Actor Jonathan Bennett has opened up about growing up in an environment so homophobic he developed stomach ulcers.
Bennett, 40, took to Instagram to share the story to coincide with Spirit Day, the annual celebration that encourages people to wear purple as a sign of anti-bullying solidarity with the queer community. The Mean Girls star offered the tale as a means of inspiring other LGBTQ youth experiencing bullying that life can–and does–get better.
“I give you a video of a 16-year-old gay boy in Ohio,” Bennett wrote. “He has a pitchy voice, no rhythm, and can’t dance to save his life. He’s awkward, his teeth are too big for his face, and he lives in fear every single day because he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the boys in his class. He constantly gets pushed into a locker by an assh*le named Justin and when he walks down the halls he gets called a faggot.”
“He cries himself to sleep every night and develops stomach ulcers because of the stress and the homophobia in his small town,” he further confessed. “He thinks really dark thoughts and lives miserably in secret.”
Bennett then goes on to reveal how his love of theatre saved his sanity, as it became a place of refuge and support. “He isn’t ridiculed for being different, he’s CELEBRATED,” Bennett recalled. “He’s not a loser, they actually make him a STAR. ”
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“So to celebrate today, grown-up Jonathan wants to say thank you to every single person who has ever had anything to do with any theater anywhere at anytime,” he continued. “If you were an actor, a stage manager, lighting, sound, wardrobe, front of house, back of house, even if you just bought a ticket and supported theater. You did so much more than that. You made a safe place for so many struggling little Jonathans out there.”
“To anyone reading this that identifies with my story, know that you are not alone and that you are a star and you deserve to shine bright,” he concludes. “The curtain’s up, the stage is set, all the little Jonathan’s out there… ‘You’re on!'”
Bennett of course would go on to make a career for himself built out of his love of theatre. He became a bonafide star in 2004 with the release of Mean Girls, and would go on to score roles on Smallville, Veronica Mars and in The Christmas House, the first LGBTQ-themed Hallmark Christmas movie. Most recently, he appeared in the indie comedy Potato Dreams of America. He also would find love, getting engaged to fiance Jaymes Vaughn in 2020.