Today is National Coming Out Day, so to celebrate, we wanted to put together a quick list of some of our favorite coming out stories.
If you would like some more information about National Coming Out Day and/or need resources, you can check out the HRC website here.
Willow Rosenburg, played by Alyson Hannigan in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Willow (and Tara, played by Amber Benson) helped me realize that I’m gay, so they hold a special place in my heart. They were the first queer couple I remember seeing on television and I just remember feeling something click.
In the scene where Willow comes out to Buffy in “New Moon Rising,” Buffy’s initial panic reaction added a level of realism that hit me. It’s the kind of reaction everyone worries about, although thankfully, Buffy worked through it quickly.
Erica Hahn, played by Brooke Smith in Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s was the first TV show with LGBTQ characters that I watched post-coming out to myself and some of my friends and family. Erica Hahn is one of those characters that came around at the right time. There was something about her I kind of latched on to.
Her “Glasses” monologue still makes me emotional when I watch. I will never get over how they wrote her off the show. She did come out alive, however, which is more than I can say for many queer characters.
Callie Torres, played by Sara Ramirez in Grey’s Anatomy
Callie Torres deserves a spot on all the LGBTQ character lists. She’s one of the best bisexual characters television has produced. With several seasons to tell her story completely, she had some really great moments. Her journey to figure out that she could love both men and women was powerful and highlighted the struggle many bisexual people go through.
One of the best scenes was when her father, who disowned her when she came out, brought a priest with him to visit her. Callie is one of the few queer characters to tackle the issue of sexuality and religion head on.
Emily Fields, played by Shay Mitchell in Pretty Little Liars
Emily Fields was pushed out of the closet, under threat of being outed. This is a fear every single LGBTQ person has experienced and an important story to tell. She also had an awkward crush on her best friend. Which again, who hasn’t been there?
I had already been out for several years when I watched PLL, but the scene where Emily comes out to her dad always reminds me of coming out to my mom. It doesn’t matter how good of a relationship you have with a parent, coming out to them is terrifying.
Santana Lopez, played by Naya Rivera in Glee
Santana’ story is important because of the intersectionality with her race and sexuality. She was closeted for different reasons and coming out had different ramifications than it did for some of the other queer characters on the show. Santana was also outed by someone who was under the misguided idea that he was helping her.
Thankfully, Santana got a happy ending with her high school sweetheart. Happy endings for queer characters rarely happen. The importance of multiple characters in a show geared towards teens and young adults getting their happy endings cannot be overstated.
Alex Danvers, played by Chyler Leigh in Supergirl
Alex Danvers had one of the best coming out stories on television ever. It was well written, well directed, and Chyler Leigh hit it out of the park with her acting. I can write hundreds of words on Alex’s coming out story, there are just so many pieces of it that resonate and that feel realistic. The time Alex was given to work out her feelings and talk through them was extremely important, as were the conversations she had with the most important person in her life, her sister Kara.
Rachel, played by Piper Perabo in Imagine Me and You
I don’t know that Rachel of Rachel and Luce will make everyone’s list of favorite coming out scenes. It ranks on my list for one simple reason: I watched Rachel tell her parents she was in love with a woman at a time when telling the truth about my sexuality seemed utterly impossible. Rachel’s folks just go with it.
It takes two minutes of processing for her dad, (who is Giles!), to be like “To the Land Rover! Let’s go get your girl.”
At that point in my life, I desperately needed to believe that my being gay wasn’t nearly as big a deal as I feared.
Paige McCullers , played by Lindsey Shaw in Pretty Little Liars
If Rachel’s coming out scene was powerful to me for her complete lack of fear, then Paige McCullers’ coming out tops my list for accurately capturing the most daunting moments in many a queer’s life.
She said the words out loud, you guys, and the whole world changed. It’s a scene that still takes my breath away.
Ellen Morgan, played by Ellen DeGeneres in Ellen
Speaking of changing the world! Catherine and I could not, in good conscience, compile a list of iconic queer coming out stories without paying homage to our Lord and Savior: Ellen DeGeneres.
Ellen Morgan, our Queen, leaned over a microphone and spoke the words that would irrevocably alter the landscape of our lives, as well as television, forever. The obvious humor of accidentally talking into a loud speaker can be appreciated by anyone, but the joke works on a deeper level for queer viewers who appreciate the profundity and vulnerability of such a moment.
Ellen Morgan, we salute you.
We know we haven’t covered all the great coming out stories in TV and film. If you have a favorite that we missed, then let us know in the comments!