13 LGBTQ+ Celebrities and Public Figures Who Are Amazing Role Models for Kids
Kids of all genders and sexual orientations deserve to see LGBTQ+ people who are thriving so they know that this vibrant community is strong, accomplished, and unstoppable. Thankfully, dozens of LGBTQ+ role models have come out in recent years so kids have more people than ever to look up to and show them what is possible.
Here are 13 LGBTQ+ people who your kids will be better for knowing about.
Megan Rapinoe racks up championships, awards, medals-and firsts-wherever she goes. Rapinoe is one of the most decorated soccer players around as the captain of the United States national team, the 2019 Best FIFA Women's Player, and an Olympic gold medalist.
Despite her incredible talent and success, she's still paid less for her role in women's soccer than those playing men's soccer-and she's making sure that pay gap is known and closed. Rapinoe-who first gained mainstream name recognition for following Colin Kaepernick's lead in taking a knee during the national anthem-has become an activist for equal pay. Her and her team's work led to the unforgettable moment right after they won the 2019 Women's World Cup finals when thousands of fans chanted, "Equal pay! Equal pay!"
Rapinoe's fiancée Sue Bird is also an athlete and activist role model in the basketball world, making them quite the lesbian power couple. After meeting as Olympic athletes at a photo shoot leading up to the 2016 Games, Rapinoe proposed to Bird poolside in Antigua in 2020 in a spontaneous moment. They'll be sure to champion whatever they take on next, including their advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights.
Mauree Turner was reluctant to become a politician, but after those around them asked them to step up as a representative of the community, Turner answered the call. "It has never been a more important time for the next generation to see themselves in our government," Turner said in a release announcing their candidacy for a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. On their 28th birthday in January 2021, Turner was sworn in after winning the November 2020 election.
Turner is the first Muslim as well as the first nonbinary person to ever serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. They are already working hard on COVID-19 vaccine access, criminal justice reform, equal opportunities for young transgender athletes, public education, and encouraging others to run for office. As a community organizer at heart, Turner works to achieve their community's dreams and hopes to bring more young people into representative politics.
Nyle DiMarco, the 2015 winner of America's Next Top Model and 2016 winner of Dancing with the Stars, is known as an out gay activist, model, and advocate for those in the deaf community like him. He started his own foundation that supports those providing resources to deaf children and their families, teaches ASL to his millions of social media followers, and was executive producer of the 2020 series Deaf U.
With Deaf U, DiMarco strove to show deaf people in a more full way than he felt he was portrayed on the shows he participated in years earlier. "I always felt that the image that was kind of made of me onscreen was very one-dimensional. I was always asked specifically about my deafness, about my identities, but never about the things that I liked or disliked or, really, anything that would have offered more to who I was," he told NPR in 2020. With hiring a 50 percent deaf crew on the show, he worked to bring authenticity and more dimensions to sharing his culture on TV.
Jojo Siwa's name is one of the most popular names among kids and tweens so it was a huge deal when she came out in 2021. In an interview with People, she said she is avoiding labels but feels comfortable with "queer" or "pansexual." With a TikTok following of more than 33 million and a global business empire built on her personal brand, she had a lot at stake. Thankfully, she found acceptance and felt comfortable enough to introduce her girlfriend to her public following.
If you don't know Siwa's name, your kids likely will. And go into any big box store and you'll probably find her signature bows, dolls in her likeness, her children's books, Jojo-branded make-up, and so on. She first appeared as a younger child on Dance Moms and then released singles as a singer. She may have just turned 18 years old in May, but she was included on the 2020 list of the Time 100-aka a list of the most influential people in the world.
Amandla Stenberg's big break came at the age of 14 when she was cast as Rue in The Hunger Games, but she is far from a one-hit wonder. She played the lead role of Starr Carter in 2018's The Hate U Give, has won a BET YoungStars Award and a NAACP Image Award, and appeared in Beyoncé's Lemonade. Stenberg is an advocate for issues related to feminism and racism, and has been out as gay since 2018 and nonbinary since 2016, but also goes by she/her pronouns.
Hollywood has been a difficult place to navigate for Stenberg. "As a kid, it was nearly impossible for me to find roles that felt empowered, that were not victim roles, that were fully dimensional, that didn't serve any white male plotline," she told Variety in 2018. "So I worked less because I had no interest in doing something that would force me to compromise my own power or just make myself subservient to something I didn't necessarily mesh with."
She also told the magazine, "Now, I'm realizing that the most powerful thing you can do is be yourself and express joy and incite joy in others, so I feel more compelled than ever to do that."
Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness stole everyone's hearts on Queer Eye and keeps us all smiling on social media. A hairstylist by trade, Van Ness is now also an author, podcaster, and model. Since coming out as nonbinary and HIV-positive in 2019, they have been finding success in all kinds of projects, including as the author of a children's book about a nonbinary guinea pig gymnast, Peanut Goes for the Gold.
Van Ness may be known as the "grooming" expert on Queer Eye who loves a blow-out, but they understand (and profess) that self care is more important than having fun getting highlights. "I can't use my platform and lift other people up and educate and amplify and do all the things I want to do to help make things better if I'm so burnt out and under so much pressure that everything's not coming across," they told Self in 2020. "You have to have enough gas in your tank to be able to do the work."
