20 Straight Celebrities Who Champion LGBTQ+ Rights
20 Straight Celebrities Who Champion LGBTQ+ Rights
Your career success as a celebrity is dependent on large numbers of people who’ve never met you before liking you very much, and that makes lots of celebs inclined to shy away from controversy. Not that all of them do, of course, but you can understand the personal and purely financial rationale for not ruffling feathers. Do your job, hit your marks, stay beautiful, smile for the camera, collect the paychecks.
But some celebs insist on speaking out for causes they believe in even when there’s a tinge of controversy to them. And when that means celebs are putting contracts, endorsement deals or fan support on the line in order to champion the rights of marginalized people, there’s a certain heroism in that. Because when the whole world is listening to what you have to say, your words carry extra weight, and when you don’t have any personal stakes in the game, speaking up requires extra courage.
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In honor of Pride month, here’s a brief (and certainly not exhaustive) list of 20 straight celebrities who’ve repeatedly spoken up for LGBTQ+ people:
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One of the most powerful forces for changing people’s minds about sexuality is when someone close to us comes out. Hathaway, star of Les Miserables, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar, among others, has a gay brother, and that fact has played a role in her dogged and unyielding support of LGBTQ+ causes over the years. She’s been an advocate for organizations like the Trevor Project and It Gets Better Project, and reportedly donated profits from sales of her wedding photos to groups advocating for same-sex marriage. In 2018, the Human Rights Commission even gave Hathaway an award for her LGBTQ+ advocacy work.
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Radcliffe has made a fine film career for himself, starring in the Now You See Me franchise and Swiss Army Man after his Harry Potter career came to an end. But as a former child star whose whole stardom rests on playing the title character in JK Rowling’s series of children’s books, it takes some stones to publicly confront the author herself. That’s just what Radcliffe did when Rowling tweeted transphobic things in 2020, going to bat for a cause he’d been supporting for years via involvement with the Trevor Project.
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Pitt, one of America’s foremost movie producers and a long-time fixture of celebrity gossip mags, has been vocal about his support for gay rights since well before it was popular, noting that he and then-partner Angelina Jolie wouldn’t marry until same-sex marriage was legalized in America in a 2006 Esquire article, and telling MTV in 2012 that equality as “what defines us.” He’s also been a financial supporter of the cause, donating $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign’s National Marriage Fund. Talk about putting your money where your heart is.
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Homophobic people often use children as a debate point, asking how they could possibly explain queerness to a (one imagines) straight child. Washington flipped the script on this idea in 2020. If her own daughter came out to her as queer, she said, “I’d say, ‘How exciting that you know who you are and let’s go be who you are. How can I help you be who you are in the world, unapologetically and enthusiastically? Let’s go get this.’” She’s also the recipient of awards from organizations like GLSEN and GLAAD in the past few years.
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George Clooney’s handsome, All-American charm goes a long way towards convincing people of things. It’s why he’s been a leading man in Hollywood for literally decades now, and it makes it all the more exciting that he’s willing to speak up about LGBTQ+ causes. Rumored for years to be gay, Clooney has long brushed those rumors aside in a very queer-friendly manner, saying things like “The last thing you’ll ever see me do is jump up and down, saying, “These are lies!” That would be unfair and unkind to my good friends in the gay community’” in a past interview, and intimating that those who oppose gay marriage hold outdated, harmful views.
Beyoncé & Jay-Z
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It would be revisionist history to pretend Jay’s never rapped ill-considered things about gay men, but it would also be short-sighted to pretend that people can’t grow and change. Jay has spoken up in song in recent years about his mother’s lesbianism, a bold step in a rap culture where rappers are expected to project strong, powerful images and where copping to a close family member’s queerness is a rare event. For her part, Beyoncé is regularly hiring queer people to model in her music videos and for her Ivy Park clothing line, and has vocally criticized North Carolina’s so-called ‘bathroom bill.’
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There are few American celebrities as iconic and respected as Oprah, and her support for LGBTQ+ people and causes goes back a long way. As early as 1997 she had Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show to discuss her sexuality, and said, “The God I serve doesn't care whether you're tall or short, or whether you were born Black or Asian or gay.” She’s continued to support queer communities in various ways since, including frequently highlighting books by LGBTQ+ authors for her famous Oprah’s Book Club.
