Byron Perkins made history last year when he became the first out gay football player in HBCU history. Just eight months later, the Hampton University star already seems to be living his best life.
To commemorate Pride Month, Perkins recently shared photos on his Instagram story… of his boyfriend! It’s unknown how long they’ve been dating, but they certainly seem happy together.
Queerty DM’d both Perkins and his partner, James “JD” Dunn. We will update this post if we hear back.
The first picture of the happy couple shows them at a restaurant, posing for the camera. The Pride flag is placed in the bottom left-hand corner.
“Happy pride, love,” the captain reads.
Awww! Simple and beautiful.
But Perkins didn’t stop there: he told a story. On the second picture, he wrote that he “doesn’t know a lot…”
But he knows he loves his boyfriend!
Perkins, who recently completed his junior season at defensive back, says he originally thought he was only coming out for himself. He was in a dark place last fall, and as he phrased it on Instagram, needed to “destroy his mask.”
“I have been told on many occasions that I walk around a look as if I’m upset,” he wrote on his coming-out story. “This is not because I am an angry person, but because I have put on a mask, a mask that has restricted me. Today, I am destroying that mask.”
Later, Perkins didn’t realize he only destroyed his own mask. He also inspired others across the country to do the same, or at least consider it for the first time in their lives.
“I didn’t realize it was going to have as much impact as it had,” he said on The Tamron Hall Show. “I thought I was just doing something that was going to help me. I didn’t realize I would be an influence for everybody else.”
Perkins received praise from some of the biggest out male athletes in sports for his courage and perspective. Derrick Gordon, the first out gay player in Division 1 men’s college basketball, responded to the above Hall clip with heartfelt emojis. Zander Murray, the Scottish pro soccer player who came out last year, replied with a message of encouragement.
“Love it bro,” he wrote with a heart emoji. “Be yourself and [it’s] amazing [you’re] doing so at such a young age.”
While other college football players have come out before, including Kansas State’s Scott Frantz and My-King Johnson at Arizona, Perkins’ distinction of playing in the HBCU is significant. He knows that visibility is the best antidote to ignorance.
Now, other young gay male athletes at HBCUs have a new role model.
“Especially at an HBCU, young Black gay men need an outlet,” he told Outsports. “They need a support system. There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HBCU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.”
Judging by Perkins’ Instagram, his boyfriend has been in his life for at least six months. Dunn’s first comment on Perkins’ page was written 32 weeks ago: “’I don’t think it’s about who you play, I think it’s about who you are.’ So keep showing the world who Byron truly is!,” he wrote.
Dunn, meanwhile, posted his first photo with Perkins five days ago. “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do. Happy Pride Month!,” he wrote.
It’s great to see these two celebrate themselves, and recognize how lucky they are.
Like many athletes, Perkins thrived on the field after coming out. He recorded 22 tackles in 12 games, including five against Albany on Oct. 15, four days before his big announcement.
Finally, he can play football–and live life–without harboring secrets.
“I’ve noticed that I’ve been a lot less stressed, worried, and anxious,” he said about coming out. “I’ve been able to be greater at what I do, and therefore be a better person [and] player.”
We’re wishing Perkins and Dunn an excellent Pride season! We can’t wait to follow their adventures.
Scroll down for more pics of Perkins shining on and off the gridiron…