it? because if you don’t, it looks like you’ve got something to be ashamed of. And you don’t. Being gay is AWESOME and more people need to know this.

  9. it’s interesting. I’ve been out for four years now and really really out for two, but already I’ve forgotten. I look at my friends in the closet and grow more and more frustrated. “Just do it already.” I broke up with my last girlfriend because while she saw us moving forward she had no interest in personal evolution…. no plans to come out herself, no plans to come out as my girlfriend [to her family and even close friends]. I don’t regret that choice, it was toxic for me to be connected to so much fear and forced to be quiet and shameful about what was an important part of my life. But how quickly I have forgotten the paralyzing fear f the moment [and years] before. This singular act is the one thing that connects us [the LGBTQ….I……? community]. It’s not our preferences, our interests, our stereotypical quirks that unite us, but the common leap of faith in believing that who we are and our authentic truth is bigger than the fear that has been blocking it.

    Even in reading Autostraddle, it is easy to forget, this is why this site breeds familial connections. Because while Gaga is fabulous, Riese can out-write anyone, Alex is clearly the best designer around, and all the interns, contributers, and readers are hilarious…. none of that matters. That’s not why we feel safe here. We feel safe here because we’ve all been through it. And for those who aren’t yet out, when you make that decision, we’ll all still be here- to make you laugh, to listen, to let your voice be heard and your story be told.

    This is why the celebrity outings matter. Not because they are ironic, or obvious, or about time… but because they are a widespread message of the humanness and vulnerability we have all had to battle with. I thank anyone and everyone who has and is going through that battle- because of you no one will ever have to go through it alone.

    • “It’s not our preferences, our interests, our stereotypical quirks that unite us, but the common leap of faith in believing that who we are and our authentic truth is bigger than the fear that has been blocking it.”


  10. Wow, awesome article!

    When you talked about “not coming out forever” the first person I thought of was Darren Hayes (ex Savage Garden). People had suspected that he was gay forever (despite having a wife at the time), and then he started alluding to it in “The Tension and The Spark” where some of his songs had gender ambiguity (“I want her she wants him, he wants me I give in, I want her I want him I don’t want anything”). He also started performing more in gay parties and events like those.

    I figured that even if he was gay, he’d never say anything because he’s a really private person when it comes to relationships. Asides from Colby – who he eventually split from – we never know anything about his relationships. Then in 2006 he wrote a beautiful blog post about marrying Richard, and now he’s been even more outspoken about gay rights. A lot of people were like “AHA OUR SLASH FICTION WAS TRUE” but for me it was like “Wow, I didn’t expect you to say anything, but well done.”

    According to Darren he never really tried to deny it, but when the media asked him about his relationships he’d say “My partner’s name is Richard” and they wouldn’t be interested. They’d be waiting for “Yes I’m Gay”, the big announcement. And while people around him knew for yonks, it wasn’t until he split from his label that he came out – and I think that Columbia Records (Sony) had a lot to do with that. Once he was free from Sony’s shackles he was free to be himself, emotionally as well as musically.

    Personally I’m just more disappointed that he didn’t turn out to be bisexual! You don’t see a lot of “Yes I’m Bi” or “Yes My Sexuality Is Fluid” type major stories, unless they’re like Gaga where it’s out early and part of the act. I suppose that even if that is true, people won’t think it is – they’ll think “You’re still hedging, pick one”.

    Clay Aiken comes from a conservative, religious family – he probably had to deal with possible fallout then before he could say anything. Ricky Martin came from a homophobic culture. Many people are just private about that sort of thing because it doesn’t have anything to do with their work. We all have reasons, and like the earlier comment thread said, everyone has their own schedule. (Hell while I figured I was queer around 15-16, it wasn’t till I moved to Australia at 21 that I could do something about it!)

    • And while we’re on the subject of personal timelines – I think the “when the homo-inclined knew” would be at the very end, because they still don’t believe me :P

  11. Haha I love this! To be honest I think it’s actually a very fun way of looking at the really difficult decision of deciding when, how, and what degree to come out.

    The bit that got me is when you compared it to coming out on Facebook. I feel good about my sexuality but growing up in a very conservative Christian environment the thoughts of having those Facebook friends from my past thinking bad of me is actually still kind of hard to take. I’m sure I’ll do it one day and probably soon but right now I’m not ready and so fair enough if celebrities feel the same way.

    I think it’s about when you feel strong enough within yourself to face the potential negative consequences of coming out. It can be an incredibly hurtful and self worth destroying process when you’re not ready for it.

  12. “The longer a secret lasts, the bigger and scarier it becomes”

    That’s so true Riese!

    I came out with my parents at 16 and after that with really few people…day by day it became an heavy burden for me to carry. I really don’t know why I lost the energy of my teenage years…now I am 28 and sometimes I really think I’ll never completely come out.

  13. Batwoman,

    Lindsay and Samantha are apparently back together. Lindsay tweeted several times Monday night indicating they are a couple again after Samantha tweeted Lindsay a kiss/hug the day before. I would not be shocked that this is what caused Lindsay to get pissed at George Lopez. The girls both tweeted they were watching Lopez because Foreigner, Samantha’s stepdad’s group, was on the show.

  14. Im not sure on how to go skinny with jordan/catalano + jessica. but have to agree with a heartfelt yes. This is one of my favourite things about the gay world and everyone in it, who i admire so much, especially the out and proud.

  15. Pingback: Guanabee | Ricky Martin Coming Out Chart

  16. I was like watching the news of Ricky Martin’s coming out story with my mother, and it was veeerrrry awkward. The funny thing is, my mom never had anything against gay people that she sees on television or books or whatnot, but she just can’t accept that her own daughter is gay. She would even discuss that an actress playing a gay girl doesn’t seem, well, gay.
    I tried to come out to her, but she still wouldn’t listen. It’s like she just suddenly turned homophobic when it concerns me.

  17. Pingback: Celebrities Coming Out: A Timeline | Defamer Australia

  18. Pingback: Celebrities Coming Out: A Timeline | iGossip

  19. If I had a sweet infographic timeline it would read:

    when everyone knew (1986)—>when I knew (2004)—>when I was outed (2009)—>how everyone yawned at my personal struggle (2004-present)

    but mostly: way to be awesome autostraddle!

  20. Pingback: Celebrities That Took The Right Step Confirming Their Sexual Preferences (Infographics) | Celeb Toast

  21. Pingback: Blogosphere Trends – What Are Bloggers Writing About | Byte Right Domains

  22. Pingback: Blogosphere Trends – What Are Bloggers Writing About | TVG Marketing

  23. Pingback: Blogging For Profits – Blogosphere Trends – What Are Bloggers Writing About | David Benger Online

  24. Pingback: Gay Celebrity Truth Timeline (Pics) | WizzBoom!

  25. Pingback: Blogosphere Trends – What Are Bloggers Writing About | Blogging for Money

  26. Pingback: OMG, What took him so long? The Ricky Martin story in handy chart form | !! omg blog !! [the original, since 2003]

  27. Pingback: Celebrities That Took The Right Step Confirming Their Sexual Preferences (Infographics) - Celeb Toast

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!