Welcome to the family. I saw that interview where you came out as gay to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, and it took me back to when I was coming out of the closet. It was tough. But I promise you, it will be the greatest gift you could ever give yourself. I was so moved that I decided to write you this letter.
Now, some people are going to object to me saying this, but when I watched your season, when you were “the virgin Bachelor,” I was thinking to myself: “Why is a gay guy the Bachelor?”
It is totally annoying for me to say that, but try not to take it personally. It really is coming from a place of sincere empathy. Just like you, damn near every queer person has had a similar struggle. We grow up in a world that tells us that our queerness is wrong, or sinful, or weird, and many of us believe it and internalize it. Then that pain manifests itself in many weird and traumatic ways. For you, it manifested itself into becoming “The Bachelor.” That’s…a lot.
When you told Robin Roberts that you thanked God for finally making you straight on the morning you found out you were going to be the next The Bachelor, it made me think of how I had the same conversation with God when I finally managed to kiss a girl in ninth grade.
“Oh good. I am straight. Nothing more to worry about.”
Then I would relive that same conversation every time I did something “straight” after that.
“Oh, I have a girlfriend. I’m straight now.”
“Oh, I have a prom date. Guess I’m straight.”
“Oh, I had sex with a woman. Super straight.”
No matter how many “straight” things I did, the high would eventually wear off and I would be forced to come back to the fact that I was gay.
Wash. Rinse. Self-traumatize. Repeat.
And I know that I’m not alone in how I experienced watching your season on The Bachelor. While most viewers were watching with bated breath, wondering what might eventually happen to your virginity in the Fantasy Suite, my gay friends and I were watching it knowing full well what would happen in there. Disappointment.
I watched about half of your season with my hands over my eyes and my teeth clenched. The rest of the world saw a handsome, straight virgin searching for love. What we saw was a tortured, closeted gay man doing his best to win at the most heteronormative thing to exist in our culture. It was like American Horror Story: Gay up in here.
Rewatching that scene on YouTube today, knowing what we all know now, made me cry. I don’t want to re-traumatize you, but here’s the link: Colton Jumps The Fence After Cassie Breakup 💔| The Bachelor US – YouTube
I remember watching that scene when Cassie told you she was leaving the show because she loved you but wasn’t “in love” with you. You were shaking. I think a lot of viewers thought they were watching two straights trying to make it work. What my gay friends and I saw was a straight girl who had a gut feeling she should have listened to, and a closeted gay guy who was hoping her love would make him straight. I think you and Cassie, on some level, knew what that conversation was really about.
And then you went off and jumped that nine-foot fence!
There were women out there tearing their hair out at how romantically distraught you were. Not me. I knew you were jumping that fence because you were hoping that you would land straight on the other side of it. And when you didn’t, you started running. And you never stopped until your interview with Robin Roberts.
I had a “jump the fence” moment, too. Practically every queer person has them. That moment when it all catches up to you. When it becomes too much. When my jump-the-fence moment came, I moved to New York City, worked at a seafood restaurant in Chelsea, and got a faux-hawk. (It was 2004.) Same thing.
But all of that is behind you now. You’re out. Pretty soon, you will be accepting an HRC Visibility Award at their annual dinner in L.A. and doing a podcast about Lady Gaga or some shit. Eventually, you will find a handsome TikTok-influencer boyfriend, and the two of you will be on the next season of The Amazing Race. The world is your oyster.
Hopefully, you will use your celebrity to help improve the lives of other queer people who are struggling. You talked about how you had suicidal thoughts. The Trevor Project’s suicide-prevention hotline for queer teens could use your help. Maybe you can help with LGBTQ homelessness, or discrimination, or any of the other myriad obstacles that are intentionally put in the way of queer people living freely and authentically. That’s entirely up to you. For now, just be proud of this first step.
You’re free now.
Ryan M. Leach
P.S. To Cassie, and to all of the people who are unintentionally hurt in relationships with closeted queer people who are struggling with their identity (I know I’ve hurt a few), it’s difficult to find the right words to apologize for causing you harm. Based on what I read in the tabloids, Cassie, it looks like Colton’s behavior was pretty unacceptable, even if you amicably resolved them. I know he apologized to you on national television, but it is highly likely that you may be feeling embarrassment, foolishness, or even shame. I wish you healing and happiness. I can only speak from my own personal experience and say that it was never my intention to hurt anybody in the same way the world was hurting me. Hopefully, someday, this will no longer be the state of the world we live in.