Colton Haynes is the recipient of the Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign this year. Since officially coming out as gay in an Entertainment Weekly profile this past spring, Haynes has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQIA rights. Receiving the award from the United States' largest LGBTQIA civil rights advocacy group is both humbling and deeply important considering the flack Haynes received following his coming out.
"I don’t necessarily feel especially deserving of this recognition. We all know that there are many other ways, many other people who have come before me and blazed the trail as LGBT advocates and role models," he said. "And I’m walking in their shoes and I’m following their lead." Visibly moved, Haynes promises to not take this award lightly, but rather as a promise. "I'm not making it to you," he says. "I am making it to the next generation of lesbians and gay men, bisexuals, transgender youth, and I hope my example will give them the confidence and hope to be who they are as well—and for them to conquer their own fears and their own hesitations." He adds, "I want to give them a little more courage to know that they're loved just as they are and to know that they'll grow up beautiful and strong and proud."
Haynes' own coming out was criticized by members of the LGBTQIA community, which makes this award that much more important. Actor Noah Galvin, who is also gay, gave a brutally candid interview to New York Mag's Vulture vertical where he called Haynes' coming out "fucking pussy bullshit." He considered Haynes to only "slightly confirm" the rumors of his sexuality and that "it [was] not doing anything for the little gays but giving them more masturbation material." Galvin since issued an apology, saying his "only intention was to try and empower and promote honesty, but I fully understand that comments I made were brazen and hurtful."
Criticizing an individual's journey toward self-acceptance is not the way to go about empowering and promoting honesty. Living by example is, and Haynes is committing to doing so. His openness, along with the other HRC Visibility Award recipients—which include Kesha, Apple's CEO Tim Cook, OItNB's Samira Wiley, and directors Lana Wachowski and Lee Daniels—highlights the fact that there is no one way to come out and be visible. It encourages honesty and promotes equality. "[I] hope I can inspire y'all to be yourselves," Haynes said in a follow-up Instagram post, "even though I hid for so long."