On Wednesday, Hampton defensive back Byron Perkins revealed his sexual orientation. According to Sports Illustrated, Perkins is the first HBCU football player to come out as gay thanks to his declaration of his sexual orientation.
The native of Chicago announced his decision on Instagram, saying he wouldn’t keep “living a lie.” He wrote on Facebook, “I’ve decided that I’m going to make a change, and stop fleeing from myself. Let it be known that I am gay and that this is not a “determination” or a “choice.” Yes, this is who I am, who I have been, and who I intend to be.
The redshirt junior defensive back also explained his decision to come out in an interview with Outsports. Prior to publicly disclosing his sexual orientation, Perkins said that he felt there was a missing component in his life. But he said he now feels whole.
“I’ve been self-reflective and trying to prioritize what makes me happy and makes me feel alive,” Perkins told the news outlet. “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 first competed for Purdue as a student-athlete before transferring to Hampton. Sports Illustrated reports that the football team of the Virginia-based private university, known as the Pirates, plays in the Colonial Athletic Association. Over the past two seasons, Perkins has played for the Pirates in 11 games.
In a post on Instagram, Perkins revealed how it affected him to hide his sexual orientation. I now realize that life is valuable and I could pass away at any time; as a result, I won’t live a lie any longer, Perkins said.
“No one should have to live a life crippled by what society thinks. I have been told on many occasions that I walk around and 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.”
Perkins told Outsports that his teammates’ responses have been “extremely good” or “a little varied,” depending on your perspective. He added that his coaches had given him assistance. Perkins also discussed the need for Black homosexual males to be out and proud of their sexuality.
“Especially at an HBCU, young Black gay men need an outlet,” said Perkins. “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.”