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.
“Your kid is now going to live authentically as them[self]. Just as you saw them when they were a little child, so embrace that.”
I like to change my hair, I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, & I like guys (yes), I like growing, I like learning, I like who I am and I really like who I’m becoming. Spent way too many years hating myself, thinking I was less valuable because I was different.. which is just untrue. A couple years ago I was able to accept myself, & it saved my life, but now I’ve gotten to a new road block & I feel kind of lost. I gotta take the next step & actually embrace who I am, which is pretty exciting. Not faking shit anymore, not apologising for falling in love with people no matter their gender. I’ve become bored of being insecure, ashamed, scared… no one should feel like that about themselves, especially when there is so much good life to live. Ya know more & more I see so many young people being their best / truest selves, it’s fucking inspiring… so what have I been waiting for!? Who knows. Everyone in their own time. I hope we can all learn to embrace who we are & not judge people who aren’t exactly the same as us. The truth is we are all family, we’re all one. Just love. Keiy. ❤
It was making Love, Simon that helped Keiynan bring his own coming out story to the world.
The film, which tells the story of closeted teen Simon (Nick Robinson), became a box-office success and gave Keiynan an even bigger audience to spread his messages of self-love and pride.
Every day, he receives messages on Instagram from people thanking him or asking him for advice about coming out.
“A story that really got me thrown was an older person who had a family and they didn’t know how to be honest with them and their kids,” he says.
“It was just a reminder at how deep this runs with people of all ages, and also as a reminder to me like ‘I can give my advice in general and on social media and I can live this authentic life as myself’ but also that it’s important for people to understand also to seek help from professionals. That’s what I did.”
While it might seem more acceptable to come out now than in any other generation, the marriage equality debate in Australia proved that some people still haven’t got the memo yet.
Even though we now have marriage equality, more than 38 percent of Australians voted “no” in the postal survey – which would make it incredibly hard for a young person coming out in one of those families.
How can we help them to become “wielders of the rainbow magic” as well?
“Invite them,” Keiynan says. “Wielders of the rainbow magic isn’t like ‘You have to be queer to be a part of this’. No, no, no, everyone’s a wielder of the rainbow magic when you understand that the rainbow is like magic.
“It’s a beautiful thing to love who you love. I would say invite them into this space, show people Love, Simon as a great example, because it’s so positive. It’s just a good movie. It’s just taking our time – it’s going to be tricky, but we can be patient.”
Love, Simon is available new to buy or rent on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from July 4.
Keiynan Lonsdale’s new single ‘Preach’ is out now.