Keiynan Lonsdale Of “Love, Simon,” On Being Black, Queer, And Anxious

The Aussie actor on the pressure of driving while black, queer movies that should be taught in schools, and making peace with his emotions.

Australian heartthrob Keiynan Lonsdale has quickly made a name for himself as a result of his groundbreaking role as superhero Kid Flash on CW’s The Flash. Since coming out last year in an Instagram post, the 26-year-old actor has also been using the powers of his platform to inspire a new generation of LGBT youth. Since he’s starring in Greg Berlati’s highly-anticipated Love, Simon, we caught up with Keiynan to see how his world has changed over the last year.

You’re a queer black guy, playing a superhero on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. I just want to start off by acknowledging how insanely dope, important and revolutionary that is.

Thank you so much. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s a big deal. I feel very lucky to have this position that I’m in and for the love and support of my family and friends and the fans who share their heartwarming, and even heartbreaking, stories with me. The heartwarming stories make me feel good and proud of what I’m able to do. The heartbreaking stories remind me that representation and me being visible is so important. I love hearing from all of my fans, especially young, black guys. There’s often different pressure placed on us.

Katie Yu/The CW
Lonsdale and Grant Gustin in The Flash

Kid Flash’s superpower is superhuman speed. If you could have any superhuman power, what would it be?

I wish I could lift people’s judgements from them. I wish people could see what the world would look like without it. When I wasn’t judging myself or people around me, it changed my life. I realized I didn’t need to be so down and hard on myself, and I realized I had my own superpowers and started to embrace the.

I like to change my hair, I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, & I like guys (yes), I like growing, I like learning, I like who I am and I really like who I'm becoming. Spent way too many years hating myself, thinking I was less valuable because I was different.. which is just untrue. A couple years ago I was able to accept myself, & it saved my life, but now I've gotten to a new road block & I feel kind of lost. I gotta take the next step & actually embrace who I am, which is pretty exciting. Not faking shit anymore, not apologising for falling in love with people no matter their gender. I've become bored of being insecure, ashamed, scared… no one should feel like that about themselves, especially when there is so much good life to live. Ya know more & more I see so many young people being their best / truest selves, it's fucking inspiring… so what have I been waiting for!? Who knows. Everyone in their own time. I hope we can all learn to embrace who we are & not judge people who aren't exactly the same as us. The truth is we are all family, we're all one. Just love. Keiy. ❤

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You came out in an Instagram post almost a year ago. In the post, you talk about the journey of acceptance.

Last year, I decided I was going to step out of myself. I had a lot of social anxiety. I felt like I didn’t belong. I didn’t want to leave my home, I didn’t even want to go get coffee. I needed to lift myself up, and I knew it had to come from me. I also knew if I continued to ignore this, it would make me really sad. Throughout this exploration and transition, I got very anxious. I was having panic attacks at work. I was over analyzing every situation. But eventually, I realized I can do a lot with how I receive information. I can choose. I’ve never been the same person since. I don’t think it makes sense to people until they go to through their own journey.

What’s the last year been like for you?

I don’t find myself afraid and if I do [feel afraid], I’m okay. I let my feelings come through. I love being social. But I love my alone side. I can be myself with people, I’m more open. I see it in my writing, my choices on set, and in my music. And it shows my fans and anyone else it’s okay to be like to that.

Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Say more about pressure.

There’s an unspoken pressure that we place on ourselves. There’s no one way to be or act black. If I’m driving in a certain place, I’m treated as a black man. [But] I’m not going to let someone else define how I feel about myself. It’s a gift we get to have, discovering ourselves. Black people experience so much pressure. Add sexuality on top of that, and it’s an extra weight to carry around. It was painful not having anyone to look up to that looked like me growing up. It told me that there’s no way I can do music or be an actor because I couldn’t name one person who was doing it. That’s why I made the decision to hide [my sexual orientation]. But once I was no longer afraid, I worked on getting rid of that fear and that shame. It’s an ongoing journey, but I am realizing there’s a lot of power and beauty in that. It’s a gift.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for GLSEN
Lonsdale speaks onstage at the 2017 GLSEN Respect Awards on October 20, 2017 in Los Angeles

Describe Love, Simon.

When I came across the script and saw Greg Berlanti was attached, I knew it was going to be told with honesty. [Love, Simon explores] what it’s like to grow up in the world we’re currently in, dealing with sexuality, questioning it, and allowing you to be yourself. It’s focused on sexuality and that’s where most people struggle. Even if you identify as straight, there’s insecurity based on how we’ve been conditioned. I hope it shows people there’s a way you can actually be yourself and know you are worthy of love.

When I was processing my own sexuality, The Broken Hearts Club, also by Greg Berlanti, and it was my go-to movie to see gay men on screen.

He’s able to organically make diversity a normal thing. Even with The Flash you have a black family, but it doesn’t feel forced. It’s organic and it’s with purpose. His LGBTQ characters allow audiences to connect with them even if they aren’t used to it. They grow to love these characters. He’s does that beautifully.

One of your tweets recently said that they should teach love in high school and show Call Me By Your Name. What else would you put on the curriculum?

Lots of Beatles music! The class would involve movement, dance, conversation, art, mediation, and breaking down what love is. Most look at love from what they learned as a kid-find someone and if you don’t have someone, you don’t know love. What about loving yourself, friendship, animals, nature? We need to see, love, and appreciate what’s around us. We need to learn to love in hard times. It makes us stronger as humans when we understand emotions.

Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie living in Manhattan. Follow him on Instagram at @dirrtykingofpop.