Byron Perkins is surely breaking barriers for HBCUs, collegiate athletes, and the LGBTQ+ community. He is the first openly gay HBCU football player, and he recently revealed his new boyfriend to the world.
Historically black colleges and universities are known for their rich history, fixed traditions, and incomparable culture. While social issues around race and education are typically priorities on these campuses, gay rights can sometimes take the back burner.
In October 2022, Hampton University’s defensive back made a decision to live in his truth, not realizing that he would soon make history.
“…I’m going to make a change and stop running away from myself. I’m gay…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…,” he wrote to his followers at the time.
Now, in celebration of the start of this year’s Pride Month, Perkins unapologetically posted a photo of him and his new boo!
Byron’s brave step toward embracing his full identity has far-reaching implications for HBCU campus culture, especially within sports. Hopefully, this will serve as a step towards fostering more inclusive athletic environments everywhere.
While the numerous headlines last year surrounding Perkins’ decision to come out signaled progress, his decision to make his sexual orientation public was far from a picture-perfect moment, according to one prominent member of the LGBTQ community who attended an HBCU.
George M. Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of All Boys Aren’t Blue and a graduate of both Virginia Union University and Bowie State University, questioned why it took so long for an HBCU football player to feel comfortable sharing his journey with the rest of the Black community and society at large.
“When we talk about the first person to ever do something, it always has to come with the caveat of why is it taking so long for this person to be the first,” Johnson told NewsOne in an exclusive conversation last year. “So as significant of a moment that it is, as important of a moment as it is, we also have to understand that the fact of the matter is that this is just now happening in 2022 still speaks to a much larger problem.”
Perkins expressed a similar sentiment during an interview with Outsports in which he officially came out as gay last year.
“Especially at an HBCU, young Black gay men need an outlet,” Perkins said. “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.”
Perkins added: “It’s about that kid who’s going to see this and think he can be himself too.”
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