From Elton John to Janelle Monáe, a History of Coming Out in Music
In honor of Billboard's inaugural Pride issue, we look back at at some of the biggest coming-out moments of the past few decades.
David Bowie (1972)
“I’m gay and always have been, even when I was David Jones.” -- interview in Melody Maker; he’d later disavow the comment as the “biggest mistake [he] ever made” in a 1983 Rolling Stone interview.
Elton John (1976)
“There's nothing wrong with going to bed with somebody of your own sex. I think everybody's bisexual to a certain degree. I don't think it's just me. It's not a bad thing to be. I think you're bisexual. I think everybody is.” -- interview inRolling Stone; he’d later call himself gay.
Boy George (1985)
“Yeah, of course I am.” -- in a TV interview with Barbara Walters, who asked if he was bisexual. He’d later identify as gay.
k.d. lang (1992)
“I feel like it’s a part of my life, my sexuality, but it’s not—it certainly isn’t my cause. But also I have never denied [being gay]. I don’t try to hide it like some people in the industry.” -- interview in The Advocate
Melissa Etheridge (1993)
“I’m very proud to have been a lesbian all my life.” -- at the Triangle Ball, an LGBTQ celebration of Bill Clinton’s first inauguration.
Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant (1994)
“I am gay, and I have written songs from that point of view...those are the facts of the matter.” -- interview inAttitude
George Michael (1998)
“I have no problem with people knowing that I’m in a relationship with a man.” -- on CNN after being arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom.
Michael Stipe (2001)
“[I’m in] a relationship with an amazing man.” -- interview in Time, in which he also called himself “a queer artist.” (The declaration flew somewhat under the radar; a 2008 interview with SPIN in which he discussed his sexuality was covered as a long-suspected but official coming-out: “Now I recognize that to have public figures be very open about their sexuality helps some kid somewhere out there,” he said.)
Lance Bass (2006)
“I knew that if I ever acted on it or even said [that I was gay], it would overpower everything.” -- in a People cover story
Darren Hayes (2006)
"I feel lucky to live in an era where my relationship can be considered legally legitimate.... I am proud of who I am, and after what felt like an eternity, I'm finally in a place where my heart is secure and content. And I can finally make sense of all of the searching." -- in a website post revealing the civil partnership ceremony he had with his partner the previous month.
“I’ve certainly had sexual relationships with women.” -- in a TV interview with Barbara Walters. (During a fan Q&A in 2013, Gaga said: “It’s not a lie that I am bisexual and I like women, and anyone that wants to twist this into ‘she says she’s bisexual for marketing,’ this is a fucking lie. This is who I am and who I have always been.”)
Adam Lambert (2009)
“I don’t think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I’m gay.” -- in a Rolling Stonecover story
Kele Okereke (2010)
"My parents are super-Catholic, and they come from a culture in Nigeria where there weren't any visible gay people who were out and were happy." -- interview in Butt Magazine, though his sexuality had come up obliquely in other interviews.
Lady Sovereign (2010)
"Magazines would always ask about it but [questions about my sexuality] would get stopped by my publicists. It was my choice, too, because I was a bit worried about it — but now I don’t really give a shit." -- interview in Diva Magazine; she said in the interview that she previously came out during her time on Celebrity Big Brother but that the footage never made it to air.
Ricky Martin (2010)
“I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man.”-- in a personal website post
Jonathan Knight (2011)
“I have lived my life very openly and have never hidden the fact that I am gay!” -- in a New Kids on the Block blog post after pop singer Tiffany appeared to have accidentally outed him during a Watch What Happens Live appearance.
Frank Ocean (2012)
“I was 19 years old. He was too.... It was my first love, it changed my life.” -- in a lengthy Tumblr post; Ocean has never labeled his sexuality.
“If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah." -- interview in Instinct magazine; in a 2009 interview he had said, “I’ve never labeled myself … Call me what you want. Call me bisexual if you need a term.”
Laura Jane Grace (2012)
“The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple.” -- coming out as transgender in a Rolling Stone interview
Troye Sivan (2013)
"On August 7, 2010, I told my family that I am gay, and now on August 7, 2013, I want you guys to know that I'm gay." -- YouTube video on Sivan's own channel
Sam Smith (2014)
“In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back... I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about.” -- interview in FADER
Miley Cyrus (2015)
“I’m very open about it -- I’m pansexual.” -- interview in Elle UK; (Earier that year, Miley Cyrus told the AP that not all of her relationships had been “straight, heterosexual” ones. She also told TIME that she identified as genderfluid but was not entirely satisfied with the label: “I’m just equal. I’m just even. It has nothing to do with any parts of me or how I dress or how I look. It’s literally just how I feel.”)
Fifth Harmony's Lauren Jauregui (2016)
“I am a bisexual Cuban-American woman.” -- in a Billboardop-ed
Teddy Geiger (2017)
“I am transitioning. I started [telling] my close friends and family about a month ago... I feel like the next step is to tell all y’all.” -- in an Instagram post
Aaron Carter (2017)
"When I was around 13-years-old I started to find boys and girls attractive.” -- in a since-deleted letter posted on Twitter
Barry Manilow (2017)
“I thought I would be disappointing [my fans] if they knew I was gay.... [but] when they found out... they were so happy." -- in a People cover story
"And since y'all love breaking news, here's some old news to break, I'm gay. And now I've told u about my life, maybe u can go life yours.” -- in a string of tweets
Janelle Monáe (2018)
“[As] someone who has been in relationships with both men and women -- I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.” -- coming out as pansexual in a Rolling Stonecover story