Role models

Celebrities and fictional characters have educated the public about what it means to be LGBT, and acted as role models to people who are coming to terms with their own sexuality. 

We want to see people who look and act like us, real and fictional, local and national. In this section are a few of the people and events who have stood out and inspired us.

There was heated debate in the choir as to who should make it onto the ‘big gay collage’ but in the end, the day was won by whoever was quickest with a Pritt stick.

1997: Ellen comes out

 © iStockPhoto

In 1997 Ellen DeGeneres came out during an episode of her sitcom Ellen.

This resulted in a ratings slump so bad that the show was cancelled. However, Ellen went on to host The Ellen DeGeneres Show, to win 32 Emmy awards and to host the Oscars.

Many people have drawn inspiration from the example Ellen set in being brave enough to come out, to weather the storm and to succeed in spite of it.

1990: Justin Fashanu v. 2009: Gareth Thomas

Many sports lack prominent role models.

Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas came out in December 2009 to overwhelming support from other players, supporters and officials within the RFU.

Until 2013, the only UK Premiership footballer to have come out was Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu’s announcement was met with derision and abuse; his manager barred him from team training, and his brother disowned him. Fashanu went on to commit suicide 8 years later.

Music: 1998: George Michael

George Michael rose to fame in the 1980s as part of the band Wham! but gained notoriety in 1998 when he was arrested during a sting operation by undercover policemen for ‘engaging in a lewd act’ in a Beverly Hills public toilet. However George Michael refused to be shamed by his public outing and quickly released his single ‘Outside’ which featured men dressed as policemen kissing each other.

Television: 2004: The L Word


Q. how could a group of such unlikely friends, engaged in lives that are broadly miserable, often repetitive and full of toe-curlingly awful ‘banter’ provide such compelling viewing for lesbians around the world?
A. Because they were hot.

Film: 2005: Brokeback Mountain


Brokeback Mountain charts the tragic romantic relationship between two cowboys. It became ‘the most honoured movie in cinematic history’, winning more Best Picture and Director awards than previous Oscar winners Schindler’s List and Titanic combined (although it controversially did not win the Best Picture Oscar). This proves that while Leonard Di Caprio may have appeal for teenage girls, everyone loves a cowboy.

Soap star to superstar

Soaps charting the lives of LGBT characters have been fundamental to increasing acceptance of the LGBT community.

They have prompted pages of tabloid coverage, questions in parliament and countless conversations. As there were relatively few channels during the 1980s and 1990s and so little choice, at times it felt like the entire nation was sat on the sofa sharing a single moment.

‘People may not watch the news, but they watch soaps.’
Anna Friel (who played lesbian character Beth Jordache in Brookside) following the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss in 1994

Firsts include:

  • 1985 The first well-known character came out as gay in Brookside
  • 1987 EastEnders aired a chaste peck on the forehead between two men. This was also noteworthy as Barry was ‘underage’ at the time, as he was under 21.
  • 1993 The first lesbian character came out in Emmerdale.
  • 1994 The first pre-watershed lesbian kiss was broadcast on Brookside.
  • 1998 The first transgendered character appeared in Coronation Street.
  • 2004 Gays finally kiss in Ambridge on The Archers

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