On Wednesday (October 19), Byron Perkins, a defensive back for the Hampton University Pirates, came out as gay in a post shared on his Instagram story.
“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 said in his story, per Outsports.com.
The post makes Perkins, a junior at Hampton University, the first HBCU football player to come out as gay, according to Outsports and Perkins.
He told Outsports that his teammates' reactions have been "very good" but mixed — His coaches have remained supportive.
In Wednesday’s Instagram story, Perkins expressed gratitude for the friends and family who have supported him for all of his life, including ones he “will lose” due to his coming out.
“You have all helped me in the process of building the young man I am today,” he wrote.
Perkins said he wants to be an inspiration for 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.”
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 a statement. “And as Byron said, now there’s been this important first, others will feel they can be their true selves, too. Courage is contagious.”