Over time, Australia has become a very welcoming country for LGBTQ+ people. These openly gay Australian celebrities have played major roles in promoting societal acceptance and paving the way for equality.
Australia’s LGBTQ+ History
Though Australia didn’t always have the best LGBTQ+ civil rights laws, they’ve made huge strides in recent years. In 1973, Australia’s House of Representatives began undoing the British colonial era criminalization of queer people by voting in favor of decriminalizing “homosexual acts between consenting adults,” though it would take another 24 years for all Australian states to repeal their respective homophobic sodomy laws.
In 2013, the federal government enacted the nation’s first comprehensive anti-discrimination law extending protections to LGBTQ+ Australians. Some four years later, the government held a nationwide non-binding postal vote on marriage equality to gauge public support on repealing Australia’s national marriage ban. Over 61% of voters marked their approval for marriage equality in November 2017, and Australia’s parliament subsequently passed legislation to legalize marriage equality nationwide.
Today Australia is considered one of the world’s leading countries for LGBTQ+ equality, and LGBTQ+ civil rights continue to advance at the federal and state levels. Yet even before Australia’s government began enacting these civil rights laws, Australian society and pop culture were already promoting queer acceptance.
From the pioneering 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to the overwhelmingly positive response to major athletes who’ve come out, the Australian people’s changing attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community eventually made possible the changing of the nation’s laws.
Here are 10 of Australia’s brightest gay stars who inspire all of us to continue living out and proud.
Born in Sydney and raised in Perth, Murray Bartlett returned to Sydney as a young adult to attend the storied National Institute of Dramatic Art and launch his acting career. Though Bartlett scored roles in shows like Neighbours and headLands in Australia, he moved to the United States in 2000 in search of his next big break.
Bartlett scored that big break with a guest role in the HBO hit series Sex and the City, then landed roles in shows like Syfy’s Farscape and CBS’ Guiding Light. In 2014, Bartlett returned to HBO with a starring role in the groundbreaking series Looking, a show that earned critical praise for its portrayal of contemporary queer life in San Francisco.
From there, Bartlett branched out with roles in the CMT series Nashville and the Netflix/Marvel show Iron Fist. He then starred in the 2019 Netflix miniseries Tales of the City, which was based on Armistead Maupin’s trailblazing novels on queer life in America.
Finally, Murray Bartlett got his huge break with his return to HBO in 2021, where he played resort manager Armond in the first season of the hit series The White Lotus. He followed that up with a widely acclaimed role in the 2023 debut season of the HBO hit The Last of Us.
Murray Bartlett came out as gay early in adulthood, and his persistence and subsequent success helped pave the way for more out actors to catch their own big breaks in Hollywood.
Simon Dunn grew up playing rugby in Wollongong, New South Wales, and later became a beloved member of the Sydney Convicts Rugby Club.
Dunn later picked up bobsledding, and he eventually became the first out gay man to represent any country in the sport. He came close to winning a spot to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics, but a ruptured bicep had him return to Australia for medical treatment.
In addition to Simon Dunn’s athletic prowess, he became a powerful LGBTQ+ civil rights activist, an ambassador for the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (Australia’s longest-running HIV charity), and an entertaining social media influencer. Dunn also became a popular columnist for Attitude, Gay Times, and DNA magazines, and he even appeared in the 2020 documentary, Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club.
In a shocking tragedy, Simon Dunn passed away in his Sydney apartment in January 2023. Nevertheless, his memory and his legacy live on.
Yes, some people outside of Australia may mostly know G Flip, also known as Georgia Claire Flipo, for their recent marriage to Selling Sunset star Chrishell Stause. Yet before G Flip became Netflix-famous worldwide, the Melbourne native was a musical prodigy who has been playing drums since age 9.
In 2018 G Flip’s debut single, “About You,” quickly won critical acclaim, and the song’s music video (which was filmed on an iPhone!) made YouTube’s New Music Playlist. Less than a year later, G Flip performed at the ABC’s 2018/2019 New Year’s celebration at the Sydney Opera House.
While publicly identifying as gay and non-binary, G Flip proceeded to break a whole lot of barriers and glass ceilings for queer artists in Australia and worldwide. The singer-songwriter has gone on to release two albums, About Us (2019) and Drummer (2023), perform a solo show at SXSW in Austin (Texas, USA), work with another Australian music superstar on this list, and design two shoe lines in a collaboration with Crocs.
And yes, fans can continue to see the progression of G Flip’s relationship with Chrishell in the upcoming seventh season of Selling Sunset.
