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    16 Actors Who Played Amazing LGBTQ Characters Before Publicly Coming Out Themselves

    "Playing a character who was so comfortable in who she was, it was inspiring [to me] in a way that I think a lot of other people watching the show have been inspired."

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    1. Mae Whitman

    Amy Sussman / Getty Images for Los Angeles Confidential Magazine, Disney

    Whitman, who voices lesbian character Amity on The Owl House, came out as pansexual in August. "Just taking a moment to say I am SO proud to be even a small part of a show like The Owl House," Whitman tweeted. "Being pansexual myself, I wish I had such incredible characters like Amity and Luz in my life when I was growing up. Queer representation is sososo important :,) Keep it up world!"

    2. Adamo Ruggiero

    Arthur Mola / Getty Images, CTV

    Ruggiero, who is gay, played Marco Del Rossi on Degrassi: The Next Generation, the first main gay character in the franchise. “I came out also through Marco, so, you know, we kind of grew up together and we figured it out together," Ruggiero said in a 2021 interview with ET Canada. "It was incredible that the show at that time was able to start that conversation — so I see Marco often as a conversation starter."

    3. Kaylee Bryant

    4. Humberly González

    Humberly González as Sophie in Ginny & Georgia
    Netflix

    González has played queer characters on Utopia Falls, Ginny & Georgia, and Jupiter's Legacy. She spoke about her queer identity on the Girl on Girl podcast in 2021, tweeting, "This is a big moment for me. This is the first time I’m speaking openly about being queer. It’s been a long journey to who I am today."

    5. Sara Ramirez

    Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images, ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Ramirez, widely known for playing bisexual character Callie Torres on Grey's Anatomy, publicly came out as queer and bisexual in 2016 while speaking at a seminar for homeless LGBTQ youth. In 2020, she announced that she is nonbinary and uses “she”/“they” pronouns. They also went on to play bisexual and nonbinary character Kat Sandoval in Madam Secretary.

    6. Jake Borelli

    Levi kisses Nico on Grey's Anatomy
    Richard Cartwright / ABC via Getty Images

    Borelli, who plays Levi Schmitt on Grey's Anatomy, came out as gay right before his character did on the show. Borelli opened up about his sexuality and the importance of representation in a 2018 Instagram post: "As a gay guy myself, tonight's episode was so special to me. This is exactly the kind of story I craved as a young gay kid growing up in Ohio, and it blows my mind that I'm able to bring life to Dr. Levi Schmitt as he begins to grapple with his own sexuality this season on Grey’s Anatomy. His vulnerability and courage inspire me every day, and I hope he can do the same for you."

    7. Keiynan Lonsdale

    Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images, 20th Century Fox

    Lonsdale, who played Bram (Simon's love interest) in Love, Simon, identifies as queer. In 2018, he spoke about how the film inspired him to be more open about his sexuality. “I realized while I was filming that it felt like I was a contradiction to what we were fighting for,” Lonsdale told Fandom. “I didn’t come out because of that, it just highlighted and sort of put up a mirror to myself and made me really think and start to realize that I’m not afraid of anything. I’m ready now to make this step. I guess working on a loving film set and having a gay director and playing the character, I realized there was nothing holding me back but myself now. So I was super inspired.”

    8. Demi Lovato

    Emma McIntyre / Getty Images for iHeartMedia, Michael Becker / Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Lovato guest-starred as Santana's girlfriend, Dani, on Glee in 2013. Lovato has since come out as queer, pansexual, and nonbinary. In 2020, they opened up about how Naya Rivera's (Santana) character helped them figure out their identity in an Instagram tribute to the late actor: "The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted (at the time) queer girls like me. And your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world."

    9. Sean Hayes

    Michael Tullberg / Getty Images, NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Hayes publicly came out as gay in 2010, years after first playing openly gay character Jack in Will & Grace. As to why he didn't publicly confirm his sexuality during the show's first run, despite pressure from the LGBTQ community, Hayes told the Los Angeles Times that he was overwhelmed: "I didn’t want the responsibility, I didn’t know how to handle the responsibility of speaking for the gay community." He added, "I always felt like I owed them a huge apology for coming out too late."

    10. Tyler Posey

    Kevin Winter / Getty Images, Scott Everett White / The CW Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Posey played a bisexual character on Jane the Virgin in 2017 and then a gay character on Now Apocalypse in 2019. Speaking about accepting the two queer roles, Posey told Pride, "I've always wanted to promote that and be a part of that world, and I just never really had the opportunities come up to me. I finally did, and they were in great projects I could be really proud of." In 2021, he revealed on OnlyFans that he was sexually fluid. "I was just being honest about it, because no one's ever asked me before," Posey told the Just for Variety podcast, calling it a "split-second decision."

    11. Joshua Rush

    Disney Channel, Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

    Cyrus, the character Rush played in Disney Channel's Andi Mack, came out on the show in 2017. This was groundbreaking for Disney Channel because Cyrus was the first Disney Channel character to say, "I'm gay." Rush would later came out as bisexual via Twitter in 2018.

    12. Victor Garber

    Thos Robinson / Getty Images, CBS / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Garber played the gay musician in the TV film Liberace: Behind the Music in 1988 and said he had trouble finding work for years afterward. Garber told the Hollywood Reporter that fellow actor Ian McKellen had encouraged Garber to come out publicly that same year, but he "didn't have the courage to do it until [he] was older." He'd later play smaller gay roles, and officially confirmed his sexuality and his marriage to his husband in 2013.

    13. Tyler Blackburn

    Presley Ann / FilmMagic via Getty Images

    A few months after he first began playing gay military veteran Alex Manes on Roswell, New Mexico, Blackburn revealed to the Advocate that he's identified as bisexual since he was a teenager, but he'd suppressed his attraction to men for a long time. He said that he started to allow himself to "experience the emotional aspect of what it is to be bisexual" as he was finishing up his time on Pretty Little Liars. Blackburn said that the role of Alex came at the perfect time because he understood the character completely.

    14. Zachary Quinto

    Weiss Eubanks / NBCUniversal / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images, VH1

    Warning: Mentions of suicide and bullying.

    Quinto played bisexual character Sasan on So Notorious years before he came out. He announced he was gay on his website in 2011 after teenager Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself after being taunted about his sexuality. "In light of Jamey’s death, it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality," Quinto wrote.

    15. Maulik Pancholy

    Bruce Glikas / WireImage via Getty Images, Cliff Lipson / Showtime / Courtesy Everett Collection

    In 2016, Pancholy revealed via Out magazine that he is gay and that he had been with his partner for nine years. He previously played Jonathan on 30 Rock, who was heavily implied to be gay, and Sanjay on Weeds, who was also gay.

    16. And Finally, Janet Varney

    Amy Sussman / Getty Images

    Varney, who voiced Korra in the animated series Legend of Korra, came out via Instagram in 2018. It may have been somewhat unclear on the show, which ended in 2014, but series creators have since confirmed that female characters Korra and Asami were bisexual and their relationship was canon. Speaking about Korrasami, Varney (who often shares fan art of the two on her Instagram) emphasized to Entertainment Weekly the relationship's role in normalizing LGBTQ romance in animated series. "We've all said the awesomest thing is going to be when kids who see this for the first time are like, 'Wait a minute, Korrasami was controversial?' And that's already happening, where there are people who are like, 'Oh, I didn't even realize that would be something that would raise an eyebrow.'"

    The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org). In addition, if you or someone you know has experienced anti-LGBTQ violence or harassment, you can contact the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs hotline at 1-212-714-1141.