A New York City high schooler says he feels as though a weight has been lifted off his shoulders since deciding to come out as bisexual during his valedictorian speech.
"When I was writing my speech, I was talking about being proud for most of it, just proud of who you are, proud of what you’ve accomplished, and towards the end, I felt sort of like I was missing something," 17-year-old Mason Bleu told BuzzFeed News.
That missing piece, he said, was being open and honest about his sexuality.
"Towards the end [of writing my speech], I realized that if I didn’t include the part of me that should be proud of who I am, it would be hypocritical if I asked anyone else to," Bleu said.
"I'm not someone who likes getting emotional, so saying this is extremely personal and hard," Bleu said, addressing his classmates just moments before coming out.
"For a long time I've struggled with my sexuality. I've dodged it and ignored it because I wasn't proud of who I am. But today I'm changing that. I'm proud to be a bisexual man," he said, which made onlookers erupt with cheers of support.
He posted the video to Twitter, where it went viral. The teen got thousands of new followers, when just days ago he had "less than 20," and received hundreds of direct messages.
Bleu said that prior to coming out, he'd only told two people about his sexuality. About a year ago, he said, he told his cousin — who is bi — that he "was attracted to someone that I shouldn’t be, and she kind of got the message.”
The other person was a best friend, who, along with Bleu's cousin, "handled it pretty well," he said.
Though he'd been able to confide in a few people, Bleu wasn't out.
He cited the "struggle" of being a black man in the US, as well as his desired profession, acting, as two reasons he stayed closeted for so long.
At a time where it's rare to see queer actors nabbing lead roles, even when the character they'd be portraying are LGBTQ, Bleu's thoughts aren't unfounded.
But he hopes that changes in the near future.
"Acting is literally my biggest passion, my biggest motivator for everything, so the thought of not being able to do something because of who I am is frightening," he said.
Coming out never seemed like a realistic option for Bleu, who said he used to go by the motto, "No one has to know; it’s nobody’s business."
But since making his announcement, Bleu said, he "wouldn't want it any other way."
"It feels like a weight off my shoulders," he said. "It's still surreal to me."
The self-described "bicon" attended his "first pride being out" over the weekend in New York City.
For those who want to come out and aren't yet sure if it's the right time, Bleu offered some advice.
"If you feel like you’re in an unsafe environment, don’t put yourself at risk. Make sure you can depend on someone if things go unexpectedly," he said. "I just want everyone to be safe."
Bleu said he pans to attend the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut this fall, where he will continue pursuing his dream of acting.