April 2, 2010 -- Today's closet doors must be a bit easier to open.
With the recent flood of stars coming out and embracing their true sexuality -- Anna Paquin, Ricky Martin -- Hollywood seems to be welcoming them.
Paquin, who's engaged to her "True Blood" co-star Stephen Moyer, revealed that she's bisexual in a PSA video for the the Give a Damn campaign released Thursday, which features stars speaking out for equality.
"I'm Anna Paquin. I'm bisexual and I give a damn," Paquin says to the camera. Paquin's publicist declined to comment on the PSA or the actress' sexuality.
Martin came out in a similarly direct fashion.
"I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man," Martin wrote on his Web site Monday. "I am very blessed to be who I am."
In his online announcement, Martin wrote that the major catalysts for his coming out were the personal memoirs he is writing and his two boys, whom he had through surrogacy.
"From the moment I wrote the first phrase, I was sure the book was the tool that was going to help me free myself from things I was carrying within me for a long time," Martin wrote.
Then, addressing his boys, he wrote, "This is just what I need, especially now that I am the father of two beautiful boys that are so full of light and who, with their outlook, teach me new things every day. To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids were born with."
Is Coming Out Easier Today?
Jarrett Barrios, the president of GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was the first Latino and first openly gay man elected to the Massachusetts state Senate.
Barrios said that coming out in Hollywood "is not as hard as it used to be."
"Over the last couple of years, celebrities both at the top of their careers and at the beginning of their careers have been coming out," Barrios told ABCNews.com. "All the celebrities coming out now are coming out at a time when a generation ago it meant the end of their careers, but now it can enhance their appeal and expand their fan base."
Howard Bragman, the founder of Fifteen Minutes, a Hollywood public relations company, is a well-known publicist who says he has "brought more people out of the closet than anyone else." He agreed with Barrios that coming out in Hollywood is getting easier.
"Every person that comes out makes it better for others," Bragman told ABCNews.com. "But it is still definitely not easy."
Bragman said that it would be hard to prove that coming out prevents actors from getting cast in certain roles, but that he is "sure there is still homophobia in Hollywood."
"In the end, it is called acting for a reason," Bragman said. "You need only look to people like Neil Patrick Harris and T.R. Knight to see that gay people are playing straight and doing it well."
"The single biggest thing anybody can do to help gay rights is to come out of the closet," Bragman said. "And I think every new star that comes out is helping to show that the sky doesn't fall in when someone comes out of the closet. In fact, most of the time that star lives a happier life and is still respected in their field."
Ricky Martin's announcement this week got us thinking about the pressures and the odds that stars have faced in coming out. Here is ABCNews.com's list:
Ever since the "Livin' La Vida Loca" era, fans have wondered what team the hip-swinging Latino superstar is playing for.
Just last month, Barbara Walters admitted to the Toronto Star that she was wrong to push Martin to speak about his sexuality in a 2000 interview.
"I pushed Ricky Martin very hard to admit if he was gay or not," Walters told the Toronto Star. "And the way he refused to do it made everyone decide that he was. A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now, I feel it was an inappropriate question."
Despite the Walters interview, Martin went on with his career. He released another album in 2005, called "Life," that made it to number six on the Billboard chart. Several singles from the album reached number one on the Latin charts.
Coming Out in Hollywood
Barrios said that Martin's coming out is a "game changer for gay folks and for Latinos."
"Ricky is a celebrity in English language culture," Barrios said, "but in Spanish language cultures he is a super-celebrity."
"The impact on women that were fans of Ricky when he was in Menudo is going to be profound," Barrios said. "They might have children coming out to them and they aren't going to see gay people as some sort of stereotype. They will see them as Ricky Martin, this person they know and love."
Bragman said Martin's move will start a conversation in the Latino community.
"The Latino community has had issues with homosexuality in the past and Ricky coming out will definitely start a dialogue within the community," Bragman said. "Also, he is living in Florida, a state that doesn't allow gay parents to adopt, and he is obviously a gay parent. Hopefully that will start another dialogue on that subject."
Fans must have been surprised when the matriarch of the Keaton family on "Family Ties" announced that she was a lesbian.
Last December, Meredith Baxter sat down with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show to tell the world she was gay. Baxter, who has been married three times and has five children, said that her attraction to women "was a later in life recognition of that fact."
"It has only been for the past seven years," Baxter told Lauer. "I got involved with someone that I never expected to get involved with and it was that kind of awakening."
By the time Baxter came out on "Today," she said she had been in a serious relationship for four years with Nancy Locke, an L.A.-based general contractor.
Bragman helped Baxter with her announcement.
