Understanding your sexuality doesn’t happen overnight, and for many, it’s a lifelong journey. And while
LGBTQ+ celebrities often serve as an inspiration for fans, and it can be easy to forget those celebs weren't always out and proud. Some LGBTQ+ actors, musicians, and other public figures explored their sexuality in private for years before coming out to the public because — while sometimes you have a lightbulb moment — discovering you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community can also be a gradual realization. Celebrity quotes about realizing they’re LGBTQ+ prove every journey is distinct.
"Coming out, or 'inviting in,' looks different for everyone, as
we all have our unique paths to understand and to accept ourselves with relation to our gender and sexual identities," Jor-El Caraballo, co-creator of holistic wellness center Viva Wellness and a therapist specializing in LGBTQ+ clients, previously told Elite Daily. Likewise, everyone’s first experiences with exploring and challenging their identities are one-of-a-kind.
While it’s totally up to everyone to decide what parts of their life (if any) they want to share with the world, you may just find solace in these candid quotes from LGBTQ+ stars who understand that confusion and experimentation are part of the process — as are peace, love, and joy.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images When I started getting older, I started realizing how queer I really am. This past year I was engaged to a man, and when it didn’t work, I was like, ‘This is a huge sign.’ I thought I was going to spend my life with someone. Now that I wasn’t going to, I felt this sense of relief that I could live my truth.
Demi Lovato to in March 2021 Glamour Julien Hekimian/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images For me, sexuality and sexual identity and fluidity is a journey. It's not a destination. I've discovered so much about myself over the years as I've evolved and grown and spent time with myself and loved ones. That's the exciting thing — always finding out new things about who you are. And that's what I love about life. It takes us on journeys that not even we ourselves sometimes are prepared for. You just adapt to where you are and how you've evolved as a free-thinking person.
— Janelle Monáe to
in April 2019 them. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images When I started to come into my sexuality, I was around 19 or 20 years old — and I’m only 22 now. So part of me did almost feel like, ‘I’m too late; I should have known this about myself,’ and I wasn’t validating myself and I was questioning myself all the time... until I started to talking to people who had similar experiences to me ... The timing of when you realize isn’t important; it’s about the celebration and being able to embrace it. That’s what matters.
— Rebecca Black to
in April 2020 Gay Times David Livingston/FilmMagic/Getty Images I’ve always felt the way I’ve felt. It wasn’t a new feeling; it was just the discovery of a language and a community of people that felt the same way. It’s been lovely. It’s been a process of feeling heard and seen — that there is a space that I can live in and enjoy my life in and feel completely like myself, and be treated as such.
— Sam Smith to
Bizarre in October 2020 Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images One of the greatest things L.A. has given me is awareness. I realized there’s a spectrum and different ways people identify. I started meeting different people and went, ‘Am I attracted to women? I’ve always felt close to friends who were girls, but is this a thing?’ I only allowed myself to experiment and discover once I realized the possibilities.
— Lilly Singh to
in November 2020 Glamour John Lamparski/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images It takes a lot of learning to not listen to somebody else in regards to what's beautiful. Because I grew up around these rigid gender roles, when I was 18, 19, my coming-out process was about over-correcting myself in order to fit into this other part of society ... Then at some point, when I was around 22, I just stopped. I was like, 'I'm just going to do whatever I want and I hope that some other people follow suit.’
— Theo Germaine to
in June 2020 Vogue Mike Coppola/FilmMagic/Getty Images Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images I’ve been with everybody under the sun, and right now I’m in the best relationship that I’ve ever been in with a woman, and she’s queer, too. She’s helped me realize that I fit under the queer umbrella and that I’m sexually fluid, I guess ... No, not ‘I guess.’ I don’t want anyone to take this [interview] and be like: ‘Well, he was kind of wishy-washy about it.'
— Tyler Posey to
in July 2021 NME Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images I remember being in fifth grade. I was waiting for my bus. I remember this so weirdly and vividly, just standing by myself going, 'Do I like girls?' I don't even know where it came from or why. I remember looking at this article — I think it was in Cosmo — that asked, 'Do you want to be with that woman that you're looking at, or do you want to be her?' I was like, ‘I would like to be her, because she's a sexy, amazing woman, but I also want to be with her.'
— Lili Reinhart to
in September 2020 NYLON Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images I think that [childhood anxiety] came from a deep-rooted fear of knowing that I was gay and not being able to be free. By the time I got to high school, when your brain is starting to catch up to your physical impulses, it led to a very confusing time. Because on the one hand, you are now being introduced to things like self-awareness and anxiety. At the same time, you're becoming more and more savvy when it comes to hiding it.
— Dan Levy to
Bustle in December 2020 David Crotty/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images I realized I had so much internalized homophobia and so much discomfort around hooking up with dudes. I always knew that when I hooked up with girls, it was the happiest I’d been in any sexual dynamic. I love that we have this umbrella term of 'queer,' and so many things can exist underneath it, but I realized that part of my journey was hiding underneath that umbrella, because I was scared — on a personal and a public level — to confront what I was.
— Amandla Stenberg to
in September 2018 Seventeen Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images I knew right once I saw her, like, ‘Whoa, she’s really pretty, and I really like her.’ But I was just thinking, ‘Oh, like a friend.’ As we became best friends, I was like, ‘Mmm, I don’t think it’s that’ ... I couldn’t avoid my feelings. The tension was like, you could cut it with a knife.
