A Hampton University football player came out publicly as gay, a first for a football player at a historically Black college or university, according to Outsports.com, an LGBTQ sports news site.
Byron Perkins, a Division I defensive back for the Hampton University Pirates, came out as gay in an Instagram story shared Wednesday.
“I’ve decided that I’m going to make a change, and stop running away from myself. 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,” Perkins wrote in the story, according to Outsports.com. (Instagram stories are only available for 24 hours, so Perkins’ original story is no longer viewable).
While several Division I football players have come out as gay during their college careers — including the College of Idaho’s Cy Hicks, Amherst College’s Avery Saffold and Kansas State’s Scott Frantz — Perkins is the first to do so at one of the country’s 101 HBCUs, according to both Outsports and Perkins.
Perkins, a junior at his university, which is located in Hampton, Virginia, about 40 miles from the North Carolina border, told Outsports that his teammates’ reaction to his revelation has been “very good” but mixed. He said his coaches have been supportive.
In Wednesday’s Instagram story, Perkins thanked the friends and family who have supported him up until now, even the ones he “will lose” following his coming out.
“You have all helped me in the process of building the young man I am today,” he wrote.
Perkins told Outsports that he’d like to help other gay Black men who are struggling with their sexuality.
“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,” he said. “It’s about that kid who’s going to see this and think he can be himself too.”
Since Perkins’ announcement, users across the internet have shared their support for his bravery.
“I have to say, this took a lot of bravery, strength from Byron Perkins,” one Twitter user wrote, in part. “I’m sure the young man has heard his fair share of slurs from teammates unaware that he is gay. So bravo, x 100,000.”
Another person wrote on Instagram, “Thank you and congratulations on being true to yourself and empowering other strong black men to do the same.”
“Congrats. So much positive in your future. Be authentic and be the best version of yourself on and off the field,” another Instagram user wrote.
Cyd Zeigler, the co-founder of Outsports, noted that “so many ‘first’ gay athletes — John Amaechi, Jason Collins, Michael Sam — have been Black men.”
“To now have Byron step out in the heart of masculine sports culture at an HBCU shows how far these men have advanced the conversation,” Zeigler said in an email. “And as Byron said, now there’s been this important first, others will feel they can be their true selves, too. Courage is contagious.”