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Anderson Cooper, Melissa Etheridge, Wilson Cruz, Janet Mock, NPH & Ruby Rose share coming out stories

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Honored to be a part of the discussion on LGBTQ rights with @EntertainmentWeekly and some really incredible advocates. Link in bio. #lgbtq #pride

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Love that six LGBT people have been given their own covers of Entertainment Weekly’s Pride issue.

Each was asked how was coming out publicly was different from coming out privately.

Here are their responses:

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: I personally came out when I was leaving home when I was 18. I’m like, “I’m gay!” And they were like, “We know!” My mother didn’t talk to me for a while, but that all came back. Then I entered Hollywood, and the funny thing was, the only work I could get as a musician was at gay bars. Every-place else, you pay to play. It was crazy. I started working in lesbian bars, which was fun, but it was hard to get people to come see me. And when they did, it was like, “Yeah, I’m gay, and here I am playing.” I got turned down by every record company. But finally, when Chris Blackwell signed me to Island Records, he said, “Okay, what are we gonna do about this gay thing?” And I said, “I don’t know. I’m not gonna be anyone I’m not.” And he said, “Well, as long as you don’t flag-wave.”

There was this funny “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Nobody in the press would ask in the ’80s, early ’90s. I kept thinking, “All you gotta do is look up where I used to play and you can figure it out.” And nobody asked. It wasn’t until I did a lot of work for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign — I met so many incredible gay leaders and I went to the inaugural ball, and we had the [LGBTQ] Triangle Ball, it was the most fun ball of all, of course. And I just said, “Oh, I’m gay.” There comes a time when you just…you just do it.

ANDERSON COOPER: I came out in high school to my friends. I was in love with this guy and I was so desperate, I just asked all my friends how I could get him. And I sort of always felt like, I was out, I had boyfriends, I’d go dancing, I’d go to bars and stuff. But reporters didn’t really talk about their personal lives. And then, with Twitter and the internet, suddenly you could access something about anybody. And the expectation became “You’re a public person, you should be public.” And in the world of journalism, that was kind of still…I don’t know. It was a difficult thing to navigate.

I was traveling in the Middle East a lot. I spent most of my early years in war zones. And I’d gone to a lot of countries where it’s illegal and where, at the time, I had no security. I was by myself in Somalia and all these places and it was just easier not to say something. But I reached a point where, by not saying something, I realized I was saying something. Oftentimes you hear, “Well, why should I have to come out? I’m open in my private life. I’m not hiding anything. I never pretended.” But it does make a difference. So I thought about it a long time. I spent a lot of time writing out an explanation, a letter. And I decided not to try to make a big deal about it at the time. I just published it on a website of a friend of mine, Andrew Sullivan, and that was it.

It was actually funny because I was in Africa shooting something when it was published, and I didn’t realize I was in a place that had absolutely no cell-phone service for three days. But as soon as I got to Johannesburg, my phone lit up. And I’d realized I’d forgotten to tell my mom I was making this announcement. I’d come out to her a long time ago, but she was like, “Oh, you could’ve given me a heads-up!”

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: I was the same as Anderson for a long time. I wasn’t trying not to reveal myself. I just thought, as an actor, you need to have the opportunity to be seen as a bunch of different things without a potential bias from someone else. I do magic, and magicians as well don’t want anyone to know anything about them. And so I didn’t deny anything at all. But then I was dating my now husband [David Burtka] and I realized it was most disrespectful to him to go in the car to an opening of a movie, and then I would go down the carpet and he would go with our publicist, behind where the camera guys were, and we’d meet up at the end. And it just felt disrespectful. All that said, though, I don’t think that anyone should be told when anything is supposed to happen.

RUBY ROSE: I actually got outed by one of those [blind items in a magazine]. I was just like, “What took you so long?” Because I came out when I was 12 and my mom was like, “Yeah. I know.” I started working at MTV and everyone knew, and they were discussing, “When that time comes, how do you want to approach it?” And I was just like, “What do you mean? I just say it.” And they’re like, “No. Do you think…?” Some were worried about me coming out as gay and suggested I try coming out as bisexual, and I was like, “No! I don’t know how to pretend to be bisexual. That’s weird!” I don’t even know what that looks like because I’ve only ever been gay.

JANET MOCK: When I was 26 I decided to step forward, and be open, and invite the world into knowing that I’m trans. Having grown up in Hawaii, I came out at 12 years old and transitioned through middle school and high school. And so, when I went to college and grad school in New York City, I didn’t think that it was something that I needed to go up and say, “Hi, I’m Janet. I’m trans.” I came there to be a writer, right? I wrote for a number of years at your sister publication People. And I was following certain stories like the murder of Larry King [the out teen who was killed by a classmate in 2008]. I saw the suicide of Tyler Clementi.

We covered both those stories for PEOPLE. They were on the cover. And there was a part of me that just felt like I had a different, affirming experience that I hadn’t seen. And I was holding on to that. And the reason I wanted to write was that I could tell the truth. In that sense, my career, for me, really started when I stepped forward and told my own story. As a young trans person of color, there had been no affirming images for me. And so I was basically like, “Bitch, I guess you gotta do it.”

WILSON CRUZ: And that was the case for me, almost verbatim. I was 20 years old when I did My So-Called Life, and I was playing the first gay teenager [series regular] on primetime TV. And so it was not lost on me, the responsibility that came with that. I literally came out to my parents because of My So-Called Life, because I knew I was gonna come out publicly and I was like, “Well, I should probably tell them first.” But it was a conscious choice. And it was a conscious choice for people like you, [Janet,] because it was lonely out there. And then, to be inspired by you in return is a full-circle moment for me.

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Oh, but wait… THERE’S MORE! Be sure to pick up your copy of the @entertainmentweekly #PRIDE issue! “I took it as an opportunity to shed light on LGBT youth issues and give a voice to young people,” Cruz, now 44, says of playing abused teen Rickie Vasquez. “I felt like, at that time, there weren’t a lot of people who were willing to take those roles. Here I was, not only willing but excited to take them—and to make a difference because of them.”

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