The top coming-out stories of 2012

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Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper has been presumed gay for many years now, but this year he made it official. “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” he wrote to friend and blogger Andrew Sullivan, who posted to the statement. Cooper is the sixth and best-known openly anchor in the cable news business – joining Don Lemon, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Thomas Roberts, Rachel Maddow and Steve Kornacki.

Paul Babeu

Although he still stands strong on immigration restrictions, Arizona’s Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu softened his views on LGBT rights after he was outed by a former lover ­– a Mexican national. The former lover told the press that the right-wing sheriff threatened him with deportation if he went public about their relationship. Babeu denied that allegation but acknowledged his sexual orientation. A backlash over the controversy forced Babeu to drop out of the congressional race in his conservative district. But he was reelected sheriff, likely the first out sheriff in his county.

Matt Bomer

Growing up, Matt Bomer always assumed he was gay but stayed safely in the closet. He auditioned for the school play and tried out for the football team – just for good measure. But no longer afraid of the extra attention, Bomer proudly thanked his wonderful family (husband Simon Halls and their 3 sons) at a Palm Springs Convention Center in 2012. Although he says coming out has made him a happier person, published reports say that it’s cost him film roles, including the lead in the upcoming film version “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

Anne Burrell

Food Network’s “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” host Anne Burrell had a bit more than  her culinary secrets reveled this year. During an interview, Ted Allen of the show “Chopped” blurted out that Burrell was not only in a relationship with a woman, but a fellow top-notch chef. The news made Burrell the first openly gay Food Network star chef.

Sam Champion

After 14 years as the most recognizable weather man on “Good Morning America,” Sam Champion happily announced his recent engagement to Brazilian fine-arts photographer Rubem Robierb this year. With that announcement, the 51-year-old Champion became the first openly gay co-host of a network morning TV show. Champion and his intended plan to wed in a small ceremony on New Year’s Eve.

Orlando Cruz

Holding the No. 4 ranking in the World Boxing Organization’s featherweight category isn’t the only reason Orlando Cruz’s name is famous. In October, the 31-year-old Puerto Rican boxer became the first active, openly gay boxer.  Since the news went public, Cruz has received overwhelming support from his fellow boxers. Asked about his love life, the hard hitter responded that his mind is all about the fight: “The title belt is my new boyfriend,” he quipped.

Rep. Mike Fleck

Residents of Pennsylvania’s 81st Legislative District can rest easier knowing they have honest representation now that state Rep. Mike Fleck has come out. The announcement came as a shock to many of his constituents. The 39-year-old lawmaker had been married before and was known as a devout Christian. But Fleck assured his constituents that nothing has changed: “I am still a Republican,” he told press, “and, most importantly, I’m still a person of faith trying to live life as a servant of God and the public.” Only now without any secrets.

Kevin McClatchy

Former Pittsburgh Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy wanted to check another thing off his list before turning 50 next year: to finally come out. Back in 1996, when McClatchy was only 33 years old, he made history by becoming the youngest owner of a major league baseball team, despite the threat of being outed by someone upset over the deal. McClatchy called the blackmailer’s bluff and kept his secret while going on to own the Pirates for nine years. He now resides with his partner of four years, Jack Basilone.

Kristy McNichol

Better known to most as Letitia ‘Buddy’ Lawrence, from the TV show “Family,” Kristy McNichol returned to the spotlight this year for other reasons. The 49-year-old former actress announced that she had been living with her partner, Martie Allen, happily for the past 20 years. McNichol said she hoped the publicity surrounding her announcement would provide some support to young people struggling with coming-out issues.

Frank Ocean

Hip-hop artist Frank Ocean is no stranger to headlines. His name is often seen alongside those of artists like Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Beyonce. He’s also won titles such as “Best New Artist,” “Record of the Year,” and “Best Male Video of the Year.” But on Independence Day 2012, Ocean made headlines after posting a story on his website paying homage to his first love – a young man he met when he was 19. The hip-hop community rushed to his support and business continued as usual when he released the acclaimed “Channel Orange” album. The 24-year-old said his next challenge may be writing a novel.

Nate Silver

For years, he worked behind the scenes gathering statistics for a multitude of things, including a gig at OkCupid calculating the best night to have a successful ‘casual encounter.’ But Nate Silver gained attention for successfully applying a math-based forecasting system to baseball, and he became a household name for developing a formula that uses polls to predict election outcomes with astounding accuracy. The 34–year–old statistician writes a blog titled “FiveThirtyEight” for The New York Times, and he hit the bestseller list this year with his book “The Signal and the Noise.” Also this year, he was named OUT magazine’s “person of the year” after publicly coming out.  He described himself as “sexually gay but ethnically straight.”

Tammy Smith

Achieving a high-ranking position for a woman in the Armed Forces is difficult enough. But in August, Tammy Smith broke a glass ceiling when she was promoted to brigadier general, making her the first out gay general in the Army. Thanks to the repeal of  “don’t ask, don’t tell, Smith’s wife Tracey Hepner was able to maintain an Army tradition by proudly pinning the star of general on her wife’s uniform. Smith said she hopes the publicity surrounding her promotion encourages others in the military.

Lana Wachowski

The ending of their most recent work “Cloud Atlas” wasn’t the only surprise this year for fans of the Wachowski sibling’s films (which include “The Matrix Trilogy” and “V for Vendetta”). Lana Wachowski, formerly Larry, surprised fans by recently announcing her decision to live openly as a transgendered woman. Now 47 and sporting neon pink dreadlocks and a smile from ear to ear, Wachowski was radiant as she told her story to an audience at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser in San Francisco.

Posthumous

Sherman Hemsley

Although he’s been gone from our living rooms for decades (unless you count re-runs), actor Sherman Hemsley, best known for his portrayal of George Jefferson on “The Jefferson’s”, lost his battle to lung cancer this year at age 74. Although his character was often loud and harsh, Hemsley was quite the opposite. “I don’t slam doors in people’s faces, and I’m not a bigot. I’m just an old hippie. You know – peace and love,” he said in an interview. As a result of pending lawsuits about his estate, it was made public that he had been residing with Kenny Johnston, a gentleman referred to as a “friend” for the past two decades. Little is known about their relationship, but this seems to confirm VH1’s 2007 description of Hemsley as their “top favorite allergy gay black actor from the past.”

Sally Ride

Known mostly as the first American woman in space, Sally Ride lived her post-astronaut days dedicated to space discovery, science, and helping young girls develop careers in math and science. It was only when she died of pancreatic cancer at age 61 that the world learned that she’d had a beloved partner – Tam O’Shaughnessy –for the past 27 years. The Ride name is familiar to the LGBT community: Bear Ride, Sally’s sister, is a high-profile lesbian ordained minister who is active in LGBT civil rights efforts. NASA recently named a moon landing site after Sally Ride, thanking her for always encouraging us to “reach for the stars.”

Local outings

Aaron Rogers

Madison radio personality Aaron Rogers (not to be confused with the football player) chose National Coming Out day to make a huge announcement on the air. With Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” playing in the background, the Z104 radio personality announced that from that moment on he would be living his life as an openly gay man. Although he had come out to his family almost five years earlier, Rogers had been keeping his orientation a secret from his fans.

JoCasta Zamarripa

State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa decided this was the year to do it. So in the middle of a primary election, the 36-year-old came out as a bi-sexual woman. Although rumors of her orientation circled her 2010 campaign, Zamarripa said she lacked the courage to face them head one. She says coming to terms with her sexuality was quite a journey – in her 20s she unable to even mention it in her diary, she confessed. She hopes by being confident and content with who she is, Zamarripa can inspire young people struggling with their identities.