melting our hearts

‘Heartstopper’ star Joe Locke came out on his terms, causing our hearts to burst with pride

This profile is part of Queerty’s 2023 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year.

Name: Joe Locke, 20

Bio: Joe Locke is a British actor known for his breakout, Queerties-award winning role in Netflix’s Heartstopper. In the show, Locke stars as Charlie, an adorably awkward, gay high schooler who falls in love with his best friend, Nick.

He’ll next appear in the Disney+ WandaVision spin-off, Agatha: Darkhold Diaries.

Coming Out: When Heartstopper first premiered in April 2022, fans and media alike were quick to speculate (or downright assume) the sexuality of the show’s co-leads – which Locke was (rightfully) not a fan of, according to British GQ.

“The idea of a tabloid being interested in a teenager’s love life is really gross,” Locke told the pub amid his meteoric rise in fame. “Someone making money out of rumors about who I – an 18-year-old boy – might be liking or talking to, it’s really gross and perverted.

I’m 18… I don’t know who I am yet.”

It wasn’t until August 2023 that Locke set the record straight. 

“I have been openly gay since I was, like, 12,” he confirmed in an interview with Teen Vogue. “People have assumed and written it,” he says, “and I haven’t ever corrected anyone because I haven’t felt the need to. But I’ve never specifically stated my sexuality [until now].” 

In the interview, Locke said he felt as though he needed to hold off on coming out publicly as a means to protect his family. His mother, the actor recalls, had to make new social media accounts after strangers attempted to pinpoint her location. Others even tried to call his grandmother – all things that took a toll on Locke.

“It’s a weird guilt I sometimes feel that, by association, their lives are affected by choices in my life,” he said. 

“It’s a mutual thing. I need to learn my boundaries and people need to learn their boundaries. Most attention comes from a really good place, and I hope I always appreciate that.”

Upon reflecting on his own experiences and the intense speculation of his sexuality, Locke shared with Teen Vogue how he hopes to see a shift in the future.

“There’s an idea that it’s part of the job to lose your privacy, that you lose your right to having privacy,” he said. “That’s something I hope the next generation of people in the public eye can change…. I think people are understanding that privacy is a nonnegotiable.”

Be still our hearts! We are proud of Locke for coming out on his terms, when the time was right for him. Plus, we stan anyone who acknowledges the need for healthy boundaries and is actively working on them. 

Welcome to the LGBTQ+ family, Joe! We are proud to have you!

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