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The man who publicly took credit for bringing sexy back in 2006 was a vocal proponent of gay rights back in 2011 when New York City legalized same-sex marriage, and won an Inspiration award from GLSEN in 2015 along with his wife, Jessica Biel. At a 2017 ceremony, Timberlake spoke about inclusion for marginalized people: “If you are Black or you are brown or you are gay or you’re a lesbian or you are trans,” he said, “anyone who’s treating you unkindly, it’s only because they are afraid or they have been taught to be afraid of how important you are.”
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American presidents have, historically, not been super queer-friendly. Obama changed that in some important ways during the course of his two-term presidency, saying in 2012, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” with his administration pushing the Supreme Court to legalize the practice in 2015. He was also instrumental in the 2011 repeal of the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing openly LGBTQ+ people to serve in the American armed forces.
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The 2000s were a time of great shifts when it came to queer acceptance, and J-Lo appearing on on Will & Grace, a groundbreaking gay sitcom in the 2004 airing of the show’s Season 6 finale, was one of the many pop culture moments that helped shift the conversation. Her role in producing The Fosters, a TV show that features two lesbian mothers raising a family and includes trans characters, helped net her a GLAAD award in 2014. She’s also been open about the fact that her aunt is gay, and that her sister’s child uses gender neutral pronouns.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Evans & Chris Hemsworth
The men who play these three Marvel characters — Dr. Strange, Captain America, and Thor, respectively — are internationally renowned sex symbols whose masculinity is looked up to and revered by millions of young people. It’s all the more important, then, that they set good examples when it comes to supporting the queer community. Cumberbatch, who played Alan Turing, a gay man, in the movie The Imitation Game, has spoken up about gay rights numerous times, and even officiated a wedding between two gay friends of his. Hemsworth, for his part, encouraged his home country of Australia to vote in favor of same-sex marriage in a 2017 referendum, saying, “Marriage is about love and commitment and, in a country based on equal citizenship, it should be available to everyone!” Evans, meanwhile, has tweeted about the inappropriateness of “Straight Pride Parades” and has been vocal about how having a gay brother has helped him understand LGBTQ+ issues.
Prince Harry & Meghan Markle
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When your celebrity stems from your position in the British royal family — hardly the most forward-thinking institution in the world — there’s a giant spotlight on you at all times, making these two one of the most famous couples in the world. It’s all the more heartwarming that the two have pushed back against the old-fashioned mores of the monarchy and been vocal about their support for LGBTQ+ people, both at the 2018 Commonwealth Youth Forum and in a 2019 Instagram post marking Pride month, which read, “We stand with you and support you. Because it’s very simple: love is love.”
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J-Lo isn’t the only famous Jennifer who’s openly queer-friendly. Aniston, star of We’re the Millers, the Horrible Bosses franchise and The Morning Show, has spoken about gay rights as far back as 2011 when she was vocal about New York City legalizing same-sex marriage, and more recently in explaining her decision to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the 2020 presidential election. She’s also slated to play America’s first lesbian president, alongside queer comedian Tig Notaro, in an upcoming Netflix production called First Ladies.
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Moore, a very prescient woman, had this to say about LGBTQ+ rights and gay marriage back in 2011: “Everybody has the right to marry the person they love and be represented as a couple and family. It's something that people will look back on in years to come and say, ‘I can't believe it took so long for us to recognise this.’ It'll be like segregation and giving women the right to vote.”
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Professional sports are hardly known as a bastion of queer support. They might not be as homophobic and transphobic as in decades past, but men’s sports is one area of contemporary life where LGBTQ+ acceptance has lagged behind. That makes Wade — one of basketball’s most recognizable names over the course of his career — and his support for trans rights all the more notable. Learning on the job as the parent of a trans child, Wade has repeatedly spoken up about his daughter and what her coming out and day-to-day life has taught him about transness.
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Like Wade, Cher has a trans child — her son, Chaz Bono came out as transgender in the early 2000s. Her lifelong support of Chaz long before trans issues were in the mainstream is incredibly heartwarming, and that’s on top of her ‘gay icon’ status in the LGBTQ+ community thanks to her legacy as a pop diva whose embrace of drag culture in the early stages of her career made her an honorary queer.
Many past lists of straight allies are littered with celebs who’ve since come out, and of course, it’s possible for desire to shift and change over time. That said, these celebrities have used the straight privilege they possess to advocate for the rights of queer people, and that’s a beautiful thing.
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