During high school, Schuyler Bailar was recruited to Harvard's women's swimming team in 2013. After transitioning medically and socially, now using he/him pronouns, during a gap year between high school and college, Bailar was offered a spot on Harvard's men's swimming team and accepted, making him the first out transgender NCAA Division I athlete.
In 2019, Bailar finished his college career strong with one of the fastest times for the 100-yard breaststroke on the Harvard team (and in the top 15 percent of all NCAA swims for the season) and by being part of the highest-ranked Harvard team in over 50 years. He not only achieved greatness as an athlete, he also racked up recognition for his tireless advocacy for transgender inclusion. Besides many accolades from LGBTQ+ organizations, Bailar was awarded the 2019 Harvard Athletics Director's Award for the athlete who makes an outstanding contribution to athletics through education.
Schuyler is currently using his platform to speak out about discriminatory legislation banning transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams at the high school and college level.
World-renowned London-based artist Wednesday Holmes has a social media following of more than 200k followers and uses it to spread beautiful messages like their signature "mental health checkpoints." You may have seen one when scrolling along Instagram or TikTok (and hopefully your kids have, too). The messages they share are a collection of brightly colored animated words like "you are important, "be gentle with yourself," "you can do this," "relax your shoulders," and "unclench your jaw." These checkpoints bring smiles to millions, but they're not the only impactful art Holmes makes.
Holmes is the illustrator of the 2020 children's book Pride 1 2 3, and their work has been displayed in galleries from London to New York City, and their clients have included the BBC and Gucci. Their advocacy as a nonbinary lesbian has had far-reaching impact and they even taught a queer illustration tutorial for the Tate London. In their own words, "Wednesday's work seeks to provide education, empathy, and kindness."
Think of Lindz Amer as "The Queer Mister Rogers." With their ukelele and teddy bear named Teddy, they use their webseries "Queer Kid Stuff" to explain topics like the word "queer," gender expression, and Pride Month for the elementary school crowd. Last year, they launched the family-friendly podcast Activist, You! and partnered with LGBTQ+ family nonprofit Family Equality for weekly live-streamed songs and stories.
"I make queer media for kids because I wish I had this when I was their age. I make it so others don't have to struggle through what I did, not understanding my identity because I didn't have any exposure to who I could be," they said in their 2019 TED Talk. "I want kids to grow up and into themselves with pride for who they are and who they can be, no matter who they love or what they wear or what pronouns they use. And I want them to love others for their differences, not in spite of them."
Oscar-nominated actor Elliot Page made headlines when he came out as transgender in December 2020, but he's been a role model for kids long before that. He hosted the 2016 to 2017 Emmy-nominated series Gaycation that looked at LGBTQ+ culture and rights around the world and spoke out publicly for LGBTQ+ rights before his coming out. In March 2021, he became the first openly transgender man to appear on the cover of Time magazine and he is now a tireless advocate for transgender youth facing discrimination in the U.S.
"My privilege has allowed me to have resources to get through and to be where I am today," Page told Time in his cover story earlier this year, "and of course I want to use that privilege and platform to help in the ways I can."
Rebekah Bruesehoff may be just 14 years old, but she's already got years of advocacy under her belt. When she socially transitioned to the girl she always knew she was at the age of 8, she educated those around her, including those at her Lutheran church where her dad is a pastor. She was just 10 when she first spoke at a rally of 200 in Jersey City and gained national media attention for a viral photo of her smiling at the rally wearing pigtail braids, a pink jacket, jeans, and pink shoes holding a homemade hand-lettered sign that reads, "I'm the scary transgender person the media warned you about."
She went on to become the first openly transgender person to speak at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Youth Gathering in Houston on the importance of inclusion to a crowd of more than 31,000. She was one of the heroes featured in Marvel's Hero Project on Disney and she is the co-author of A Kids Book About Being Inclusive coming out in June. Read Bruesehoff's story in her own words here.
Eliza, who goes by "Disabled Eliza," is a social media influencer in the U.K. who uses their platform to educate others on disability and LGBTQ+ issues. They talk openly about their life as a disabled person on their weekly YouTube videos and daily TikTok videos that have reached more than a million viewers.
If your kids are looking for a LGBTQ+ inclusive space to learn more about the disabled community and how to be an ally, Eliza's Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok fit the bill. Eliza is out as bisexual and nonbinary and uses their pages as places where people can ask questions about disability that might not be appropriate to ask elsewhere. Their content is worth the screen time!
When X González survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018, the then-senior turned their traumatic experience into one of the largest youth movements ever. X was president of the school's gay-straight alliance and bravely took a very public stand for gun control and delivered a powerful and viral speech at the March for Our Lives they helped organize. After going from high school student to one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in a matter of months, X now continues their activism for multiple causes. X, who announced their new name in May on The Tonight Show, can inspire young people to get involved with issues that matter to them. They believe deeply that we can change the world for the better with dedicated action and their contagious passion is worth letting kids see.