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Hampton University's Defensive back Byron Perkins took to Instagram earlier this week to come out as Gay, effectively making the 22-year-old the first player to publicly come out while attending a D1 Historical Black College University.
“I’ve been self-reflective and trying to prioritize what makes me happy and makes me feel alive,” Perkins wrote via Instagram.
“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.”
He continued, saying he wanted to make a change to stop running away from his true self.
“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.” he said. “Simply put, I am who I am.”
Perkins finished the post by saying he was destroying the mask that restricted him from publicly displaying his sexuality.. . “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.”
By coming out as gay Perkins joins the ranks of college football players who have come out in recent years. In 2017 then University of Arizona football signee My-King Johnson was revealed to be the first-ever openly gay FBS scholarship player.
Perkins, a devout Christian grew up in Chicago, where he attended De La Salle Institute, a private Catholic school. While at De La Salle, Perkins played offense, defense, and special teams, and was recognized by the Chicago Sun-Times high school all-50 team competition event.
Before the end of high school, Perkins was a three-star recruit and signed on to play for the Purdue Boilermakers. While at Purdue, Perkins was redshirted (an athlete who sits out one season and still maintains four years of eligibility) and had trouble finding his way onto the depth chart.
In 2019 Purdue announced Perkins would transfer to Hampton in 2020. Hampton, a private HBCU located in Hampton, Virginia competes in the Colonial Athletic Association at the FCS level which currently includes 13 football teams from Maine to South Carolina.
While at Hampton Perkins has appeared in 11 games for the Pirates during the past two seasons.
In an interview with Outsports Perkins said the reception to his coming out has been mixed but overall “very good”, with his coaches supporting him.
Perkins said his religion plays a prominent role in his life and he wants to shake the stigmas surrounding being gay and religious. “You can be gay and be religious,” he said.
“I’m a God-fearing man. I love Christ. I just want to be better than the man I was the day before, and I want to help people.”
Perkins said he understands some people may not understand his sexuality but it was important for him to come out to better assist other gay Black men who may be struggling to accept their sexuality, especially those who attend historically Black universities.
“It’s about that kid who’s going to see this and think he can be himself too.” he said.
“Young Black gay men need an outlet. 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.”
Sports Journalist and New York Times best-selling author Jeff Pearlman took to Twitter to share his thoughts on Perkins coming out saying, “ I have to say, this took a lot of bravery, strength from Byron Perkins. Football remains a land of bullshit machismo; of “man up” nonsense. “
Out of six games played this season, Perkins has recorded 16 tackles, two deflected passes and one interception.
Looking forward, Perkins is expected to finish up his Junior year at Hampton with the Pirates who are currently 4-2.