On International Men’s Day, here’s 10 quotes from influential queer men on mental health and self-acceptance

Patrick Kelleher November 19, 2019
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On International Men's Day, here's 10 quotes from influential queer men on mental health, toxic masculinity and self-acceptance

Kye Allums (L) (Brad Barket/Getty), Olly Alexander (C) (Mike Marsland/WireImage) and Lil Nax X (Frederick M. Brown/Getty)

Today is International Men’s Day, and it is easy to see that queer men don’t always get the love, attention and recognition they deserve.

Below are 10 quotes from influential and groundbreaking queer men who have shared their experiences and stories about mental health, toxic masculinity and self-acceptance to help make the world a better and more tolerant place.

1. Kye Allums.

Former basketball player Kye Allums came out as transgender in 2010. Since then, he has worked hard to make the world a more accepting place for other trans people by sharing his story.

“I have been traveling to high schools sharing my story, educating people on being trans, starting conversations that nobody wants to talk about,” Allums told GLAAD.

“I’m just trying to show people that it is possible to play with a trans person on your team, it is possible to have a trans student, you teach them like anyone else…

“I’ve found that people want to learn, and that just because someone is ignorant doesn’t mean that they will never understand.”

Kye Allums attends "Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word"
Kye Allums (Brad Barket/Getty Images for Logo TV)

2. Patricio Manuel.

In 2018, Patricio Manuel became the first transgender boxer in the United States to participate in a professional fight. But the journey to that place was not an easy one. Manuel has opened up in the past about the challenges he faced in accepting his identity.

“When I was a little kid I always thought of myself as a boy, but you learn really early on that someone like me is immediately going to be told they’re a girl, so I learned to be quiet, I learned to stifle that part of me,” Manuel told Everlast.

Transgender boxer Pat Manuel makes history with professional win
Patricio Manuel. (Instagram)

“The thing is about anything you push down long enough, it will have a bad reaction, and that reaction for me was I completely disconnected from myself – I just mentally checked out so I could continue coping through life.

“And it was boxing that brought me back into my body and it was boxing that allowed me to be proud of what I was physically able to do.”

3. Iain Lee.

Broadcaster Iain Lee made headlines earlier this year when he came out as bisexual on his radio show. Lee said he still felt “great shame and embarrassment” over his sexuality, but came to terms with his identity through therapy.

“So I guess I’m coming out. This is me coming out, I suppose is how they would call it, at the age of 46, and I’m terrified by it.”

In a later Twitter post, he wrote: “This week I kind of came out on air as bi and the support has been nuts. So like thanks. I’ll probably delete this tweet as I still feel embarrassed and ashamed and weird but I’m working on it.”

Broadcaster Iain Lee comes out as bisexual
Radio host Iain Lee has come out as bisexual (Andrew Benge/Redferns & Getty)

4. Lil Nas X.

Lil Nas X came out as gay earlier this year and was largely greeted with huge positivity – but it wasn’t an easy experience for him. He recently revealed that coming to terms with his identity was a challenging and lengthy process.

“I was just like, praying, praying, praying that it was a phase, that it would go away,” he told Gayle King on CBS’ This Morning.

He also said that society has “a long way to go” before LGBT+ people are fully accepted.

Lil Nas X opens up about struggles with sexuality, says he hoped being gay was a phase
Lil Nas X (Frederick M. Brown/Getty)

“You know, someone who’s like, listening to me in school right now, it’s like, ‘You gay cause you listening to him.’ There’s still a lot to be done of course but I do believe it’s helping.”

He continued: “Me being in this position, it’s easy for me. But like, some little boy 10 miles from here, it’s not going to be good for him.”

5. Collin Martin.

Collin Martin is one of few openly gay soccer players. The Minnesota United player has spoken extensively about coming to terms with his identity since he came out last year.

“I didn’t know how much people needed this story,” he told Adidas Soccer. “I happen to be in an industry where there’s not enough representation. The worst thing you can do in this life is second guess yourself and feel like you have to live a double life. I feel amazing just being able to know that I’m myself every day and I don’t have to hold anything back.”

Out soccer star Collin Martin says there ‘has to be’ more gay footballers
Collin Martin (Shaun Clark/Getty)

6. Ryan Russell.

NFL veteran Ryan Russell came out as bisexual in a moving essay for ESPN earlier this year. He also opened up about his struggle with depression.

“After the injury, losing my best friend, Joseph Gilliam, to cancer, and battling severe depression, truth became a part of my survival,” Russell wrote.

“I didn’t make a Week 1 roster last season, but life was too short to do anything other than what I loved. I moved to Los Angeles and began writing stories I wished I’d heard more of as a child. I continued to heal and train for football because I knew my best days as an athlete were ahead of me. I also began to date openly and freely.”

Ryan Russell said being openly bisexual will make him a better NFL player. (CNN)

7. Ben Barres.

Celebreated Stanford neurobiologist Ben Barres came out as transgender in the 1990s and spoke frequently about his journey to self-acceptance over the following years. In a video for an online course offered by Stanford, he spoke about his realisation that he was a man. Barres sadly passed away in 2017.

“I remember reading a very long article about a well known Bay area transgender man, James Green, and he was talking about what it was like to be transgender and what his life was like and how it felt to be transgender.

“It was really a revelation for me because it was the first time I realised there was anybody else out there like me, and there was a word, gender dysphoria or transgender, that applied to it. And so it allowed me to begin to understand.”

Ben Barres
Ben Barres (YouTube)

8. Jim Parsons.

The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons came out in 2012 and revealed in an interview this year with Variety that he was once so uncomfortable with his sexuality that he was afraid of Pride parades. But all of that has changed for the actor, who has since embraced being gay.

“Once it was out in the public, I was like, ‘Well, f**k you!'” Parsons said. “If you still have a problem with gay people, you directly have a problem with me. Being a full-fledged member of it and claiming it, there was just an elation there, and there still is! I still feel it.

“It’s a huge relief, and it’s also really nice to sometimes be able to feel righteous anger.”

Jim Parsons (Christopher Polk/Getty)

9. Olly Alexander.

Years and Years frontman Olly Alexander is one of the most visible queer men in the music industry today, and he has repeatedly used that platform to call out toxic masculinity.

Speaking at the GQ Awards last year, Alexander said: “Let’s let our men be happy, be sad, be trans, be questioning, be bisexual, be non-conforming, be feminine, be masculine!”

Olly Alexander says he feels sorry for straight people (Instagram/Olly Alexander)

He continued: “I’ll be real with you: I was going to do a speech like, ‘Men suck! Smash the patriarchy!’ And that’s still a thing; we still have to do that. But I think it’s also important to say men don’t talk about their feelings.

“The biggest killer of men between 20 and 50 is suicide, so it’s evident that there is a problem here, that men are not getting the help that they need and deserve. I feel like our definition of what a man is supposed to be is so out of date. It’s been out of date for a very long time.”

10. Don Lemon.

CNN news anchor Don Lemon came out publicly as gay in 2011 and has spoken on various occasions since then about his experience of being black and gay.

“Historically, black men have stayed in the closet. You have to decide your identity: Do I want to be black? Or do I want to be gay? And sometimes, some of us say we’re too black to be gay. Or are we too gay to be black?”

CNN anchor Don Lemon
CNN anchor Don Lemon

Lemon said that as a gay, black man, discrimination could come from all sides.

“You get it from your own folks or from the larger community. And you’re worried about your job, will you be able to advance?”


More: don lemon, international men's day, Jim Parsons, lil nas x, Olly Alexander

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