Byron Perkins has come out as a gay man.
The defensive back for the Division I Hampton Pirates told Outsports that he made this decision after feeling pressure to go against his authentic self.
“I’ve been self-reflective and trying to prioritize what makes me happy and makes me feel alive,” he said. “I thought it could be just football and school, but there was a component missing. And recently I’ve been able to figure out that I haven’t been fully happy because everyone didn’t know who I was. Authenticity is everything to me.”
Perkins added this to his Instagram page.
“I’ve decided that I’m going to make a change, and stop running away from myself,” Perkins wrote. “I’m gay, let it be known that this is not a ‘decision’ or a ‘choice.’ Yes, this is who I am, this is who I’ve been, and this is who I’m going to be.
“Simply put, I am who I am.”
“I have come to understand that life is precious and I could be gone at any moment, therefore, I will no longer be living a lie. No one should have to live a life crippled by what society thinks.
I have been told on many occasions that I walk around a look as if I’m upset. This is not because I am an angry person, but because I have put on a mask, a mask that has restricted me. Today, I am destroying that mask.
For the friends and family that have known and supported me to this point, thank you, and for the friends and family that I will lose… Thank you too. You have all helped me in the process of building the young man I am today.”
Perkins is the first gay football player to come out publicly at an HBCU.
For the year, the junior defensive back for the Pirates has 16 tackles, two pass breakups, and one interception.
Throughout this process, Perkins added that his coaches have been extremely supportive.
“Especially at an HBCU, young Black gay men need an outlet,” he added. “They need a support system. There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HBCU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.
“It’s about that kid who’s going to see this and think he can be himself too.”