dishin' it

Tom Daley, Peppermint, and more LGBTQ+ stars dish on the pop culture that helped them come out

Image Credits: Instagram | (left to right) @peppermint247, @tomdaley, @robinofjesus

All year long, we’ve been lucky enough to catch up with some of our favorite LGBTQ+ talent thanks to our Q&A series, Dishin’ It.

We’ve talked to up-and-coming stars, drag royalty, Olympic medalists, musicians, politicians, activists, history-makers, game-changers, and more, getting to know them on a whole new level. One of our favorite questions to ask—one that always gets fascinating answers—is the following:

Is there a piece of pop-culture (whether a movie, TV series, book, album, etc…) that you consider a big part of your coming-out journey? Why does it stand out to you?

Whether it was the first time someone saw themselves represented in media, a moment of gay awakening, or an icon that showed them who they wanted to be, everyone shared insightful answers that surprised and delighted us, letting us in on what it is that makes them tick.

So, before we wrap up the year, let’s take a look back on what these fabulous stars had to say…

Tyler Alvarez


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Actor (Blockbuster, American Vandal).

“Lady Gaga was a big part of my coming-out journey. I remember watching her perform “Paparazzi” at the VMAs and seeing her be so out there and so uniquely herself, it really inspired me in so many ways.

Fun story, I was at the Critics Choice Awards when American Vandal was nominated for Best Limited Series and Lady Gaga was nominated for A Star is Born. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with this incredibly significant person in my life and she didn’t even know it. Every commercial break, I would try to work up the courage to talk to her and tell her how much she meant to me, but as soon as I was within five feet from her, I would get too nervous and turn around.”

Jackie Cox


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Drag queen, former contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“Good question! I was the same age as the character Justin when the original, American Queer As Folk was airing and he was hugely impactful in my confidence coming out in high school. And, before that, Will & Grace showed me that gay people could have normal, fabulous lives.”

Hunter Doohan


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Actor (Wednesday, Your Honor).

“For me, it was definitely discovering Will & Grace in high school, which my girlfriend at the time introduced me to. Her name is Grace and she’s my best friend now—we actually moved to LA together! But that show was definitely the biggest exposure I had had to queer culture up until that point. And I loved it. I don’t even know how I was still “in the closet” because I was getting Will & Grace DVD box sets for Christmas!”

B.J. Minor


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Actor (Mike, the upcoming The Sympathizer).

“As far as coming out, not really, only because I’ve known I was gay ever since I was five years old. I have the best family and support system and I know I’m very blessed in that sense. As far as understanding what it means to be non-binary and fully understanding myself, I don’t think a piece of pop-culture specifically contributes to that either, though it’s amazing to see so much beautiful representation. I’d have to give that credit to my sister from another mister, Jonna Tamrat Devereaux. She’s an amazing friend and sister and really has just been the coolest rock under the sea with being present under this trans umbrella.”

John Fredrickson


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Politician, Nebraska state legislature.

“I initially came out in college, which is such a developmentally significant time. I was living in New York for school and I recall for the first time knowingly seeing queer folks proudly be their full, authentic selves. Shows like Rent certainly influenced me, as well as Call Me By Your Name–the book, before it was a film.”

Harvey Guillén


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Actor (What We Do In The Shadows, the upcoming Blue Beetle).

“The memory that stands out to me was: My friend Tyler and I had taken so summer classes, and so every morning that summer after the Britney Spears album came out, we would listen to it in the car on the way to school. And then we’d not talk about the CD the whole day until we got back in the car. [Laughs.]

And that was what signified to us like, “Oh yeah, we’re queer!” Like, this was the anthem, we loved this, but it was only in the safety net of the car. We just loved her, we talked about her nonstop, and then we got to school and [neither of us] mentioned it at all. But then we’d go back in the car and it was our guilty pleasure. We were still coming into our own queerness, into being honest with who we were. But I remember that so vividly. It was the Summer Of Britney!”

Dylan Mulvaney


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Activist, influencer, comedian.

“A huge part of my girlhood, also my humanhood, has been Marianne Williamson’s book A Return To Love which has given me tools to love myself even on the hard days. I also have loved the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now” because it mirrors my experience as a man, then non-binary, and now as a woman.”

Max Harwood


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Actor (The Loneliest Boy In The World, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), musician.

“Sam Smith‘s In The Lonely Hour. It was the first album that I listened to as a young adult where I heard someone using, “it’s him I love.” I love a vocalist. I love a ballad. I love Adele. And, to me, Sam is [in that same lane] without a doubt. And I’ll also say that it was probably the first album made by a very obviously queer artist—making music about their own queer experience—that was then received universally, by straight people, too.”

Jason Kim


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Writer (KPOP on Broadway, Barry, Girls).

“To me, the holy trinity is Working GirlBroadcast News, and The Birdcage. I grew up loving these movies, and I watch them still with great delight. Sure, they might get canceled to some degree if released today, but they were, for me, a portal into new worlds, where I could be banging Harrison Ford and banter with my friends like Elaine May.”