While growing up with 14 siblings in the suburbs of Melbourne, Moana Hope showed a very competitive spirit early on. She began competing in Australian football at age 7, then she began playing senior women’s football with Hadfield at age 13. Hope also excelled at cricket as a young girl, though she decided to drop that sport in order to focus on professional football.
In 2014, Moana Hope was drafted to play with the Western Bulldogs Australian Football League (AFL) women’s team. Two years later, she became the first Victorian woman footballer to kick over 100 goals. In 2017 Hope moved onto Collingwood’s women’s team, then she played for North Melbourne in her final season in 2019.
In 2018, Moana Hope began to shift gears to TV, as she competed on Australian Survivor: Champions vs. Contenders until she volunteered to bow out due to illness. When Hope returned to compete on Australian Survivor: All Stars in 2019, she found a new “sport” to excel in, as survived all the way to the finals.
Moana Hope has long lived her life as an out and proud lesbian. She published her memoir, My Way, in 2017, and she now focuses on parenting her young child.
As a young girl, Kylie Kwong was already helping her mother in the kitchen while learning the art of Cantonese cooking. She later apprenticed at chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool and Wockpool, then later worked at Restaurant Manfredi.
Eventually, Kwong partnered with celebrity chef Bill Granger to open Billy Kwong in Sydney’s Surry Hills suburb. Billy Kwong quickly gained a reputation for high-quality Chinese-Australian cuisine, Kylie Kwong later took full ownership of the restaurant, and it eventually moved to a larger space in Potts Point.
In 2003, Kylie Kwong herself rose to celebrity chef status with the release of her cookbook Kylie Kwong: Cooking with Heart and Soul alongside the debut of her own ABC cooking show. Kwong went on to write five more widely acclaimed cookbooks, earn another TV series in 2006 that would also air in the United States, and appear as a guest judge and mentor on MasterChef Australia.
Kylie Kwong has long been out and proud, and she’s had a long and enduring relationship with the accomplished artist Nell. The two officially got married in 2019, and Kylie Kwong was appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2023 Australia Day Honours for her many contributions to Australia’s culinary scene and her ongoing works of community service.
Born and raised in Sydney, Keiynan Lonsdale quickly began earning acting roles as a teenager. He then scored a recurring role in the ABC teen drama Dance Academy in 2012, and proceeded to score a supporting role in two films in The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015) and Allegiant (2016).
Soon enough, Keiynan Lonsdale began to soar into superstardom with starring roles in the DC Comics superhero series The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. He then starred as Bram in the 2018 feature film Love, Simon: This movie was hailed as a game-changer that helped promote acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth and queer relationships.
Since then Lonsdale has been focusing on his music career, and he has continued to score acting roles in films like Work It and My Fake Boyfriend. In 2020, Lonsdale briefly reprised his role as Bram in the Love, Simon, follow-up Hulu show, Love, Victor, and he played the American LGBTQ+ civil rights icon Bayard Rustin in the Max docuseries Equal.
Keiynan Lonsdale first publicly identified as queer in 2017, then came out as gay in a 2022 interview with BuzzFeed.
Born Ruby Rose Langenheim to a young single mother in Melbourne, Ruby Rose had to learn to survive various life challenges from a very early age. She survived horrific abuse at the hands of a family member, and she survived a suicide attempt at age 12.
Long before Ruby Rose became famous, she began publicly identifying as lesbian and genderfluid. Though she’s sometimes battled controversy over her identity, Rose has never wavered in her solidarity with the larger queer community.
Fortunately, Ruby Rose’s life began to turn around in 2002, when she scored second place in Girlfriend magazine’s model search. Rose then got her big break when she became a VJ and presenter on MTV Australia in 2007, and she went on to co-host Australia’s Next Top Model and Network Ten’s The Project in 2009.
In the 2010s, Ruby Rose’s modeling career really took off, as she landed covers on many of Australia’s and the United States’ top fashion magazines. At the same time, Rose took an interest in acting, and she released her own short film, Break Free, in 2014. The following year, Rose landed a role on the hit Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. In 2018, Rose was cast as Batwoman for several DC Comics based TV shows for the American network The CW.
Though she left Batwoman behind in 2020, Rose has stayed booked and busy with a number of media projects.
Born in South Africa, Troye Sivan Mellet emigrated with his parents and 3 siblings to Perth at age 2. When he was 11, Troye Sivan made his big debut on the Channel Seven Perth Telethon. Just a year later, in 2007, Sivan got on StarSearch and reached the finals, and he released his debut EP, Dare to Dream.
