12 people share their coming-out stories in honor of Pride Month

We asked celebrities, writers, activists and everyday citizens to open up about the moment they shared their truth with their families — and the world.

For many people in the LGBTQ community, the experience of coming out is a transformative one that shapes not only how others see them, but how they see themselves. And yet, for others, there is no definitive moment, no before and after. After all, LGBTQ people must choose whether they want to come out to every new person that they meet for the rest of their lives. And it is not a decision to take lightly: Safety and support must be taken into consideration.

Throughout the years, the experience of coming out has evolved, as gay rights expanded and LGBTQ voices became more mainstream. And yet, every individual experience remains unique. On the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which helped propel the LGBTQ rights movement forward, we asked people from multiple generations — from teens to senior citizens — to share their stories.

"I told my dad to pause the TV and I said that I was bi. He was like, 'All right.' Then we just kind of moved on. My parents were both very supportive. My heart goes out to all the people with unsupportive parents and family members, or without gay-straight alliances or supportive staff members in their schools."

-Molly Pinta, 15, student and activist in Buffalo Grove, Illinois

"I was 13 years old and had spent a long time watching YouTube videos about what it meant to be gay and what it meant to come out. I started coming out to friends in online queer communities who helped me find the courage to eventually tell my parents.

One night I typed out a really long message to them on my iPad explaining that I was gay and that I was sorry, I tried to change, this is just who I am. I locked my door and tried to get under my bed. Two minutes later my dad had picked the lock. They came in and started hugging me and told me they still loved me and accepted me no matter what. I was still their son."

-Amiri Nash, 19, poet, activist and college student in Providence, Rhode Island

"I knew my parents would be accepting, but I wasn't sure if they would get it, or know how to support me. So I put it in a PowerPoint presentation. I spent two weeks on it. I Googled, 'how to come out to your parents.' I put together all these memes and pictures of people who are gender-fluid. I pulled pieces of articles about Ruby Rose, who came out as gender-fluid.

One day after dinner, I said, 'Hey, could please sit on the couch so I can talk to you about something really important to me? I need to show you guys this presentation.' I set it up on a TV in the living room. My dad didn't really understand what was going on. At the end he said, 'Is this a presentation for school?' I was like, 'No, it's about me, Dad.' And my mom's response was, 'Why did you make such a big deal out of it? I know what these words mean.'"

- Clay Horton, 20, student in Austin, Texas

"I grew up in a mostly conservative suburb, as a closeted gay Asian kid. It was the summer between eighth and ninth grade. My mom was getting ready for work and I sat her down and said, 'I'm gay.' It was one of those moments that I'll never forget, that feeling of saying something that you know you can never unsay. My mom was very supportive and accepting. She said, 'Yeah, I kind of had suspicions.' It wasn't a huge surprise.

She encouraged me to tell my dad, who's an immigrant from Hong Kong and grew up with a different understanding of sexuality and family. I told him and he nodded thoughtfully and said, 'But how do you know?' And I said, 'How do you know you're straight?' And he said, 'OK, that makes sense to me.' And that was the end of the conversation."

-Tyler Ho-Yin Sit, 31, pastor and author, in Minneapolis

"Right before I left for college, around 18 ... I said, 'Mom, I have a very important thing to tell you. And it's probably the worst thing you could ever prepare for.' She said, 'Uh, you don't have a child, do you?' I thought it was going to be a long talk, but she said, 'Well, you're still you. And you're all I have.' It was just so accepting. And it was very somber. She didn't go out and have a parade or anything, but she just said, 'You know, this is it.' And it became so small suddenly, because she was right."

-Ocean Vuong, 32, poet and author of "On Earth, We're Briefly Gorgeous"

"We always wanted to come out, but we were so fearful, being on the same team and with our sponsorships. We weren't sure how everyone would feel. At the end of the day, it just got to the point where we wanted to live our truth, and if that meant losing everything, we were willing to risk it. It was just liberating after we did it. It was freeing. I didn't feel like I was carrying this weight anymore. I was able to freely hold her hand and feel proud of her in public." 

-Ashlyn Harris, 35, professional soccer player, on coming out with teammate Ali Krieger, now her wife

"My mom said, 'Oh, this is just a phase. It will pass.' I said, 'It's not. It's pretty real and I want you to take me seriously.' At one point, she said, 'This was not the Cinderella story I had for you.'

She came to New York. We sat at a table with (my now fiancée) Sophia and had a conversation about intention. My mom said, 'This is just so weird.' Sophia said, 'Look, I get it. I think it's weird, too. But we're so happy. And this is how it's going to be, and we'd love to invite you along to be part of the journey. It's healthy and vivacious and fun.' Slowly my mom opened her heart to the idea. Six years later, we're all very close."

-Jess King, 36, Peloton instructor, in New York City

"I'm Armenian. I grew up in Iran, as a Christian, with a very hardcore, aggressive father.

The first person I told in my family was my sister, when I was maybe 21. She was 17, 18. I said, 'I want to tell you something. I'm gay.' She grabbed her mouth with her hand and said, 'Oh, my God. Dad will kill Mom.'"

-Harma Hartouni, 40, real estate entrepreneur and author, in Los Angeles

"I remember my plan was to come out on 'Arsenio Hall.' He was a really cool guy, and he was the only one who would have me sit down and talk to him. The others you would just play music and go. So I was like, 'I'm going to sit down with Arsenio and I'm going to come out on the show.' But before that, I was invited to (Bill Clinton's) inauguration. I went to the big gay bash that night, and that's the video you see. I'm up there with K.D. (Lang) and all my friends, and I'm like, 'Blaaah, I'm a big lesbian!' I didn't plan on coming out that night, but that's the way it unfolded."

-Melissa Etheridge, 60, on coming out publicly at the Triangle Ball, a celebration for Clinton in 1993

"I came out to my mom — she's the only person I've come out to. The rest of the time I've just been me. And if somebody asked if I'm gay, I always said yes.

I told my mom when I was about 30. She kept asking me, 'When are you going to get married?' I wrote a letter and my sister and brother-in-law read it to her, and then they called me. She was so awesome. She was in tears because she felt bad that she couldn't be there to help me through it. I told her, 'Mom, you were there in so many ways. But, being in the Bible belt in the South, you probably would have sent me off someplace and they'd have put those electrodes on me and killed me.' So it happened right on time."

-Jessay Martin, 67, social media star in Cathedral City, California

"My girlfriend had written me some love letters and my nosy sister found them in a drawer and gave them to my mother. Back then, in the late '60s, (being openly gay) wasn't heard of. I was put out the house. I was homeless. I slept in hallways and underneath cars. I couldn't go back home. A lady I used to babysit for found me and took me in, but she died on my 23rd birthday. Since then, I've been living on my own, surviving. I think I did pretty good.”

-Diedra Nottingham, 70, retired, in Brooklyn, New York

"Sixty years ago, it was a real struggle coming out. You didn't talk about coming out to your parents. In fact, in a lot of situations I heard about, when parents found out one of their children was gay, they kicked them out of the house right away.

I've known I've been gay all my life. When I had my first sexual experience at 16, I was a sophomore in high school. I had no peers to talk about it with.

I want our younger audience to understand we went through a lot, and I want them to understand that I am so happy that they can come out. Even 5- and 6- and 7-year-old children are questioning their sexual identity; I think that's wonderful. We've really come a long way. "

-Bill Lyons, 77, social media star in Cathedral City, California

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

Alexander Kacala, MC Suhocki, Allison Slater Tate and Alyssa Newcomb also contributed to this report.

Click here for more of our Pride Month coverage.