Robin de Jesùs


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Actor (Welcome To Chippendales, In The Heights on Broadway, Camp).

“The smile on Whoopi Goldberg’s face as Celie in The Color Purple when she kissed Margaret Avery as Shug Avery will always be magic to me. Despite their relationship in the story ending, that kiss let me know there could be safety in two same-sex people expressing their likes and love for one another.”

Edd Kimber


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Baker, author, former winner of The Great British Baking Show.

“When I was in my first year at university, just before I started to come out, I snuck into the LGBT Society’s film night and watched a couple of films. The first was The Laramie Project, a devastatingly sad film about the murder of Matthew Shepard.

The other was A Beautiful Thing, a British film that I would bet most British gay folks of a certain age will have seen, it was a 90’s classic. It’s an adaption of a Johnathan Harvey play, which I also had the pleasure of seeing when it was revived for its 20th anniversary a few years back. It’s a coming-of-age story between two teenage neighbors, and it has some sad and melancholic moments, but ultimately, it is just a beautiful love story. As sappy as it seems, I remember thinking how much I wanted that same sort of relationship, and like a lot of closeted teenagers, it gave me hope and a bit of a push to finally come out.”

Mufseen Miah


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Podcaster (Queer Talk), activist.

“When I think about little closeted me growing up my mind goes back to the piles of comic books I used to read because for me superheroes and comics were my escape from a reality where I wasn’t allowed to be queer. The colorful fantasy of heroes was sometimes what I needed to get me through darker times in my childhood, and I’m sure the illustrations of strong men in lycra helped too! Comics like Young AvengersBatwoman and The Authority have been showing us positive examples of LGBTQ+ relationships for years. Seeing comics I grew up with like Sandman being adapted for TV this year and being so queer in an authentic way makes me very happy.”

Travis Shumake


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First openly gay professional drag racer.

“Bring It On and Legally Blonde. I was a competitive cheerleader most of my life and seeing gay male cheerleading characters helped normalize that journey for me. Just like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, I had moments in high school when I felt like I was in a Playboy bunny costume with everyone laughing at me. Elle using that negativity as fuel to exceed expectations always inspired me. To this day, when I feel underestimated, I say, ‘I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be,’ and I stomp out of the room to buy an orange iMac. I’ve heard comments and felt underestimated by other racers and can’t help but hear Elle saying, “Am I on glue, or did we not get into the same law school?’” I’ve had to remind a few haters that I have three of the top NHRA licenses and have covered the racetrack in 3.96 seconds at 319 MPH. It’s not Harvard, but I’m not some ‘stinky old Vanderbilt.'”



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Musician, activist, former finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“Being trans, I had the opportunity to come out for myself—like, big life coming-outs—more than once. The first time was as [someone] who likes boys. The second time was as trans. So, a book that was really useful, helpful, instrumental to me was Transgender History by Susan Stryker. There’s just a lot of great quotes to pull from that book, and for me it really was the book that was like, “Okay, basically, trans people ain’t nothin’ new. We’ve been around for a long time, and even though that history isn’t really recorded that well, here’s some connections for you.” And that was really helpful—it’s very grounding.”

Christian Weissmann

Actor (Saved By The Bell, Dear White People), writer.

“I would say that Hannah Montana mania played a big part in my confidence as an adolescent. I wanted to become a popstar just like her—she was definitely a gay icon and very ahead of her time. I used to put on concerts in my living room for all who’d watch, performing the Hannah Montana: Best Of Both Worlds Tour entire setlist, front to back, choreo and all. Although, kids my age definitely made fun of me for it. So upon coming out, I got myself a Hannah Montana vinyl record and a t-shirt to commemorate that time and treat my inner child, as silly as it sounds.

Also… Will And Grace. Definitely Will And Grace.”

Johnny Manuel


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Musician, former contestant on The Voice.

“It was Queer As Folk (the American version) for me. I remember winning a $100 Amazon gift card and using it to buy the boxset of the entire series on DVD. I also remember frantically checking the tracking everyday so my parents didn’t intercept the delivery and find out what I’d ordered. I must have watched every episode at least 10 times!

Growing up in a small town, not knowing any gay people, it was my window into a new world. Watching it gave me a life to look forward to and empowered me. I desperately wanted a group of queers to call my own like they had. I hadn’t realized it was a possibility until then. And for all his flaws, Brian Kinney was a hero of mine. I’d never seen a gay man be that fearless and unapologetic. I admired the way he lived his life so much. It changed me.

Years later Noah’s Arc had a transformative impact on me as well. Seeing queer people honestly depicted on screen was major but as a Black gay man, seeing an entire cast of Black gay characters was the pinnacle. It made me fully visible for the first time. That was special.”

Tom Daley


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Olympic diver, author.

“I got Greg Louganis’ book [Breaking The Surface] when I was younger because he was a diving hero of mine. He also was a gay athlete and I remember reading it and feeling a lot less alone in the world.”

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