1. Rickie Vasquez: My So-Called Life, 1994
Rickie is one of the few characters that adequately exhibits the fact that coming out is a lengthy and repetitive process, so he is outed multiple times during the show. Angela describes him as bi at first, although it becomes apparent that he is not interested in women later on. He then says the phrase “I’m gay” for the first time to a minor character, revealing that he’s never admitted it out loud to anyone. In this scene, he’s struggling with the fact that he wants to take a boy to a school dance.
2. Ellen Degeneres: Ellen, 1997
Iconic in that she was coming out officially as an actress and as a character at the same time, broadcasting it over the airport intercom as she was broadcasting it on television. Even if you’ve never watched this show, this moment will make you feel a lot of feelings. We’re certainly glad you did it, Ellen.
3. Megan Bloomfield: But I’m A Cheerleader, 1999
In probably the most hilarious coming out ever, Megan is not admitting her sexuality to anyone but herself, as everyone around her seems to have figured it out. Unfortunately, of course, her self-actualization is paired with a camp trying to purge her of her homosexual ways. Watch the clip here.
Megan Bloomfield: But I’m A Cheerleader, 1999.
4. Willow: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, 1999
Willow’s longest process of coming out is that of her coming out to herself. It’s not a particularly difficult thing for her to accept, but she does take a while to understand her feelings for Tara were those of romantic love. It’s a really sweet, subtle story, and they (of course) make the singular most perfect lesbian couple on TV. Ever.
5. Tony: Bend It Like Beckham, 2002
No one actually comes out like this, right? It’s pretty weird, right? Anyway, it’s also totally hilarious. I hope everything worked out for Tony in the end, I really do.
6. Valerie Page: V For Vendetta, 2005
Valerie Page was imprisoned for being gay, and the last message she sent into the world (or the cell that she was in) was about her sexuality. It was moving and devastating, and a lovely way to come out to no one in particular. Of course, her letter gave hope to another prisoner, who then gave hope to activists. This coming out story exemplified just how inspiring being true to yourself can be.
7. Dakin: The History Boys, 2006
Okay, this wasn’t exactly a coming out moment, but the previously-straight Dakin finally exploring some sexual feelings he has towards this teacher is really fun and also super hunky. It’s cute, obviously confusing (for Dakin), and surprisingly sweet. Who knows if he continued having these feelings for other men, and who really cares?
8. Emily Fitch: Skins, Second Generation, 2009
Emily Fitch comes out multiple times, to herself, to Naomi, to her parents, to her friends. It’s often devastating and terrifying, but it allows her to finally feel happy in the end. The funniest time is when she comes out to poor JJ. You can watch a (bad quality) clip of the whole delightful speech here.
9. Kurt Hummel: Glee, 2009
Despite the stereotypes being paraded around in this interaction, Kurt’s dad is heartbreakingly wonderful. It’s a great break from typically “uneducated” parents who disown their kids for being gay. Kurt’s dad may not be metropolitan, but he gives Kurt his full, complete support, and brings tears to your eyes every time. He’s perfect and a sure break from what we usually see on television.
10. Franky Fitzgerald: Skins, Third Generation, 2011
Franky’s sexuality is definitely complicated, so her simple and short response to a question about her preferences is absolutely perfect. It’s too bad that Franky seems to forget much of her complicated feelings during the second season of this generation, because much of her original genderqueer fluidity gets lost. However, she was one of the first truly complicated queer characters that we’ve seen on TV.