In honor of Pride Month, here are 11 of our favorite musicians who have come out!
1. TAYLOR BENNETT
On January 18th, 2017, a day before his 21st, birthday Taylor Bennett came out to his fans. In a series of tweets that shocked and awed the hip-hop world, the younger sibling of Chance the Rapper shared:
"My birthday is tomorrow & moving into next year I'd like to be more open about myself to help others that struggle with the same issues. Growing up I've always felt indifferent about my sexuality & being attracted 2 one sex & today I would like to openly come out to my fans. I do recognize myself as a bisexual male & do & have always openly supported the gay community & will keep doing so in 2017. #ThankYou."
In an interview with Billboard, he discussed why he came out on Twitter:
"I think that it wasn't the world -- it was my fans. It wasn't for any media; it wasn't for anybody or any blogs or anything like that. I put it out there [on Twitter] for the fans because it was the day before my birthday -- I was about to be 21 -- and I just had certain points in time where I felt like I'm black, I'm a rapper -- there's a persona. You don't want to do anything that makes your fans not like you anymore, but I realized, 'F--- it! Be yourself.' You got to be yourself. That's what I said; that's what my parents have always told me. The only people I felt like I deserved to tell was my fans because if your fans don't know you, how can they support you?
Then there was also the idea that for somebody that has a platform like mine that can speak to these many people, to come out and say something like that, I hope, puts courage in people to do the same thing. I always say the biggest dream I've ever wanted to accomplish is, in I don't know how many years, hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people at a sold-out show, and I just tell them all to look at each other, and they look at their sides and see that there's black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor people all around them and just realize they're all here for music and that there's nothing different. I think that's the power music can have. Just reminding people that we're all human at the end of the day.”
2. FRANK OCEAN
It’s not surprising that Frank Ocean's timing of his coming out was poetic. On July 4, 2012 - Independence Day - he posted a letter on his Tumblr titled "thank you's" which was meant to be the thank you section for his album credits. However, things took a different turn when he wrote "with all the rumors going round. I figured it’d be good to clarify."
He shared intimate details of a previous relationship that answered everyone’s question:
“4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence…until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life. Back then, my mind would wander to the women I had been with, the ones I cared for and thought I was in love with. I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager.. The ones I played when I experienced a girlfriend for the first time. I realised they were written in a language I did not yet speak.
I realised too much, too quickly… I told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for them, knowing I could never take them back for myself. He patted my back. He said kind things. He did his best, but he wouldn’t admit the same. He had to go back inside soon, it was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs. He wouldn’t tell the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years. I felt like I’d only imagined reciprocity for years… I kept up a peculiar friendship with him because I couldn’t imagine keeping up my life without him...
To my first love, I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even though it wasn’t what I hoped for and even though it was never enough, it was. Some things never are.. and we were. I won’t forget you. I won’t forget the summer. I’ll remember who I was when I met you. I’ll remember who you were and how we’ve both changed and stayed the same… I feel like a free man. If I listen closely.. I can hear the sky falling too.”
3. SAM SMITH
In 2014, Sam Smith came out during a Fader Magazine interview on the release of his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, dedicated to a past relationship gone awry. He shared:
“I’ve never been in a relationship before. I’ve only been in unrequited relationships where people haven’t loved me back. I guess I’m a little bit attracted to that in a bad way. In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back… I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?"
Smith continued to share that his former love mostly inspired the album and why he is so candid about his love life.
“I told him about it recently, and obviously it was never going to go the way I wanted it to go, because he doesn’t love me. But it was good as a form of closure, to get it off my chest and tell him. I feel better for it. I feel almost like I signed off this part of my life where I keep giving myself to guys who are never going to love me back. It feels good to have interviews like this, to chat about it and put stuff to bed. It’s all there now, and I can move on and hopefully find a guy who can love me the way I love him.
I am comfortable with myself, and my life is amazing in that respect. I’m very comfortable and happy with everything. I just wanted to talk about him and have it out there. It’s about a guy and that’s what I wanted people to know—I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about. I’ve been treated as normal as anyone in my life; I’ve had no issues. I do know that some people have issues in life, but I haven’t, and it’s as normal as my right arm. I want to make it normality because this is a non-issue. People wouldn’t ask a straight person these questions. I’ve tried to be clever with this album, because it’s also important to me that my music reaches everybody. I’ve made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody— whether it’s a guy, a female or a goat—and everybody can relate to that. I’m not in this industry to talk about my personal life unless it’s in a musical form.”
The baby-faced crooner whose musical style is compared to the Bee Gees and the Scissor Sisters, wooing us with hits such as “Grace Kelly” and “Relax (Take It Easy),” admitted that he was gay in the September 2016 issue of Instinct magazine. He said:
“If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah. Are these songs about my relationship with a man? I say yeah. And it’s only through my music that I’ve found the strength to come to terms with my sexuality beyond the context of just my lyrics. This is my real life.”
