'I Was Afraid of Being Different': 10 Celebs Share Their Emotional Coming Out Stories

Bomer was raised in a conservative Christian home where he wasn’t allowed to watch “secular” TV, he shared during an interview with OUT Magazine. The actor, who realized he was gay while performing classics such as Romeo and Juliet and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, knew telling his parents would be a challenge.

“Telling your family is a huge, huge deal,” Bomer said. “I really view my life as divided between the time before I told my parents, and the time after. And the decisions I made, and the life I lived, before and after, are vastly different. It’s night and day.”

His parents didn’t take the revelation well. Bomer said there “was radio silence for a long, long time, at least six months.” The father of three said he went back home where he and his parents “had the blowup that I’d always feared,” although things took a turn for the better.

“We got that out of the way, and we got down to the business of figuring out how to love each other,” he said. “I would say within a matter of years we started to figure it out. It was a struggle. It’s a struggle for anybody to take their paradigms and set of beliefs and understandings and completely flip the script.”

She may have come out to the world on The Ellen Show‘s groundbreaking “The Puppy Episode” in 1997, but the talk show host first had a candid conversation with her mom, Betty, about her sexuality back in the summer of 1978, when the star was 20 years old. “We were walking along the beach and — with our pants rolled up and barefoot — and the water was coming in,” DeGeneres said during a mother-daughter interview on 20/20. “I said: ‘I’m in love.’ And she says: ‘That’s great.’ And I said: ‘It’s with a woman.’”

“And she said: ‘I’m gay’ and started to cry,” her mother recalled. “Maybe I cried with her.”

The The Talk co-host first realized she was gay while dating her Roseanne co-star Johnny Galecki. “I thought he was super cute and had a total crush on him,” she said during the talk show’s secret-spilling week. “We started dating and he would come over and we would make out, and then I would start to get depressed.” She added: “Johnny felt badly, I think, and started to take it personally and didn’t understand what was going on. So I eventually told him that I thought it was about my sexuality, and he was super sweet about it.”

For the Orange Is the New Black actress, coming out as gay to her mom wasn’t exactly the surprise of a lifetime. “She knew when I was six apparently,” she told Willie Geist on Today. “I didn’t know anyone else that was gay or a lesbian. So I didn’t really know how to word it. So I was just like, ‘I think I should let you know that when I eventually get a boyfriend, they’ll be a girl.’ And she was just like, ‘I know.’”

The Olympic skier knew he was gay since he was about 5 years old — but “because I was afraid of being different, that became my secret,” he recounted to PEOPLE. He first came out to his best friend, fellow skier Bobby Brown, and Brown’s girlfriend after the 2104 Olympics in Sochi. “I was crying, but it made me feel so good, so real, and I’d never, ever felt that,” Kenworthy shared.

As doctor Callie Torres on Grey’s Anatomy, Ramirez played one of TV’s groundbreaking bisexual characters — but “I didn’t know if I was ready to come out publicly,” Ramirez, who identifies as queer and bisexual herself, told PEOPLE.

Ramirez, who currently stars on CBS’s Madam Secretary, said hearing about continuing violence against the LGBTQ community, including the 2016 shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, convinced her she needed to speak out.

“During a movie night at my house one night, I pressed pause and then I shared my truth with the room and I waited because I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she recounted. “But everyone was very supportive and very happy for me. The reaction was something like, ‘Huh, cool. Can we go back to the movie now?’”

Like many a plot twist on his show Modern Family, Ferguson’s real-life coming out story is equal parts embarrassing and hilarious. As a freshman in high school, he got caught by security at a bookstore in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M. attempting to shoplift gay porn. “My mom and dad saw the nature of the material I was stealing, and that’s how I came out,” he shared with PEOPLE. “I find it funny now, but at the time it was incredibly traumatizing. Ironically, my father still had a hard time catching up. I snuck some straight porn in there too, so that threw him off just enough.” His father eventually caught on, however. “I’m now married [to Justin Mikita], and my father, who had such a hard time accepting my sexuality, danced at my wedding very happily,” Ferguson said.

The Flash actor told PEOPLE that even though he went to a dance high school with a large population of gay students, he was afraid to come out to his fellow classmates. “There were rumors going on around the dance world back home,” he said. “It was breaking my heart — I was going crazy. I was lying and lying and lying, doing everything I could to hold on to my secret.”

But after having a heart-to-heart with one of his best friends, he eventually decided to address the rumors head-on while at a party. “I said, I’m not straight. I don’t really label myself as anything. I have been in love with guys and I have been in love with girls,” he recalled. “That’s me.”

The Teen Wolf star didn’t come out until his late teens, although he knew from a young age that he was different from his twin brother, Max. “At a certain age I started to realize how him and I are different and I wasn’t able to really put a finger on it because the language wasn’t available yet,” the actor recalled. “[As a child] I loved to put on makeup and my mom’s dresses — and he didn’t.”

Carver shared that when he was ready to come out as gay to his friends and family, his dad — who had split from Carver’s mom because he had come out as gay, himself — and brother confessed they “already knew.”

The YouTube sensation found support from his friends and most of his family after coming out in high school — but struggled with one key figure in his life: his biological father.

“The one last person who I never told was my biological dad,” he told PEOPLE. “I knew that he came from a more conservative background, a more religious background, that leaned a little bit less supportive of gay people.”

One night, his dad invited him to dinner and asked Oakley if he was gay. When Oakley said yes, his dad offered to pay for conversion therapy. “I look back and I realize that homophobia can really disguise itself as concern,” he explained. “And that concern, [my dad] thought it was out of a place of love.”

Over the years, Oakley’s relationship with his dad has improved. “I’m really glad that I was patient with him. I’m really glad that he took time and put in the effort, because for a lot of parents I don’t think it’s that easy right off the bat,” he said.

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