Colton Haynes took a long time to feel comfortable enough in his own skin to come out of the closet, but this truly saddening story about the Arrow star might reveal why the 28-year-old found it difficult to face the public eye as his authentic self.
In a revealing new interview with Out Magazine, Haynes talks from the heart about his experiences living as a gay teen in conservative Kansas and what motivated him to conceal his sexuality when he made it in Hollywood.
Colton was bought up in Andale, a tiny conservative town of less than 100 where, in his own words, "you just couldn’t be gay." Nonetheless, life was a pretty idyllic mix of cloud-spotting and tornado chasing for Haynes until he decided to come out to his friends and family at age 14.
Once his sexuality was out in the open, life quickly became unbearable for Haynes, with constant threats and bullying meaning that his older brother Clinton had to walk him to and from school for his own protection.
In light of the early treatment he received from others because of his sexuality, it's perhaps not unsurprising that Colton took advice from his agents that he should hide his sexuality to heart:
"I feel really bad that I had to lie for so long but I was told that was the only way I was going to be successful. When you’re young in this industry, people take advantage of you, and they literally tell you that your dreams are going to come true. If you believe that, you’ll do anything. And you do believe it, especially if you’re from Kansas.”
Although feeling unsafe in your own hometown is a nerve-wracking situation to be in, there were even darker moments in Colton's early life, including insensitive people telling him that he was responsible for his own father's death:
"I was told that my dad killed himself because he found out I was gay. So, of course, I lost it and was like, ‘How could you say something like that?’ And no one will ever really know the truth. But my brother and my mom went to pick up my dad’s stuff, and the only picture on his fridge was my eighth-grade graduation picture. So I was just like, Fuck.”
Hayne's went onto elaborate on an unfortunate attempted outing which centered around a photoshoot he did with his boyfriend when he was 17 years old that led to him desperately trying to erase the photos from the internet. An action that, in retrospect, he deeply regrets:
“I looked like I was fucking gay-bashing, like I hated myself or I hated the gays, which was never the intention at all. I was just young and trying to make it in this town and doing what these people were telling me to do.”
Thankfully, after coming out and relieving himself of the burden of living a lie and constantly fearing being outed, Colton finally feels more at peace after suffering from crippling anxiety that threatened to derail his career.
5 Courageous Celebs Who Have Came Out As LGBT In 2016
Gay & Bisexual Superhero Actors & Actresses: Guess Who?
12 Times Pioneering Celebrities Spoke Out On Being Bisexual
Unfortunately, Hayne's is not alone is feeling the pressure to conform to "the norm" and many other gay celebrities have spoken openly about the difficulties of coming out in the entertainment industry.
Ellen Page famously commented on the pressures she felt to hide her true sexuality when she publicly came out during the HRCF Time to Thrive conference in 2015:
"It’s weird because here I am, an actress, representing at least in some sense an industry that places crushing standards on all of us—and not just young people, everyone. Standards of beauty, of a good life, of success; standards that I hate to admit have affected me. You have ideas planted in your head—thoughts you never had before—that tell you how you have to act, how you have to dress, and who you have to be. And I’ve been trying to push back to be authentic and follow my heart, but it can be hard."
In the inspiration series of video interviews entitled "It Got Better" other high profile LGBT celebs talk about how — no matter how rough things might feel — life will improve when you come to terms with your sexuality. In the words of the legendary Ian McKellen:
"Once you are honest about your sexuality, you will feel better about it. I felt better about my life because I was enjoying it. My life totally changed for the better, my relationships with my family were better, I was a better son. I was a better brother. I was a better uncle. I was a better friend... everything was better."
Times are changing for the better for LGBT representation, but it's worth remembering that there is still a long way to go and campaigning for positive representation in the entertainment industry is still essential.
Here's to all the courageous celebs who have broken the mould and chosen to live as their true selves! Cheers!
Do you think more celebrities should speak candidly about the difficulties of being LGBT in the entertainment industry?