Just this past Sunday, October 11th, was National Coming Out day. People all over social media celebrated their identities, some even coming out for the first time. It's hard to fully grasp the significance of coming out unless you've had to do it yourself at some point. It takes extreme bravery and courage. While not everyone can come out for their own safety--we celebrate them too. No matter where you are in your journey, you are seen and valid.
A lot of times, when we are able to see people on television coming out it makes the idea less scary. At the very least, you can connect with that character on a very deep level. Some scenes are devastating, others light-hearted and enjoyable. All of them are beautiful. So, in honor of those out and proud, of those in the closet, and everyone in between: here is a list of the top coming out scenes on television.
Mickey Milkovich, Shameless
When I think of coming out scenes, this is the first one that comes to mind. It's unlike any scene I've seen. In this, Mickey and his boyfriend argue about Mickey being ashamed of Ian because Mickey is not out as gay. Just as Ian is leaving, Mickey gathers the attention of everyone in the bar and announces that he's gay. This is especially significant because many people in the bar happen to be raging homophobes, especially his violent father. His father flips a table over in rage, and run at Mickey. Ian runs back in and happily defends his boyfriend. Soon, the entire bar is fighting. Afterwards, the cops are called. Even thought Mickey is originally arrested, he's let go and he and Ian share a sweet moment. They're finally free.
This scene was huge not just for Ian and Mickey as a couple, but Mickey as a character. He'd lived in fear for so long, and it had taken seasons for him to deal with his internalized homophobia. As you can observe in the scene, he's still very much scared of coming out--but he's more scared of losing Ian. Afterwards, Mickey expresses no regret in the decision and seems much happier being open about who he is.
Ian Gallagher, Shameless
Ian's coming out scene is much less dramatic than his boyfriend's, but it is beautiful nonetheless. Ian is a character who knows he's gay from episode one of the show, and is much more comfortable with it. He's nervous about telling his family, but he knows they will ultimately support him no matter what. In the scene above, he's coming out to his older sister who has acted as a mother figure for him and his siblings. She's busy scolding him for a mistake made earlier in the episode, and as she's leaving, he calls out for her. Then, he says he's gay. She simply says, "I know." When Ian apologizes for not telling her sooner, she smiles and shrugs. Before leaving, she assures him he's still in trouble. Once she's gone, Ian smiles to himself. He seems relieved that nothing has changed.
Kat Edison, The Bold Type
Kat Edison is a character who believes she's straight for many years of her life, even into adulthood. It isn't until she falls in love with a woman in season one that she begins to explore her sexuality. Kat continues to explore her relationships with men and women as the show goes on, but she takes some time to figure out what label she feels comfortable with. At first, she doesn't want a label, but she changes her mind. This is such good representation for everyone still figuring out their sexuality. Kat showed us that there is no need to label yourself right away, and taking the time to explore is more than okay. In this scene, Kat comes out as bisexual to her two closest friends, the other protagonists on the show. She expresses how important the label is to her now, and they show nothing but unwavering love and support. This scene makes me feel so warm and cozy.
Santana Lopez, Glee
Santana Lopez is, at least for me, one of the first lesbians I saw on television. We watched her character deal with internalized homophobia, fall in love with her best friend, and be outed to her whole school. Her journey was hard on her, and just as heartbreaking for us to watch. You couldn't help but feel proud of her when she finally became confident in herself and her sexuality.
In this scene, Santana comes out to her grandmother who she is very close to. She tells her to sit down, and you can almost feel the anxiety but eagerness she's feeling as she tells her grandmother how much she admires her. When she finally comes out, she does so with a beautiful monologue that many queer teens can relate to. Unfortunately, it doesn't go over well. Her grandmother tells her to leave the house and never return. It's an extremely painful scene to watch, but it's unfortunately the reality for many teens and it is important that that is portrayed as well. Despite this no doubt traumatic experience, Santana continues to love her girlfriend, even marry her, and love who she is.
Kurt Hummel, Glee
Kurt was another iconic gay character on Glee. His coming out went much smoother than Santana's, though it wasn't without struggle. Kurt had spent episodes before this trying to be masculine, trying to prove that he could be straight, and all for his father's benefit. However, by this scene, he realizes who he is, and that that is just fine. More than fine, it's spectacular.
His father comes downstairs to say goodnight, and just as he's leaving Kurt calls out for him. When he tells his dad that he's gay, his dad tells him he knows. That he's known since Kurt was three years old. He explains that while he isn't thrilled about it, he still loves and supports Kurt no matter what. This coming out scene is a great example of what a lot of teens face. It isn't overwhelming acceptance and celebration, but it's tolerance. It's love. The best thing about this scene is that it's just the start. As the show goes on, Kurt's father becomes a full blown ally for Kurt.
Cole, Anne With an E
Another scene that will make you tear up, but in a good way this time. In Anne With an E, the show explores what it was like to be gay in the late 1800s. The show featured a lesbian briefly in one of the episodes, and refers back to her in this scene as Cole, a close friend of Anne's, tells her that he's gay.