"We knew the tabloids had the story because Meredith had been seen on a lesbian cruise, and we decided that we wanted to say something before they could," Bragman said. "I helped Baxter understand what to expect as opposed to what to say. I helped her on how to say what was authentic to her, rather than put words in her mouth."
Barrios said that Baxter's coming out forced people to question their stereotypes and "reconsider who a lesbian is."
"When a celebrity who is a mom and who is liked comes out," Barrios said, "It challenges people's truth and they become open to a new opinion."
McGillis has played opposite some of Hollywood's hottest men. She did a fairly graphic sex scene with a young Tom Cruise in "Top Gun." But she now says she is attracted to women.
About a year ago, McGillis revealed to SheWired.com, one of the largest lesbian-oriented sites, that she was a lesbian. When the interviewer, Jennifer Corday, asked McGillis if she was looking for a man or a woman, McGillis answered, "Definitely a woman."
"I am done with the man thing," McGillis said. "I did that and need to move on in life."
McGillis said that her coming out was a hard process that started when she was about 12 and conflicted greatly with some of her spiritual beliefs.
"It was a long, arduous journey for me," McGillis said. "I had a lot of things happen that convinced me that God was punishing me because I was gay, so that was a hard process for me.
"Life is a freaking journey," McGillis continued. "And it's about growing and changing, and coming to terms with who and what you are, and loving who and what you are."
Before coming out as a lesbian, McGillis was married twice.
Unlike Baxter, McGillis came out on a small, LGBT-themed Web site, but Barrios said that didn't diminish the importance of what she was doing.
"The Internet means news can travel at the speed of light," Barrios said. "And the impact is the same in the heart and the soul of the reader no matter where it comes from."
Surely some claymates, Clay Aiken's adoring fans, have been in a deep depression since finding out what many of them suspected – Aiken is gay.
Aiken told People magazine that he decided to tell the world about his sexuality after becoming a father, which he did through in vitro fertilization with his best friend, Jaymes Foster.
"It was the first decision I made as a father," the former "American Idol" contestant told People. "I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn't raised that way, and I am not going to raise a child to do that."
Aiken also said that he never meant to lie to anyone, especially his fans.
"The fans, if they leave, they leave," Aiken said. "But if they leave, I don't want them to leave hating me. I don't want them to leave feeling that I lied to them, because I didn't."
Bragman supported the way that Aiken came out.
"He was on the cover of People magazine," Bragman said. "It was a bold move and he did it with class and dignity."
"Everybody likes to say they knew he was gay," Bragman added, "but honestly, there are a lot of people that we all 'know' are gay, but there are a relatively small number of people who are open about it."
David Hyde Pierce
While his character on "Frasier," Dr. Niles Crain, fell in love with Daphne Moon, David Hyde Pierce found love with Brian Hargrove, a television writer and producer.
The relationship began in the early 1990s, but until a recent interview about his Broadway success in both "Spamalot" and "Curtains," Pierce had refused to discuss his personal life. In that interview with The Associated Press, he said that he came to Los Angeles "when his partner, actor-writer-producer Brian Hargrove, wanted to write for television." Later his publicist confirmed that they were a couple.
While accepting his Tony award for his role in "Curtains," he thanked Hargrove: "To my partner, Brian, because it's 24 years of listening to your damn notes -- that's what I am up here tonight."
The pair got legally married in California just before the Proposition 8 ban went into effect.
Barrios said that Pierce is helping to negate the gay stereotype in every corner of America.
"Because he was so well-known within an older generation of people," Barrios said, "He is helping to put a new face on gay people. The people that watch and are fans of older actors are less likely to be already supportive of gay and lesbian people, so it is almost more important that they come out."
The April cover of The Advocate said it was the interview we had waited 12 years for. Sean Hayes, known as Jack McFarland on "Will & Grace," was out.
Hayes had always been quiet about his sexuality, but told The Advocate that he was "never in, as they say. Never."
Discussing why it took so long for him to come out, Hayes said that "Nobody owes anything to anybody."
"You are your authentic self to whom and when you choose to be," Hayes said. "And if you don't know somebody, then why would you explain to them how you live your life?"
Hayes added, "I feel like I've contributed to the success of the gay movement in America and if anyone wants to argue that, I'm open to it."
Bragman said that Hayes made smart moves in his coming-out.
"I know Sean and I respect him for his courageous move," Bragman said. "I think he [came out] well and intelligently. He wanted to do it with less fanfare and he got the cover of a magazine that has been after him for a while. So far it doesn't seem to be affecting him; he opens in a new show on Broadway in a few weeks."