When CNN anchor Don Lemon came out as gay, he was applauded for being one of a handful of openly gay black celebrities. Lemon’s decision to come out sparked debate about why other famous gay minorities remain in the closet. Yet, the list of famous gay people of color who’ve come out is growing. In addition to black gay and lesbian celebrities, the list includes gay Latino celebrities and famous gay Asian Americans. Can you name any of the stars likely to appear on this list? This compilation includes more than 20 celebrities of African-American, Asian-American and Latino descent.
1. Frank Ocean
2. Ricky Martin
Long before he came out, rumors swirled about the sexual orientation of Puerto Rican singing sensation Ricky Martin. In fact in 2000, Barbara Walters grilled the star about his sexuality, but he refused to confirm or deny the gay rumors. That all changed on March 29, 2010, when Martin announced on his website that he is "a fortunate homosexual man." What prompted him to finally come out? He credited the twin sons he fathered with an egg donor and surrogate mother with giving him the courage to make the decision. Writing his memoir also played a role. “Writing this account of my life, I got very close to my truth,” he said. “And this is something worth celebrating.”
3. Wanda Sykes
Although actress-comedienne Wanda Sykes said that everyone personally acquainted with her has long known she’s a lesbian, Sykes did not publicly come out until November 2008. That’s when California voters passed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. “I'm proud to be a woman. I'm proud to be a black woman, and I'm proud to be gay,” she said. When Sykes came out, she also announced that she’s married to a woman. The couple have children. Before coming out, Sykes spoke out about gay rights and took part in a campaign to raise awareness about the danger of anti-gay slurs. Sykes has starred on “The Chris Rock Show,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” and “The Wanda Sykes Show.”
4. George Takei
Japanese-American actor George Takei, best known for playing Sulu on “Star Trek,” came out as gay in October 2005. At the time, the then 68-year-old actor had been with his partner Brad Altman for 18 years. A survivor of a U.S. internment camp during World War II, Takei said that he grew up feeling ashamed of both his ethnicity and sexuality. “The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay,” he said. “The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young.” Takei is far from the only gay Asian-American actor. There’s also Alec Mapa of “Ugly Betty” fame, Rex Lee of “Entourage” and B.D. Wong of “Law and Order SVU.”
5. Wilson Cruz
Wilson Cruz rose to fame playing gay high schooler Rickie Vasquez on the short-lived but critically acclaimed TV series “My So-Called Life.” Gay in real life, the native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent has raised awareness about homelessness among gay teens. Cruz’s father reportedly kicked him out of the house after learning that he was gay, leaving the then teen with no place to stay. Still active as an actor, Cruz appeared on “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2011. He’s an LGBT activist as well as an actor. Like Cruz, Cuban-American actor Guillermo Diaz of “Half Baked” fame is openly gay. Fellow Cuban-American Mario Lavandeira is no actor but writes about celebrities all the time on his notorious gossip blog PerezHilton.com.
Singer and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello gained popularity with her 1993 Grammy-nominated single “If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)." Ndegeocello has worked with musical luminaries John Cougar Mellencamp, Madonna and Herbie Hancock. The bisexual Ndegeocello, linked previously with writer Rebecca Walker, tackled homophobia with her hit “Leviticus: F**got.” She’s also raised AIDS awareness with the Red Hot Organization. "I feel like my sexuality preceded my music for a long time. It was used as a marketing tool...and I didn't really get it at the time. I was just out,” she said in a 2009 interview. Other black lesbian musicians include Tracy Chapman, once partnered with author Alice Walker, and gospel star DeJuaii Pace.
With her androgynous looks, Japanese-American Jenny Shimizu attracted the attention of reps from Calvin Klein. She soon achieved supermodel status, donning fashions from high-profile designers such as Gianni Versace. Shimizu acts, too, appearing in the 1996 movie “Foxfire.” During filming, she romanced costar Angelina Jolie. “My label for myself has just always been ‘queer,’” Shimizu said in a 2010 interview. Shimizu also appeared on the episode of “Ellen” where the comedienne came out. “To come out and be better than ever and persevere and not go back into the closet or apologize for her lifestyle, she’s part of our team,” Shimizu said of Ellen DeGeneres. Other queer Asian-American women include Tila Tequila and Margaret Cho.
8. John Amaechi
In 2007, former NBA center John Amaechi became the first pro-basketball player to come out—doing so in his book Man in the Middle. Asked why more NBA players haven’t come out, five-season veteran Amaechi said, “There are people for whom their entire world is based around this idea that people will look at them and when they look at them, they are NBA superstars, NBA players. And any change to that would be…emotionally devastating, financially devastating.” A year before Amaechi came out, WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes announced that she’s a lesbian. And in 2011, former Villanova basketball player Will Sheridan came out as gay, becoming the second former Division One male basketball player to do so.
Mexican-American writer Richard Rodriguez is Catholic, Republican and gay. Rodriguez has received both acclaim and criticism for his works Hunger of Memory, Days of Obligation—a Pulitzer Prize finalist—and Brown. Rodriguez spoke to Salon.com in 2008 about being a gay Latino, explaining, “In my own my family...it would have been impossible for them to have dealt with the words ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ in my relationship with them. They didn't want it said, they didn't want it named or defined, but they assumed it and accepted it. These communities have very intricate ways of dealing with these things and they are not necessarily the highly politicized tactics that you see in traditional middle-class society in America.”