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Chyler Leigh

Chyler Leigh plays the lesbian character Alex Danvers on Supergirl (Getty Images, Warner Brothers)

In the last year, we’ve seen many prominent women and non-binary actors come out as part of the LGBTQ community, including Niecy Nash, Sara Ramirez, Lili Reinhart, and Jameela Jamil.

As I was reflecting on the celebrities who have joined our ranks in 2020, I noticed that several of them have played queer characters on television. While queer media representation on Glee and Pretty Little Liars helped me speak my truth, in some of these instances, it seems that playing LGBTQ characters had the same effect on these actresses.

For instance, in March, British actress Dominique Provost-Chalkley, who stars as the bisexual character Waverly Earp in Wynonna Earp, came out as queer. While Provost-Chalkely said she knew she was queer since about age 9, she credits portraying Waverly Earp with helping her to come out. She explained, “Through this incredible, enlightening journey of playing a queer character and meeting the fans that are drawn to her, I guess I’ve reevaluated how I am to face this part of me.” Kat Barrell, who plays Waverly’s love interest on the show, also came out as bisexual in July 2019.

Similarly, in June of this year, Chyler Leigh, who plays the openly-lesbian character Alex Danvers on Supergirl, came out as part of the LGBTQ community. In an online post, she talked about how Danvers’ journey on the show mirrored her own in some ways. She explained: “What I didn’t realize was how the scene where [Alex] finally confessed her truth would leap off the pages of the script and genuinely become a variation of my own. IRL. . . . Though they don’t exactly match my personal dialogue, the heart behind it surely did. . . . And to steal from Alex’s words, that’s because there’s some truth to what she said about me.”

Supergirl also made history in the last two years with the first transgender superhero on television, Nia Nal/Dreamer, who is played by transgender actress Nicole Maines.

Other celebrities who played LGBTQ characters on television also came out this year, though they didn’t explicitly credit those roles as catalysts for coming out. In June, British actress Pearl Mackie, who played the lesbian character Bill Potts on Doctor Who, came out as bisexual.

Also in June, Taylor Schilling, who played the bisexual Piper Chapman on Orange Is the New Black, came out as part of the LGBTQ community. She also revealed that she was in a relationship with music artist Emily Ritz.

In addition, in February, Rosario Dawson, who played an openly lesbian character on Jane the Virgin, confirmed that she was part of the LGBTQ community. People had been speculating about her sexuality since 2018 when she posted on Instagram that she was “sending love to my fellow lgbtq+ homies.” In an interview with Bustle earlier this year, Dawson said: “People kept saying that I [came out] … I didn’t do that. I mean, it’s not inaccurate, but I never did come out come out. I mean, I guess I am now.” She also added: “I’ve never had a relationship in that space, so it’s never felt like an authentic calling to me.”

Whatever prompted these lovely ladies to share their truths with us, we are so happy to have them as part of our team. Media representation matters to everyone, even the celebrities who play queer characters.




Becca Damante
Becca Damante
Becca is a Smith college graduate with a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies and an Archives concentration. She has worked and written for non-profits organizations such as Media Matters for America, The Century Foundation, and GLAAD, and loves to write about the intersections between pop culture, politics, and social justice. You can find her at @beccadamante on Twitter.