At age 18, Troye Sivan signed with EMI Australia, then proceeded to release two more EPs over the next two years: TRXYE and Wild. From there, Sivan went on to appear on SNL alongside Jessica Chastain, perform on stage with Taylor Swift, and do a collaboration song with Ariana Grande.
Troye Sivan’s 2018 studio album, Bloom, achieved widespread critical acclaim and mainstream success while openly and proudly celebrating queer life and love. Sivan also landed his first acting role in the feature film Boy Erased, and his song, “Revelation,” was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
Even as Troye Sivan continues to soar into superstardom, he continually gives back to the community. For his 2020 EP In a Dream, Sivan worked with freelance artists in need to create original visual art, and he donated proceeds to COVID-19 relief funds. Sivan also continues to use his platform to speak up for the larger LGBTQ+ community and advocate for civil rights.
And yes, Troye Sivan is the music artist who invited G Flip in 2021 to play drums for a special live performance and music video for his song, “In a Dream.”
Born Magdalene Mary Therese Szubanski in Britain, she and her family emigrated to Australia when she was young.
Early in adulthood, Szubanski broke into sketch comedy, and she was talent-spotted by ABC producers while performing in the Too Cool for Sandals revue in Melbourne. This led to Szubanski’s first comedy TV show, the ABC’s The D-Generation, in 1986, and she achieved major success with her own sketch comedy show, Fast Forward, for the Seven Network in 1989.
In 1994, Magda Szubanski collaborated with friends and fellow comedians Gina Riley and Jane Turner on the limited series Big Girl’s Blouse, and she would later return to the role of Sharon Strzelecki in 2002 for the hit sitcom Kath & Kim.
Szubanski also began to achieve mainstream success for her role in the 1995 children’s film Babe and its 1998 sequel Babe: Pig in the City. She joined forces with director and producer George Miller again for two more widely successful children’s movies, Happy Feet (2006) and Happy Feet Two (2006).
In addition to starring on the big and small screens, Szubanski later took up musical theatre, and she wrote her own 2015 memoir, Reckoning, which earned major critical praise for Szubanski’s thoughtful examination of her family’s intergenerational trauma, her coming to terms with her sexuality, and her relationship with her war hero father.
Since coming out in 2012, Magda Szubanski has gone to great lengths to advocate for LGBTQ+ civil rights, and she took on perhaps her biggest role yet when she publicly campaigned for marriage equality in Australia in 2017.
Not only is Ian Thorpe an Olympic champion, but he’s also a committed advocate and activist who continues to go for the gold.
Born and raised in Sydney, Ian Thorpe began swimming competitively, and he even overcame an allergy to chlorine to begin winning youth championships in 1994. At age 16, Thorpe won gold medals at the 1998 World Aquatics Championships and 1998 Commonwealth Games. The following year, Thorpe began breaking world records in swimming, and he soon qualified to represent his home country in the Summer Olympics that would be held in his hometown of Sydney.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Ian Thorpe not only rose to the occasion, but he (quite literally!) raced past the competition: He won gold medals in the 400-meter freestyle race, 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay, and 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay, plus he won silver medals in the 200-meter freestyle race and the 4 x 100-meter medley relay.
Following his Olympic triumphs, Thorpe continued to excel in competitive swimming, and he returned to the Olympic stage in Athens in 2004. Even while facing stiff competition from the likes of American swimmer Michael Phelps and Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband, Thorpe won another 2 gold medals (in the 200-meter freestyle and the 400-meter freestyle races), plus he scored a silver medal (in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay) and a bronze (in the 100-meter freestyle).
Long after his two Olympic runs for gold, global authorities in competitive swimming continue to praise Ian Thorpe’s athleticism and work ethic. Though his later attempts to compete in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games didn’t pan out, Thorpe went on to achieve sustained success in corporate partnerships, and he’s regularly gone the distance for multiple philanthropic efforts as well.
In 2014, Ian Thorpe came out as gay in an interview with British TV talk show host Michael Parkinson. Thorpe later hosted the 2017 ABC documentary Bullied, which provided a critical victim’s eye view of school bullying, and he took an active role in the successful 2017 campaign to legalize marriage equality in Australia.
These are just a few of the many luminaries who have not only made their names and seized their fame, but also paved the way for a brighter future for LGBTQ+ Australians. While there’s still much more to do to advance and protect civil rights for all queer Australians, these 10 celebrities have contributed quite a lot to help us get this far.
Perhaps one day, they will inspire the next generation of LGBTQ+ superstars to break even more barriers to take us to even greater heights.
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