If you work in front of the camera in the entertainment industry, some folks think it’s still very difficult to come out publicly and maintain a lucrative career (trust us, we could name a few names you’d recognize). Just imagine the difficulty if you’re working as that manliest of he-man positions, the stunt coordinator on a movie or TV set. Shawn Balentine, an in-demand stunt coordinator whose credits include Justified and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and who has performed as stunt double for Jack Black and Patton Oswalt, has done just that. In a note posted to his Facebook page January 28, Balentine writes in depth about his decision to live honestly and his awareness that coming out publicly could jeopardize both friendships and his career. Oswalt has gone public with his support for Balentine by sharing the post on his own Facebook page, calling him Hollywood’s “first professional stuntman to come out of the closet.” Oswalt adds: “I could not be prouder of the guy. I’d walk through fire for him. Which is fair, considering he’s walked through explosions, walls and, on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a kiddie pool full of tomato sauce.”
Read Balentine’s full message below.
There are so many layers that make a man, and even though I wear my heart on my sleeve, I rarely allow even my closest friends or family to see all of me. I’ve always just wanted to be Shawn the happy-go-lucky guy who never showed the vulnerability underneath. And I’ve always wanted my nieceRachel and nephews to be so damn proud to call me Uncle Shawn along with my sisters and Pops and Mom.
Now it’s time to peel back the layers. I’ve been waiting until I was ready to come out as gay man on my terms. I’m ready now.This process has been painful along the way, including my Pops saying,“How and where did I go wrong? But I still love you either way, Son.” After not speaking for a while, he’s now proud to call me his son. My sister Sharol (who was killed by a drunk driver and I dedicate my sobriety to along with my niece and nephews) was always the one I confided in the most. But she’s no longer here for me physically, but her memory gives me strength. She was so strong and brave facing down lupus and raising an awesome daughter and son (who also died because of someone’s road rage, not even a mile from where my sister died). My oldest sister Peggy, with a infectious spirit for fun, raised two kick-butt sons and showed me how to see the good things in life. And through all this, my moms, whose sick right now, has been there for me.
I know I could lose friendships over this and work too. In the world where I work as a Stuntman/Stunt Coordinator this might be viewed as a big deal and that’s a big reason why I’ve held on to this layer for so long. I’ve been to the edge and back, praying and losing days of sleep over this decision, but if this helps even one or two out there from feeling alone, being blackmailed, or told to your face that someone doesn’t approve of your spiritual practices then I’m here for ya and have one HUGE shoulder you can lean on because I’ve been in your shoes. You will NOT go to hell or get stoned to death; which I was told just last week.
From this day forward I will no longer look at myself in the mirror ashamed of hiding this layer. I don’t give a damn if you like me or you don’t I’m not the kind of guy who wants to talk about being gay all the time or go marching down the street. But I need to be honest with myself and with all of you. I need to get this off my chest because this is the layer I’ve never wanted to let you know existed.
I have been blessed to be mentored by and learn from great instructors, coaches, sensei’s, and teachers from 4H, martial arts, the US Army, college and the professional world. My heartfelt thanks toRichard Plowden, Joe Bauer, Kathy Powers Forsythe, Walt Rodd, Jordan Ciambrone, Matt Mallen, Nicholas Daines, Ronnie Kerr, Tammie Baird, Brett Lynch, Scott G Shriner, Ed Lavelle,Peter King, Norman Howell, Neal Baer,the Amazing Patton Oswalt for allowing me to be his stunt double/doppelganger and most importantly to Marty Hornstein who always taught me to be who I am. And to all of my friends who have supported me, especially during this challenging period I give you my deepest thanks.
I didn’t choose to be gay; it’s simply who I am. I have been blessed to have fortitude and to not care anymore what anyone thinks. Finally, at my age, I’ve been able to expose this layer to all of you. I’m perfect just the way I am. And it feels damn fine to let see this layer of my life. Welcome friends, to knowing the real Shawn.