— JoJo Siwa on
in July 2021 4D with Demi Lovato Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images I knew I was a boy when I was a toddler. I was writing fake love letters and signing them ‘Jason.’ Every little aspect of my life, that is who I was, who I am, and who I knew myself to be. I just couldn’t understand when I’d be told, ‘No, you’re not. No, you can’t be that when you’re older.’ You feel it. Now I’m finally getting myself back to feeling like who I am, and it’s so beautiful and extraordinary, and there’s a grief to it in a way.
— Elliot Page to
in April 2021 Vanity Fair Morgan Lieberman/WireImage/Getty Images In my private life, it's been going on for a long time. I obviously don't really identify as a straight woman ever in my life, but I feel like now I'm really in my queerness. I'm in L.A. living my L Word life. Isn't it amazing?
— Barbie Ferreira to
in July 2019 Out Kevin Mazur/2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images I can’t remember who described it [pansexuality] to me, but it was basically like, ‘That’s who you are when you love anyone and everyone.’ I was like, ‘Great. That’s what I am.’ It just stuck, and I ran with it ... I thought I was straight my whole life because nobody presented any other option. I didn’t know any queer people. Nobody in my family is queer. The older I got, the more access I had to the internet and I got to see other people living lives that were nothing like the one I had in front of me.
— Madison Bailey to
in June 2021 StyleCaster My intervention is evolution — I’m just another person transitioning. I’m showing gender fluidity; how fast and dynamic and vulnerable it can be, how it’s an ongoing thing ... But I’m no longer interested in playing ‘male’ characters — except for maybe in a ‘Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan’ way. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘No, this is just who I f*cking am.’
— Tommy Dorfman to
in July 2021 Time Charley Gallay/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Recently I’ve found myself wondering why and how my brain had been programmed to ignore an attraction that in retrospect seems so evident to me. I believe it was all just a matter of chemistry that had nothing to do with gender ... I still don’t feel like I’m in a place to label my sexuality one way or another, but I’m OK with that. It’s something I’m still exploring and figuring out ... Even I don’t entirely understand what my experience this summer means for me going forward — and it’s my experience.
— Kaitlynn Carter to
in November 2019 Elle Edward Berthelot/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images I grew up in an old-fashioned, repressed English family. And I used the word ‘gay’ to describe things ... I think that came from the fact that I just didn’t want to admit who I was. I didn’t want to upset my family. I was deeply unhappy and depressed. When you don’t accept a part of yourself or love yourself, it’s like you’re not there, almost.
— Cara Delevingne to
in June 2020 Variety Emma McIntyre/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images All the girls would go to the Promenade to hang out with cute boys, and it made me feel very alone. It was depressing to watch girls that I liked flirt with guys. So I just stayed home ... My first [female-identifying] friend who liked girls really changed my life because she was comfortable with who she was. It made me want to be comfortable with who I was.
— Hayley Kiyoko to
in July 2018 Rolling Stone Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images That’s why when I watched Joe and Frankie [Serafini and Rodriguez, who play a gay couple on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series] film the scene in Season 1, Episode 5, ‘Homecoming,’ where for the first time they danced together, I just remember full body chills, weeping. I didn’t connect the dots why until recently... the reason that made me so emotional. I’m getting so emotional now because they were speaking their truth despite the inevitable reaction that they were going to get.
— Joshua Bassett to
in June 2021 GQ Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic/Getty Images ...I was forcing myself and shoving myself into a box that didn’t fit me, and I was causing myself so much pain and trauma just trying endlessly to be something that I wasn’t because that’s all I thought I could be. We talk so much about the boxes society puts us in as queer people and the boxes that the world puts us in and bullies put us in and blah blah blah, but we never talk about the boxes we put ourselves in … I didn’t realize that the pain being inflicted wasn’t inherently societal; it was self-inflicted.
— Lachlan Watson to
MTV in December 2018 Amy Sussman/KCA2021/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images ...I’ve always kind of put myself in the ally category because I had some weird narrative about not deserving to be a part of the LGBTQ community. I don’t know what that is. Some inborn self-judgment [or] self-imposed something. But... I’m not an ally. I’m a member part of this, I’m not just an ally. So it’s been, honestly, I would say it feels very vulnerable. It feels very exposed and different, but I’m surfing this new wave and it’s been really special.
— Dove Cameron to
in June 2021 Us Weekly Rich Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images Growing up, I definitely put on every nail polish, every heel, every scarf ... When I would play with those things, I knew it needed to be before the sun came up or after the sun came down, like, in the basement, and it needed to be something I couldn’t wear to school... but I didn’t really put that together with “gender nonconforming” or “nonbinary” or owning that as an identity until recent because I think I just thought that I loved skirts and heels.
— Jonathan Vas Ness to
in June 2019 Out Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images When I got to the script for Billions and the character breakdown for Taylor Mason, the character that I play, said female and non-binary, a little light bulb went off in my head ... I did a little bit of research and discovered that female is an assigned sex and non-binary is in reference to gender identity and those are two different things. It finally helped me put language to a feeling that I'd had my entire life."
— Asia Kate Dillon to
ABC News in January 2018
Realizing you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ isn’t always a lightbulb moment, but when it happens, it’s always a beautiful thing.
Expert: Jor-El Caraballo, therapist and co-creator of holistic wellness center Viva Wellness