Misfits unite

Connor Jessup says “Queerness is a solution”

This profile is number #1 in Queerty’s Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out in the past year. The series will run through National Coming Out Day on October 11.

Name: Connor Jessup, 25

Bio: Born in Canada, Jessup may have started out as a child actor in theater and television, but he’s long been wise beyond his years. He executive produced his first film at the age of 17, the same year he began his run on the TNT series Falling Skies. After making his move into film with Blackbird and Closet Monster, he hit it big on the Emmy-winning series American Crime. Next up: A starring role in Netflix’s Locke and Keye.

Coming out: On Instagram this past June, Jessup wrote a lengthy post describing his hesitance to come out publicly even though his friends and family had known his orientation for years. In it, a meditation of sorts on the many faces of shame, Jessup not only acknowledged his own process but the relative privilege he enjoys as a white, cis, upper-middle-class guy from a liberal family. He ended by saying he was “grateful to be gay” because “Queerness is a solution. It’s a promise against cliche and solipsism and blandness; it’s a tilted head and an open window. I value more every day the people, movies, books, and music that open me to it.”

Related: This TV star just came out in a beautiful essay: Happy Pride!

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I knew I was gay when I was thirteen, but I hid it for years. I folded it and slipped it under the rest of my emotional clutter. Not worth the hassle. No one will care anyway. If I can just keep making it smaller, smaller, smaller…. My shame took the form of a shrug, but it was shame. I’m a white, cis man from an upper-middle class liberal family. Acceptance was never a question. But still, suspended in all this privilege, I balked. It took me years. It’s ongoing. I’m saying this now because I have conspicuously not said it before. I’ve been out for years in my private life, but never quite publicly. I’ve played that tedious game. Most painfully, I’ve talked about the gay characters I’ve played from a neutral, almost anthropological distance, as if they were separate from me. These evasions are bizarre and embarrassing to me now, but at the time they were natural. Discretion was default, and it seemed benign. It would be presumptuous to assume anyone would care, yeah? And anyway, why should I have to say anything? What right do strangers have to the intimate details of my life? These and other background whispers––new, softer forms of the same voices from when I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…. Shame can come heavy and loud, but it can come quiet too; it can take cover behind comfort and convenience. But it’s always violent. For me, this discretion has become airless. I don’t want to censor––consciously or not––the ways I talk, sit, laugh, or dress, the stories I tell, the jokes I make, my points of reference and connection. I don’t want to be complicit, even peripherally, in the idea that being gay is a problem to be solved or hushed. I’m grateful to be gay. Queerness is a solution. It’s a promise against cliche and solipsism and blandness; it’s a tilted head and an open window. I value more everyday the people, movies, books, and music that open me to it. If you’re gay, bi, trans, two-spirit or questioning, if you’re confused, if you’re in pain or you feel you’re alone, if you aren’t or you don’t: You make the world more surprising and bearable. To all the queers, deviants, misfits, and lovers in my life: I love you. I love you. Happy Pride!

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Making a Difference: While Jessup shines in front of the camera, he’s actually more interested in what happens behind it. He’s made four short films and recently directed a documentary on Palme D’or Award-winning Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. He and his best friend, Ashley Shields-Muir, founded Big and Quiet Pictures together. This will put him the position to create more vital queer content.