Travon Free Comes Out As Bisexual

A few days ago I started to see posts on my news feed about
Omarion: “he’s bi! He’s okay with it!,” I read. But before the rumor mill could
churn at full speed, it stopped. Oops. Not so much, tweeted the singer.

So it’s very refreshing to see the opposite story show up on
the web this week: a black actor, comedian and former college athlete coming
out publicly as bisexual, at peace with his decision.

After a decade of questionable media coverage on black men
who have sex with men and women, Travon Free’s coming out is a breath of fresh
air. Not as famous, clearly, as Omarion, his essay on coming out is refreshing
both for its honesty and its lack of moralization about the black community
(see: J.L. King’s book On the Down Low).

“I’ve been a lot of things and done a lot of things in my
life. Brother, son, student, athlete, fraternity boy, writer, comedian, actor,
and dare I say, I’ve done these things while remaining quite handsomely charming
and humble. All most all of them make me extremely proud of who I am and what I
have become. But most of my teen and adult life there was one thing that I
wasn’t so proud of. In fact I spent many years painfully ashamed of it. That
thing being the fact that I am bisexual,” Free writes.

Free’s journey has a lot in common with your standard coming
out tale, but bisexuals struggle differently because of their heterosexual
proclivities. Free never had to fake his attraction to women but knew his
attraction to men might cost him friends and family: “I knew I couldn’t be gay
because I knew I was attracted to girls sexually but I knew there was more to
me than I could understand at the time.”

One of the most interesting aspects of Free’s coming out is
his complex relationship to the church and God. Many black LGBT people have to
work through their faith, find a way to keep believing even as some elders
dissuade them from pursuing their feelings.

“The first adult I ever confided in about my feelings was a
pastor at a church retreat I went to when I was and I remember him telling
me that I wasn’t gay or bisexual, but that it was because my father wasn’t in
my life and it caused me to seek his love from other men. Not surprising that
would be his response since he himself is a “reformed” gay who was cured by
God. Well that made me feel good for about a week but I knew it wasn’t true. It
was actually complete bull. But at 14 you don’t know that yet.”

I imagine Free’s experience with the pastor is a common one
– I had a very similar experience. It can be quite traumatizing, but with some
theological questioning, friends and role models, Free found a way to reconcile
his beliefs with his sexuality. One of the most unrecognized aspects of the
coming out process is how it forces religious people to think deeply and
historically about their faith. Free seems to have gone through this process
with a deeper understanding of the historical role of the Bible, Christian
ethics, religion as an institution and the nature of God.

“People have used God to do all kinds of destructive and
hurtful things to other people when the message is simple, love each other. But
because religion and the Bible have been so terribly abused, people like me
have to go through life feeling like our existence is a mistake. I just wish
all the people who killed themselves before they got a chance to see the
process through to the end had another chance.”

At a time when some directors are advising gay actors to
stay in the closet, Free does wonder if his very public coming out will affect
his career. But unlike the many people in Hollywood who’ve chosen to remain
hidden to keep their jobs, Free believes revealing his sexuality will help him do his job better: “I believe
the added element of truth will make it a whole lot easier to be myself, write
funnier material, write truthful material, and that’s good enough for me.”

And following the reported spate of gay suicides, Free
believed going public about his struggles was an act bravery that could
encourage others toward paths of self-acceptance.

“After reading the stories of such brave young men and women
who had been beaten or killed or suffered through brutal attacks, I felt it was
time for me to step up to the plate. The heaviest stone I have carried my
entire life is finally being put down as if Atlas was finally able to take the
world down from his shoulders.”

So many young gay men of color struggle with their
attractions to men and take years to find a way to live with who they are, we
should all congratulate Free for being bolder than the rest and offering a
roadmap to pride.