"If people are not able to come out to friends and family, come out to yourself," the "Orange Is the New Black" star says.
Two of Hollywood's most visible LGBTQ stars shared their personal tales of coming out of the closet in celebration of National Coming Out Day.
"Orange Is the New Black" star Laverne Cox and "Star Trek Discovery" actor Wilson Cruz (also a "My So-Called Life" alum) sat down together for OUT and Barefoot Bubbly's One Stride, Many Journeys series to share some California Champagne and open up about their stories in a new video.
"I have sort of two coming outs," Cox explained. "I always knew I liked boys, so I came out as gay first. I'm from Mobile, Alabama but I went to Alabama School of Fine Arts. The funny thing about coming out at arts school is everybody was like, well, yeah, of course you are. But it really was a gender identity thing, it wasn't a sexual orientation thing."
"I came out to my mom first as gay my sophomore year and she freaked out. And then when I came out to my mother as trans a few years later, it was after I started my medical transition, she took that easier," she continued. "By his time I was living in New York, I was supporting myself, and so she never said I don't want you in my life. It was just, she didn't understand, she had issues with the pronoun thing and the name change. It was just like, girl, you gotta get this together!"
"Eventually, we did. I remember after one of the trips to New York she sent me a plate that said number one daughter on it and I just cried," Cox continued. "It was major, it was incredible, it was years later."
For Cruz, he said it took him until he was 16 to say he was gay.
"I remember just calling myself gay was a big step for me and I remember being in the bathroom brushing my teeth, testing out to myself in the mirror saying 'I am gay' and seeing if the world was going to stop of the ceiling would gall in on me," he explained.
"When people ask me for advice about when to come out, it's really about, before you do that, building a circle of support that can strengthen you through that experience," he added. "For me it was my friends, there were people on 'My So-Called Life' that really helped guide me. I was 19, 20, I didn't know what to do. I knew one thing, I never saw myself on TV or anyone like me and I wanted to be that for someone else. I think the most courageous thing I did was ask for help."
Cruz currently plays one of two gay "Star Trek Discovery" characters, alongside co-star Anthony Rapp. The gay main characters are a first for the long-running science fiction franchise.
Cox also said she struggled with trans acceptance after her transition.
"When I started medical transition and said I'm a woman and I'm trans, it's the most empowering thing ever," she said. "In the beginning of transition, I was so happy to be trans and then, a year in, I was like, I'm done being trans. I want to be stealth, I want to blend in, I'm a woman."
"I had to get to a point where I was happy being recognizably trans," she added. "That's why I started the hashtag #TransIsBeautiful. If people are not able to come out to friends and family, come out to yourself. Disclose to yourself and tell the truth first to yourself."