Actor Colton Haynes accepted a Human Rights Campaign award last night – and gave a powerful speech about his coming out experience.
Haynes, who became a fan favourite in TV shows Teen Wolf and Arrow, came out in May this year in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, after years of tabloid gossip.
The actor, who has been out to friends and family for years, spoke about his emotional experience as he accepted a Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign in Seattle.
He explained: “It’s taken me a long time to get here. It’s a humbling experience to receive this award from the HRC and to know this is about my visibility.
“I never made a decision to be gay. It came just as naturally as the colour of my eyes.
“But it’s up to me to be honest and open with everyone. And that’s why I’m here tonight, and why it’s so special for me.
“I’m asked to play so many different roles as an actor, but tonight I can actually be myself for the first time.
“It feels incredible… I feel extremely lucky. I feel lucky just knowing we have a fierce, united community that believes equality is our birthright. It’s not a slogan.”
Haynes added: “I don’t necessarily feel especially deserving of this recognition.
“We all know there are many other people who have come before me and blazed the trail as LGBT advocates and as role models, and I’m walking in their shoes and following their lead.
“Instead I’ll accept this award as a promise.
“My promise is simple and real. And I’m not making it to you – I’m making it to the next generations of LGBT youth, and I hope my example will give them the confidence and hope to be who they are as well, and for them to conquer their own fears and hesitations.
“I want to give them just a little more courage to know that they’re loved just as they are, and they’ll grow up strong and proud.”
“Sometimes we listen to the wrong voices, the people who tell us we can’t and we shouldn’t. We all do… we have to listen to our own voices and our own hearts, and that’s when we become the best people.”
He continued: “You gave me the strenght to live my life openly and honestly now, and I have never felt healthier or happier in my entire life.
“I have many hopes for the future, and many ambitions as an actor and an artist.
“On a personal note, I have to confess that I also want to raise kids of my own, eventually, maybe half a dozen, to have a basketball team or something like that, but I would love to not raise them alone.
“With the historic achievement of marriage equality last year, none of us need to go through the world alone without the commitment of the person we truly love.”