In honor of National Coming Out Day, we've created a special timeline. There was a time when to be gay in Hollywood was career suicide. People had to hide who they were and suppress their natural orientation if they wanted to succeed as a Hollywood personality. Thankfully, times have changed.
Rock Hudson was known for his leading man roles and dashing good looks. An open secret among those in the know in Hollywood, his sexuality was a closely guarded topic by Hudson and his manager. A joke that he and Jim Nabors had gotten married was taken seriously by the 1970s mainstream culture. The fear of one or both of them being outed was so great that the friends never spoke again (Nabors would eventually go on to begin a relationship with longtime partner Stan Cadwallader, whom he married in 2013).
George Takei's sexuality was also something of an open secret among Star Trek Fans, though he didn't publicly come out until 2005, acknowledging his 18 year relationship with now-husband Brad Altman.
Elton John made a slow process of coming out, first revealing that he was bisexual in 1973, and then coming out as a gay man in 1988, putting years of speculation to bed. He said of coming out, "[Coming out] gave me the freedom to be who I was for the rest of my life. I don't have to hide around corners. The worst thing is to be afraid of who you are – it's horrible."
Ellen Degeneres's career took a major hit when she came out as a lesbian in 1997. However, she bounced back, and went on to have one of the most successful careers in daytime television. Degeneres paved the way for other big TV and film stars to open up about their sexuality.
Neil Patrick Harris came out in 2006, one year after beginning on How I Met Your Mother. Instead of experiencing the same negative backlash that Ellen Degeneres had to go through, Harris's career continued to flourish.
Zachary Quinto's career never experienced so much as a hiccup when he came out in 2011. He still takes leading rolls in such big hits as American Horror Story and Star Trek.
Anderson Cooper's star never faltered when he acknowledged the rumors that he was gay in 2012. In an email that he gave Andrew Sullivan permission to publish, he stated, "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."
Jodie Foster's coming out at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards confirmed the long held suspicion that she was a lesbian. Because of the people who came before her, she was able to continue her impressive career with little backlash (except for the length of her speech).
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