Ellen DeGeneres made history—and generated enough controversy to get her blacklisted for years—by coming out as gay both on screen and off 25 years ago this month. On ABC’s Ellen, her character Ellen Morgan announced her sexuality in “The Puppy Episode” on April 30, 1997, and the backlash was so severe that even Laura Dern, DeGeneres’ partner in that scene, couldn’t find work for a year.
Nevertheless, that episode broke new ground for LGBTQ+ representation on screen, and now, 25 years later, we’re rounding up other coming-out moments from television. Not all of these characters came out as publicly as Ellen Morgan did, but their brave admissions helped open hearts and minds and allowed LGBTQ+ viewers to see themselves reflected on the small screen.
Ellen says she’s gay, loud and clear, on Ellen
DeGeneres’ on-screen alter ego had a hard time just saying “the word” to her crush, played by Dern. And once she finally worked up the courage to come out, she unwittingly did so into a public-address microphone.
Casey says he’s a “proud trans man” on Grey’s Anatomy
After Casey (Alex Blue Davis) saved Grey Sloan Memorial from a cyberattack, he told Bailey (Chandra Wilson) why he had once hacked into the DMV mainframe: He needed his driver’s license to reflect his true identity.
David reveals his wine preferences on Schitt’s Creek
In a wine store conversation with Stevie (Emily Hampshire), David (Dan Levy) explained how he enjoyed reds…and whites…and the occasional rosé…and merlots that used to be chardonnays. “I like the wine and not the label,” he added.
Tess says she likes girls on This Is Us
When Tess (Eris Baker) told her parents she wasn’t interested in having a boyfriend, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) said that had “long been a dream” of his—but that wasn’t really what Tess was getting at.
Todd says he’s asexual, not sexual, on BoJack Horseman
BoJack (Will Arnett) heard “a sexual” when roommate Todd (Aaron Paul) came out as asexual. But once he caught on, BoJack said he sometimes wished he were asexual, too. “Maybe then I wouldn’t have a strain of herpes,” he quipped.
Robin tells Steve he’s not the classmate she was crushing on in Stranger Things
In a mall bathroom, Robin (Maya Hawke) confessed that she had eyes not for Steve (Joe Keery) but for their classmate Tammy Thompson. Steve, who was never the sharpest tool in the Hawkins shed, responded, “But…Tammy Thompson’s a girl.”
Daryl says he’s “Gettin’ Bi” on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
After a kiss on the cheek from “White Josh” (David Hull) set off a journey of identity exploration, Daryl (Pete Gardner) trumpeted his sexual orientation through song and dance—with a massive bi pride flag as a backdrop, no less!
Ben tells his mom he’s a boy, too, on Good Girls
After Annie (Mae Whitman) mentioned her ex-husband had a new baby boy, her 11-year-old (Isaiah Stannard)—who later chose the name Ben—informed her she had one as well, subtly coming out to her as trans.
Mac expresses his sexuality through dance on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Rob McElhenney underwent weeks of physical training and dance instruction for this season-finale scene, in which Mac uses a modern dance routine to tell his imprisoned father, Luther (Gregory Scott Cummins), that he’s gay.
Mae learns nonbinary is “a thing” on Feel Good
Love interest George (Charlotte Ritchie) gave affirming encouragement after Mae (Mae Martin) indicated they might be nonbinary. “You tell me, and I’ll use the right words,” George replied.