Student Comes Out as Bisexual in Valedictorian Speech

By John Paul Brammer

Mason Bleu, a teenager from Brooklyn, New York, didn’t have a conventional “coming out” moment. As valedictorian of his class, it was expected that he would stand up in front of the school to give a speech. What was less expected was that he would take the opportunity to announce that he was a “proud bisexual man.” The moment was caught on camera and went viral, even landing Bleu on morning talk shows. But over the phone, Bleu told me he wasn’t sure he was going to go through with it at all.

“I was completely nervous. I downed, like, three bottles of water,” he told me of the moments leading up to his speech. “Two of my teachers and my best friend knew what I was about to do. But I asked them, ‘Should I do it? Should I not?’ And it was my best friend who was like, ‘Do it.’”

Before becoming a social media sensation, Bleu was a Dominican kid traveling back and forth from New York to the Dominican Republic every summer with his family. “Every year we saw my family there, we brought clothes and canned food so they could survive,” he said. “I stayed with my aunt and cousins and it would be a big reunion. Sometimes we would go years without seeing them, so it was always a big deal to be all together.”

Both sides of his family are Dominican, he said, and his mother’s side moved to New York when she was 13. They still live within a mile of Bleu today. Growing up in his neighborhood wasn’t always easy, though, and became even harder when he started to understand that he was bisexual during his freshman year of high school. “I started to realize how LGBT people were treated in general, and we didn’t speak about it in my family,” he said. “I could tell there wasn’t acceptance in the area I grew up in. There’s a lot of toxic masculinity going around. If someone was gay, people would say something to him, people had a problem with it.”

Bleu said a cousin was the first person he told, because she was bisexual as well. “I told her maybe two years ago,” he said. “But I didn’t say I was bi. I said I thought I was attracted to people I shouldn’t be. She reacted pretty well, and that was one reason I wanted to tell her. She was a part of the community.”

It wasn’t until Bleu had finished writing his valedictorian speech that everything clicked. “I was talking a lot about being proud of who you are, that you could be anything, but when I finished I felt like something was missing because I was hiding something. I decided to come out in it, but I didn’t submit that part for approval.”

He then told his mom and little brother the night before his speech. “Overall, they were pretty supportive,” he said. “I was crying, and my mom was like, ‘don’t cry,’ and my brother said ‘there’s no reason to cry over being who you are.’” Then he told them he was going to come out in front of the school.

“She was like, ‘you’re going to do what?’” Bleu said. “She asked me why. I said I wanted people to know they’re OK being this way. I wanted to make it public so people might be more willing to accept themselves, and I was willing to take the hit if I had to if it might help someone.”

Despite Bleu’s second thoughts at the last moment, he decided to go through with it. The result was a standing ovation from his peers. “I didn’t even notice the reaction at first,” he said. “I was just going to get it over with and get off the stage. Then I noticed people were applauding, and it felt like I really did something right.”

Bleu said he hopes to keep inspiring people. He just finished his first movie a few weeks ago, he said, and he wants to pursue a career in acting. He’s going to a small college in Connecticut and then hopefully moving on to a bigger one. “I have to do what I can afford,” he said. He also hopes to give Black LGBTQ people representation. “We have so little representation in media,” he said. “I think we can all be that representation and help people realize there’s no one picture or one shoe that fits all to any group out there.”

As for advice to LGBTQ youth, Bleu said he’s all for coming out, but adds they should feel safe when doing so. “Safety is everything,” he said. “I know some countries go to extremes and even kill people for being gay, and I don’t want people to put their lives in danger.” He also says having inspiration is important. “I struggled with mental health problems, but I would turn to people I looked up to,” he said. “Frank Ocean, Kevin Abstract, Jaden Smith, Black men who are very different, I see them as motivators,” he said. “There are so many people who are proudly different. I should be proud and different too.”

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, contact The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386. Counseling is also available 24/7 via chat every day at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.


The Trevor Project, Family Equality, and PFLAG National File Supreme Court Brief in LGBTQ Employment Discrimination Cases

The organizations partnered to submit an Amicus Curiae Brief in cases that could take away federal protections for transgender and gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Today Family Equality, The Trevor Project, and PFLAG National submitted an Amicus Brief in support of employees in three critically-important LGBTQ employment discrimination cases that will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2019-2020 term. The employers in these cases are asking the Supreme Court to rule that it is legal under federal law to fire workers because they are LGBTQ — a decision that would be a devastating roll-back of federal civil rights protections for transgender and gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans, and would run counter to federal law established in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“The case made in our brief, and supported by stories of real-life, everyday discrimination experienced by our families, is simple: anti-LGBTQ discrimination is discrimination based on sex and is, therefore, prohibited by Title VII,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer of Family Equality. “As we explain in our brief, discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is based on dominant social expectations about how men and women are supposed to look, act, and carry themselves, and about who they are supposed to love. It is impossible to separate discrimination based on sex from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and the Court should not try to do so. Family Equality calls on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of the employees in these cases, and uphold the existing protections against sex discrimination afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

“The Trevor Project was proud to stand with PFLAG National and the Family Equality in speaking up for youth and families who would be devastated by a negative ruling by the Supreme Court rolling back workplace protections for LGBTQ Americans,” said Casey Pick, Senior Fellow for Advocacy & Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. “As the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, we hear every day from youth in crisis who suffer from discrimination and harassment. The stories they tell us make it clear that the discrimination they suffer in the workplace is often based on their sex and gender stereotypes that have been rightly rejected under Title VII for decades. We hope that the Supreme Court will hear the voices of these young people and recognize, as have many lower courts, that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is sex discrimination, plain and simple.”

“For me, participating in this amicus brief for the Supreme Court was professional and personal,” said Diego M. Sanchez, Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Partnerships for PFLAG National. “In my professional role with PFLAG National, I was proud to represent our hundreds of thousands of PFLAG families across the country. As an openly Latinx transman, workplace discrimination deeply and directly affected my own family and me, when after disclosing that I was transgender on the job, I was told by the EVP of Human Resources, ‘We can’t have people like you, transgender people, working here.’ That I had just created the company’s award-winning fully inclusive Global Diversity Plan added insult to injury. Hopefully, sharing the impact of that painful experience will result in the Supreme Court justices affirming what we know: That sex discrimination is prohibited by law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including acting against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. We are proud to have our voices included in this amicus brief.”

The Trevor Project, Family Equality, and PFLAG National were represented by pro bono counsel from Wiley Rein, including Richard W. Smith and Douglas C. Dreier.

ABOUT FAMILY EQUALITY

Family Equality advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality believes every LGBTQ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live. Learn more at familyequality.org.

ABOUT THE TREVOR PROJECT

The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The Trevor Project offers a suite of 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, including TrevorLifelineTrevorText, and TrevorChat as well as the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, TrevorSpace. Trevor also operates an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, an advocacy department fighting for pro-LGBTQ legislation and against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric/policy positions, and a research team to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQ people in crisis and end suicide. If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, our trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386 via chat www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

ABOUT PFLAG

PFLAG is the nation’s first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies. With over 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas across America, PFLAG is committed to creating a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed. To learn more, visit pflag.org, like us on Facebook (/pflag), or follow us on Twitter (@pflag) or Instagram.