Celebrate Pop Culture's Path of LGBTQ Pride: A Timeline
The Path of Pride
From Oscar-winning movies to boundary pushing shows, take a look back at the most memorable LGBTQ moments from the past quarter of a century.
1993: Tom Hanks Shatters the Pink Ceiling
With his Oscar-winning portrayal of a lawyer who’s fired for having AIDS in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, Hanks’ move liberated every actor who has followed him to pursue great roles — not just straight ones.
1994: Pedro Zamora Changes Reality TV
AIDS took the life of the Real World: San Francisco star at 22, but in his too brief time, the Cuban-born Zamora managed to personalize the disease for millions of Gen-X viewers — and proved that reality TV could offer much more than late-night hot-tub fights.
1995: To Wong Foo... Makes Drag Mainstream
One year after The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert became an art-house fave, straight leading men Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo transformed themselves into bewigged beauties in the touching and hilarious To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.
1996: Rent Transforms HIV Into a Human Issue
Jonathan Larson’s gut-wrenching, Pulitzer-winning rock musical showed that HIV and AIDS could affect anyone — regardless of orientation.
1997: Ellen DeGeneres Comes Out
Yep, she’s gay! After DeGeneres told Time she is a lesbian, her alter ego, Ellen Morgan, shared similar news in an airport full of travelers — as well as with 36 million viewers. “The Puppy Episode,” as it was known, would win an Emmy and a Peabody. But DeGeneres faded into obscurity and has not been heard from since. (JK!)
1998: Will & Grace Normalizes Gays for America
Vice President Joe Biden said it best in 2012: “I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.”
1999: Hilary Swank Gives a Human Face to Trans Struggles
Swank’s portrayal of murdered transgender man Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry not only won her an Oscar, it made marginalized trans Americans more visible than ever.
2000: Queer as Folk Takes Gay Sex Out of the Closet
Showtime was the first American network to air an hour-long series about a group of gay and lesbian friends. Based on a British drama of the same name, Queer trafficked in steamy subject matter (like porn addiction) that helped it become one of the network’s highest-rated shows.
2001: Buffy Braves Lesbian Love
Joss Whedon’s decision to tell the love story of Willow and Tara culminated with an on-air kiss that defied network censors.
2002: Rosie O’Donnell Slips Out of the Closet
With a successful talk show and magazine, the “Queen of Nice” had an empire at stake when she came out. But the Emmy winner did it her way, during a small stand-up comedy show in February. (The next month, she opened up to Diane Sawyer on ABC.)
2003: Queer Eye Bridges the Gay-Straight Divide
On the surface, the Fab Five’s makeovers of hapless, hirsute bros were fun to watch — but more important, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s stars helped integrate the worlds of out-and-proud gay men and more narrow-minded straight people. Turns out, we can all get along.
2004: Massachusetts Issues First Same-Sex Marriage Licenses
Massachusetts, let’s revel in your wicked awesomeness for a second: You gave us Cheers, Good Will Hunting, and gay marriage! After the state was the first to legalize same-sex marital unions, almost 2,500 couples applied for licenses during the first week that marriage was available to them. A flood of states would follow Massachusetts’ lead over the next decade.
2005: Brokeback Mountain Changes Hollywood
The cinematic romance nobody could quit — and the love that dared lasso its name, thanks to dreamy denimed cowboys Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
2006: Celebs Come Out; World Shrugs
2007: J.K. Rowling Queers Dumbledore
2008: Rachel Maddow Breaks News
Thanks to forebears like CNN anchor Thomas Roberts, who came out in 2006, Maddow became the first openly gay anchor to host a major prime-time news show in the U.S. In the years since, she’s also become one of the most trusted.
2009: Modern Family Brings Gays Home
Twelve years after Ellen DeGeneres came out on ABC, the network debuted another landmark series, which showed that a gay couple and their child could have highs and woes as relatable as any other family.
2010: It Gets Better Helps Save Lives
2011: Glee Hits a High Note
2012: Frank Ocean Crashes Stereotypes
By outing himself in a remarkably honest online confessional, the R&B superstar challenged every preconception of the music industry and black male sexuality in one graceful, unforgettable swoop.
2013: Laverne Cox Makes TV History
2014: Transparent Redefines Family
Jill Soloway’s impeccably written and acted Amazon series turned extraordinary circumstances — a father (Jeffrey Tambor) who comes out as a trans woman — into ordinary ones; it’s a fascinating examination of a messy, complicated, and loving family.
2015: Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage
Love wins: LGBTQ Americans had even more reason to celebrate Pride that June when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Andy Cohen captured the nation’s ecstatic mood best on June 26: “It sure is beautiful.”
2016: #WeAreOrlando, Remembered
After the unthinkable massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12, thousands of celebs paid tribute. But at that year’s Tonys, which was dedicated to the victims and their loved ones, Lin-Manuel Miranda found light in the darkness — and unwittingly gave the LGBTQ movement a new rallying cry: “Love is love is love is love...!”