5. SAM SPARRO
Influenced by Bjork, his soulful, powerhouse voice, which he developed in church, packs a mighty punch to any track. Openly gay since he was a teenager, he was fortunate to have the support of his family and never hid it. Though he faced troubles along the way, he has always been bold and confident: In 2008, He told The Guardian:
"I've always thought, 'This is me, I'm happy with myself,' and so that's what I'm here to project. So that gay teenagers don't have to get the shit kicked out of them in school and think that they're a horrible person. It's easier to be an 'out' pop star today. Morrissey never came out, and Neil Tennant left it very, very late, whereas Jake Shears was open from the start."
6.Bloc Party's Kele Okereke
Kele Okereke has the talent to transition from indie rock to dance music then back to indie rock again smoothly. However, his coming out did not go as smooth. He came out, but not by choice. The indie rocker was outed by a magazine and he describes the delicate experience in an Opinion Editorial for Thump/Vice:
“From 2004-2006, in every interview I was asked what it felt like to be a black musician making indie music-the subtext always being that this was not a genre for the likes of people like me. In 2014 we see that there are plenty of out gay musicians making music, from Sam Smith to the XX, but back in 2005 there was a dogged insistence for me to clarify my sexuality in the media, which culminated in Q, one the UK's biggest music magazines outing me. Coming out for any artist is a delicate experience and as a 20-year-old coming to terms with life the spotlight not being able to come out on my own terms was a painful experience.”
He struggled with embracing interviews for almost two years, but after concentrating on his art and DJing he discovered:
“The interviews that I did focused on my transition as a musician, the DJs I met on the road were awesome, not at all combative like rival indie bands. In this world, my race and sexuality were not a problem to be hinted at. They were to be celebrated. I think that's in part due to the prevalence of black and gay working DJs, but also as highlighted by Luis-Manuel Garcia's excellent article for Resident Advisor, house music "was born from gay people of color sweating their asses off at 5AM in a Chicago warehouse". No wonder the scene has been more receptive to me as a musician than the world of indie rock.”
7. Sir Elton John
What's funny is that Elton John assumed everyone knew he was gay. A report states that he first came out in 1976 then his official coming out was in 1988.
During an interview with U.S. Today show host Matt Lauer, he says, “Nobody asked me. When (journalist) Cliff Jahr asked me in Rolling Stone, ‘I’m gonna ask you a question, but if you don’t want to answer it, I’m gonna turn the tape recorder off’ And I said, ‘You’re gonna ask me if I’m gay or not.’ And he said, ‘How did you know that?’. I said, ‘I’ve been waiting for people to ask me this. It’s not exactly a secret. I live with my manager. I’m openly gay outside. I don’t have a girlfriend... I just thought it was common knowledge.’”
8. David Bowe
David Bowe is a straight shooter. Never hid his identity, only embraced it and added many layers to his rocker persona. On January 22, 1972, he officially came out to the public via Melody Maker Magazine saying, “I’m gay. And always have been, even when I was David Jones.”
9. Rob Halford
Rob Halford aka Metal God, was Judas Priest’s frontman who helped cultivate the metal genre persona, sound and style in the 70s and 80s. In 1998, he came out in an interview with MTV News, saying “I’ve become the stately homo of heavy metal.”He quickly became known as the first openly gay metal singer.
In an interview he said this about being called a gay icon:
“I think when you get recognised for that, it’s something you don’t expect. The bottom line is that I’m a heavy metal singer in a band. Just because my sexuality isn’t considered to be the norm, for some reason it seems to always carries a bit of extra media interest. I think it’s kind of amusing that I have absolutely no relationship with the gay media whatsoever – not that I’m looking for it either. I’ve never been approached by any of those kind of publications because I think heavy metal is still viewed by the wider media as still being this very macho, male environment and the gay media still treats it with some detachment.”
10. Michael Stipe
According to Wikipedia, In 1994 R.E.M singer, Michael Stipe came out, describing himself as "an equal opportunity lech" and said he did not define himself as gay, straight, or bisexual, but that he was attracted to, and had relationships with, both men and women.
"These 20 years of publicly speaking my truth have made me a better and easier person to be around. It helped develop the clarity of my voice and establish who I would be as an adult."
"In 1994, most people had a largely binary perception of sexuality – the message was complicated for them. I am thrilled to see how much this has changed in those 20 years. The 21st century has provided all of us, recent generations particularly, with a clearer idea of the breadth of fluidity with which sexuality and identity presents itself in each individual. Gender identification, and the panoply of sexuality and identity are now topics that are more easily and more widely discussed, debated and talked about openly. It’s thrilling to see progressive change shift perceptions so quickly."
11. Barry Manilow
They say it's never too late to make a change, and that's the case for Barry Manilow who came out at the age of 73. He confirmed with People that he is married to manager Garry Kief, who he has been with for 4 decades!
“I’m so private,” he said. “I always have been. I thought I would be disappointing them [fans] if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything."