Colton Haynes was so moved to receive the Human Rights Campaign‘s Visibility Award that he walked up to the podium already crying.
“It’s taken me a long time to get here,” he explained.
Haynes, best known for starring in the TV shows “Teen Wolf” and “Arrow,” came out as gay in May of this year after years of dodging public speculation.
“It’s an extremely humbling experience for me to receive this award from the Human Rights Campaign, and to know that this is about my visibility,” he said.
Not everyone was pleased with how Haynes chose to handle his coming out. “Real O’Neals” star Noah Galvin called his decision to let people assume he was gay by dropping hints without definitively saying it directly “p*ssy bullsh*t,” which caused a serious backlash. Galvin has since apologized.
“Earlier this year, I guess my coming out, it was a bit splashy for people,” he said. “It wasn’t very surprising for those who already knew me the best…But that’s how entertainment works. It seems to make a bigger deal of everyone’s personal decisions.”
He added that it was up to him to be open and honest with everyone, which is why it was such a big night for him.
“I’m asked to play so many different roles as an actor,” he said, pausing to collect himself. “Tonight I can actually be myself for the first time. It feels incredible.”
Haynes pledged to accept the award as a promise to LGBT youth.
“I don’t necessarily feel especially deserving of this recognition,” he admitted. “We all know there are…many other people who have come before me and blazed the trail as LGBT advocates and role models and I’m walking in their shoes and I’m following in their lead. Instead I’ll accept this award as a promise.
My promise is simple and real, and I’m not making it to you. I’m 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 added that he has never felt healthier or happier.
Watch Haynes’ moving speech below: