‘I came out during my valedictorian speech. For years, I kept my secret hidden until it ate away at my conscience. I cut everyone off, paranoid they’d notice.’

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“I’m the kid who struggled with his secret and kept it hidden until it ate away at his conscience.

Courtesy of Mason Bleu
Courtesy of Mason Bleu

My childhood was pretty normal. I lived with both of my parents until about the age of 12, the year they separated. After the split, I continued living with my mom, but kept a close relationship with my father because he is was, and still is, an important person in my life. I played sports to keep me busy and hung out with my two brothers pretty much all the time.

Courtesy of Mason Bleu

I played manhunt with my neighbors and had sleepovers at my friend’s house like almost every child does. There was nothing abnormal about my childhood. Apart from the fact that I was hiding something from absolutely everyone. That was the only abnormal thing about it.

Courtesy of Mason Bleu

Recently, I realized that the thing I was in fact hiding was not all that abnormal. Looking back, I realize that I always knew I was attracted to men and females, but was confused. Once I did begin realizing it, I immediately began fighting it without consciously knowing it. I would stop being friends with any guys I thought I was developing any sort of feelings towards. Yet I was clueless as to why my friendships with guys never lasted too long. Now, I understand why.

I started actually understanding what that attraction was towards the beginning of high school. That’s when I confirmed to myself that I was bisexual. Growing up, I noticed how the more feminine kids were treated. At one point during my early middle school years, I was on the more feminine side of the spectrum. My voice was extremely high pitched, I was skinny, talked with my hands, and was always happy. As I grew older, my voice got deeper, I gained more muscles, and the hand gestures stopped. There were kids who remained on the more feminine side of the spectrum and I saw how hard that was for them in my school. I remember hearing people gossip about those kids or even call them slurs in attempt to offend them. This scared me into not wanting to explore any part of my sexuality and identity. My life was at a standstill.

Growing up, I was taught that men have to work and support their families, while being tough and holding themselves to a certain standard. One that was almost too high to reach. I was also taught that men played sports and did not do anything art related. Oh, and the most common one. I was taught that men do not cry. All of my emotions were to be kept inside. I could not get too happy because being too happy would draw unwanted attention and questions. I could not be too sad because then I would cry and men were not allowed to cry. I had to keep everything to myself because talking about emotions was for ‘women’. These were the things I was taught subconsciously by the people around me.

There was a learned toxic masculinity being passed around by the men in my life. I was afraid that I would fall victim to the bullying that the kids who weren’t ‘straight passing’ had fallen to. Because I could not live my life without thinking about every move, I began to have random waves of depression and mental breakdowns. There were times where I would come home and cry to myself for hours because I thought that if I let anyone know I was bisexual, I would be scolded and neglected. I didn’t talk to a lot of people because my subconscious allowed me to believe that my life would negatively change after I told people who I truly was. The biggest thing that encouraged my silence was the impact coming out could have on my acting career. I’d heard all sorts of stories about LGBTQ+ actors being told to remain quiet about their sexuality. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of my success as an actor, so I was determined to keep quiet.  Furthermore, being a black man in America is already hard enough. Imagine what it’s like to be a black man who is also a part of the LGBTQ+ community in America.

Because I remained silent, I started feeling like I was worthless. I began losing interest in the things I had once cared about and altogether just did not want to be on this earth. I became suicidal at one point and had thoughts about giving up very often. Repressing my identity definitely took a negative toll on my life. I was not able to be there for anyone emotionally. Socially, I was unavailable. I steered away from relationships and friendships. I tried to avoid getting connected with people for too long and would cut people out of my life for the littlest things. Mentally, I was in a dark place. I would think about hurting myself more times than I would like to admit. For me, suicide felt like the easy way out.

In hindsight, I didn’t want anyone to get too close to me because I was scared and paranoid they would come onto my secret. I was scared they would notice the things I was trying to trap. One of my most difficult times was not too long ago. Things were rough in and outside of school. My classes were becoming extremely stressful, my mother and I were having a tough time in our relationship, and there were no auditions coming in. There was nothing to distract me. That was the point when I hit rock bottom. I ended up trying to harm myself and thought it would be a solution to just give up. Luckily, my brother came home and realized what I was trying to do and talked me out of it. At that point, I wanted to tell him so badly, but continued living in a lie.

Living in the closet was extremely hard because once you begin liking guys you wish you could talk to them about it. At one point, I told a guy I had a crush on him and he freaked out. I was extremely afraid that he would out me to everyone. It’s so hard to live freely when you constantly feel like you have to wear a mask. Eventually, I convinced myself that I would not come out and just live my life how I wanted to. That eased my anxieties but I was still afraid to ever be seen with a guy. That’s when I was told I would be giving the valedictorian speech.

Honestly, I didn’t even want to say a speech. I didn’t want to get up on the stage and have the spotlight on me for eight minutes, but some of the teachers I was close to convinced me. I started writing my speech and thought I should talk about pride. I told people to be proud of who they were and what they accomplished. Eventually, I got to the end of my writing process and thought something was missing. I instantly knew what it was.

I couldn’t tell anyone to be proud of who they are and not be proud of who I am. That would be hypocritical of me. So, I added the part about my sexuality and closed my laptop. I didn’t even know I would have to submit my speech for approval, so when I heard that I sent in a copy without the section revealing my sexuality. I changed my mind over fifteen times and even on the day of I was unsure if I would say my truth. I was scared for what the reaction would be and cried numerous times out of fear.

When the day of the decision came, I was extremely nervous. I almost bailed out too many times to count. I was sweating a lot and at one point said I wouldn’t do it. One of the teachers that knew what I was doing told me, ‘Don’t do anything you don’t want to. There’s no pressure.’ She gave me a little pep talk and that’s when I reassured myself I should probably do it. Even then, my mind was still not completely made up.

But once I did it, I felt relieved.

It felt like a weight was taken off my shoulders. My biggest fear was that the immediate reaction would be negative and unsupportive, but I was immediately proven wrong. The room roared with screams and applause. My heart couldn’t be more full.

Courtesy of Mason Bleu

Ever since I came out publicly, I’ve been getting so many supportive Direct Messages on social media platforms. People have congratulated me, thanked me, and even come out to me. Some people have told me they wish they had the courage I did and others have told me they can’t come out because of their circumstances but wish they could. I try to respond to as many DMs as possible because I know how lonely this journey felt for me. To the people who want to come out and want advice, the one thing I would say is just make sure you’re safe when you do. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re at risk of being injured because your safety matters the most.

Some of the people that motivated me through this journey were Frank Ocean, Jaden Smith, Tyler the Creator, Steve Lacey, and Kevin Abstract. I relied on these men because they stood out in the industry whether it was for their sexuality or for being unique. Finding people who you look up to can change your entire perspective on being apart of the LGBTQ+ community, so I recommend people do that. This experience has been amazing for me and I just want to create a space where everyone else can have an experience that’s equivalent or better. I’m proud of who I am and what I stand for and you should be too!”

Courtesy of Mason Bleu

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mason Bleu of Brooklyn, New York. You can follow his journey on Instagram and Twitter. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more powerful LGBTQ+ stories:

‘It was right after the Pulse Nightclub Shooting. We both rolled over in bed. Me: ‘I’m gay.’ Her: ‘I’m transgender.’ Silence. Now what? I’m married. HAPPILY married!’

‘I know you’re a boy,’ she whispered, tucking me in and kissing my forehead. My eyes widened. I hid who I was and planned to never tell a soul.’

‘I married the man of my dreams, created a family, and realized after 9 years we weren’t able to pray the gay away.’

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