Cole is harassed by a teacher unfairly before this scene because the teacher recognizes that Cole is gay. Cole eventually runs off, and Anne finds him right after school. This is where she finds him hiding, creating art--it's what he loves to do. When she asks him why the teacher was so unfair to him, Cole explains that it is because the teacher is like him and doesn't want to be. When Anne expresses confusion, Cole further explains, referring back to the woman who is a lesbian earlier in the show. He says he's like her. Anne understands, and immediately thanks Cole for sharing this information with her. She doesn't pretend to understand, but tells Cole that he is loved nonetheless. She says, "Love who you love and be with them."
Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Rosa is one of the most popular and prominent bisexual characters on television today. Her coming out was huge and resonated with a lot of fans. Rosa is an extremely private person, so it makes sense that she would be more apprehensive about coming out than a lot of these other characters. She never talks about her personal life, but she feels the need to when one of her co-workers and friends finds out that she's bisexual by accidentally overhearing a phone call. Rose then decides that it is time to come out to the rest of her co-workers and friends. At a meeting, she stands up and even though she is noticeably nervous, announces that she is bisexual. She gains immediate support, and allows them to ask a few questions. This is a comedic take on coming out, a much needed refresher after some of these scenes. It is especially heartwarming considering her captain at the precinct is gay, and later tells her that every time someone stands up and says who they are, the world becomes a better place.
Elena Alvarez, One Day at a Time
Elena Alvarez is a more recent addition to the queer representation on television, but she's already won the hearts of so many. Watching Elena's story--her coming to terms with being a lesbian, coming out to her family, being rejected by her father but supported by the rest of them, and eventually finding a romantic partner she loves, is stunning. Her partner is also one of the only non-binary characters on television. This is great representation, and all of Elena's coming out scenes were beautiful. Before the one above, she had a conversation with her mother and her mother was accepting immediately. They knew the difficult part would be coming out to her very religious grandmother who also lives with them.
In this scene, her grandmother pretends to be okay with it for Elena's sake, but the second she is gone she turns to her daughter in a panic. They sit on the couch, and in just ten seconds, the grandmother talks herself through the initial panic and decides that she is okay with it. This is the clip that went viral on the internet: I saw it before I even saw the show. She begins by saying she's a religious woman, and that she believes in God. She follows this with saying God does make people in his image, and that he doesn't make mistakes. She ends with questioning who she is to go against God and the Pope--and decides she's going to support Elena. She even asks when the parade is. This scene was specifically beloved by many because the grandmother goes through the thought process that many of us wish homophobic people would be able to comprehend, and in all of 10 seconds. She does this because she loves her daughter.
Victor Salazar, Love Victor
Love, Victor is a show that is centered around its main protagonist coming to terms with his sexuality. Therefore, we knew a coming out scene would be inevitable. It's almost painful watching Victor go through the confusion and hurt that comes along with realizing his sexuality. However, this scene is enough to immediately warm your heart.
In this scene, Victor tells his closest friend, Felix that he's gay. He's so nervous, that he tells his friend to turn around and not look at him. This is a great portrayal of how even when you are so close to someone, it can still be terrifying to come out. Ultimately, Felix asks if he can turn back around. Then, he pulls Victor into a hug and assures him that this changes nothing between them, and that he's honored he told him. Because Felix is the first straight person Victor tells that he's gay, this is a huge step for him.
Emily Fields, Pretty Little Liars
For a lot of young people today, Emily Fields is the first lesbian they ever saw on TV. I know that when I watched Pretty Little Liars, she was the only character I'd ever seen who was exploring her sexuality. In Pretty Little Liars, each of the main characters had a "dark" secret they didn't want others to know about, and Emily's was supposed to be that she's gay. While this isn't exactly the perfect way to portray her sexuality, it is significant in that it showed how vulnerable coming out is. You can feel her fear as she tells her father that she's afraid of her parents. She's ashamed, although by the end of the series she has become proud of who she is.
In this scene, she comes out to her father after he accuses her of hiding something. Emily is crying as she tells him she's gay. Afterwards, she listens as her parents fight. Her mother believes Emily is going through a phase, while her father argues this is who she is and they're just glad that she's healthy and alive. As the show progresses, Emily becomes more confident in her sexuality and so do her parents.
Alec Lightwood, Shadowhunters
Last but not least, we have Alec Lightwood. While he has come out to plenty of people before this scene, this is where he finally accepts who he is for himself, and decides he's done pretending otherwise. Alec is a beloved character both in the Mortal Instruments books and the TV adaptation, Shadowhunters. On the show, although Alec is aware of his sexuality, he is a character who values duty and family above all else. For this reason, he is prepared to marry a woman in order to secure an alliance. His secret romantic partner, Magnus, shows up at the wedding last minute. Suddenly, Alec can no longer pretend. With the blessing of his would-be bride, and the support of his siblings, Alec leaves the altar to kiss Magnus in front of the entire wedding party. He even finally stands up to his mother, when she tries to stop him and he simply walks by without a second glance and tells her, "enough". This was a pivotal moment for Alec's character, and showed that being who you are should be something to be celebrated.
No coming out experience is the same, and television is true to this fact. No coming out scene is the same, either. Whether they are sad, ending in devastation and lost family, or warm and supportive, they reflect real people. It can be comforting watching a character you admire go through the same struggles as you. These characters and these wonderfully written scenes have no doubt inspired many. At the very least, they make us feel safe, if only for the few seconds they are on screen. Again, it is important to know that no matter where you are in your journey, you are seen and you are loved.