As the first “gay teen rom-con” made by a major studio, Love, Simon showed a coming out story like we’d never seen before in mainstream Hollywood.
One with sensitivity, humour and an honesty that recognised both the uniqueness and the universality of the coming out experience.
No moment captures this sentiment better than when Jennifer Garner’s character says to her son: “You get to exhale now…You get to be more you than you have been in a very long time.”
It’s a touching scene that prompts anyone who’s ever come out to revisit the deep mark it leaves upon yourself and the loved ones in your life. More broadly though, it speaks to something all people want in life: unconditional love from those whom they love.
Australian actor Keiynan Lonsdale can relate to that. Playing shy teen Bram in Love, Simon gave him the courage to become what he now calls “a wielder of the rainbow magic”.
In May 2017, the former Dance Academy and Legends of Tomorrow star came out as bisexual to his Instagram followers (now numbered at 809,000 – yes, he’s huge).
Now, he proudly identifies as queer, wears dresses on the red carpet and in his music videos, and is more comfortable in his skin than he’s ever been before.
Mamamia talked to Keiynan about his own coming out experience, and the brilliant advice he’d give any parents in the same position as Simon’s mum in Love, Simon (post continues after video):
“When I told my mum I poured my heart out to her, because it was the first time I’d got heartbroken. I was, like 20,” Keiynan tells Mamamia. “I came out to her on the phone. I was like ‘It was a guy’ and she just drove straight to where I was living and we just talked for hours and I told her everything.
“I think she had known for a few months or longer that something was up. It’s the same in the movie actually – ‘I can feel you holding your breath’ – that’s what Jennifer Garner’s character says, and I could tell at one point my mum knew something was going on because she said ‘You know I love you no matter what. Whatever you’re going through, I love you’. And that was before I came out, so she knew something was up. And right when I needed her, she was there.
“I’m actually quite thankful for that heartbreak because if it wasn’t for that I don’t know if I would’ve [come out then].”
While his own coming out experience only strengthened his relationship with his mum, the Sydney-born actor and singer knows that not everyone is as lucky as him.
When we asked what advice he’d have for parents whose children come out to them, Keiynan gave a beautiful, insightful answer.
“I think so many parents go through such internal struggles because society has made them feel like if their kid is out or gay or queer they’re going to have a hard life and it’s going to be harder for them,” Keiynan says.
“And every parent [who] loves their kid, they just want them to have a good life. So they get into their head that it has to be ‘this way’ and ‘you can’t be that’. Not every parent now – we see so much is changing.
“[But] if they end up blocking out their child, they end up in such suffering as well, because they’re so confused and conflicted with their love. So what I would say to them is if you love your child, you’re allowed to love your child exactly as they are. Don’t punish yourself, don’t punish them. Just do your research and listen to all of these kids’ stories and understand it’s not even just something to accept – this is something to be excited about.