My Year Since Coming Out

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 24: Harry Cook arrives at the 'Man Of Steel' Australian premiere on June 24, 2013 in Sydney, Austral
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 24: Harry Cook arrives at the 'Man Of Steel' Australian premiere on June 24, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

A year ago I was sitting at home in Australia, debating whether I should post my coming-out video. I had recorded the video in September and had let it collect dust on my desktop for almost two months. I was anxious about what would happen if I revealed this part of myself to the rest of the world. The tape was a reaction to one of the scariest moments of my career.

I had just wrapped on my new movie Drown, in which I play the lead (straight) character in a story about a homophobic attack in Australia, and had been booked to phone in to a radio show to chat about the experience of making the film. The interview started off really well. It was an easy, fun, not-too-serious chat about working with the other cast members, with a quick synopsis of what the film is about. Then the interviewer put me on the spot, asking, "So you yourself aren't gay, right?"

This was a moment I had been living in fear of.

My heart stopped, and I wanted to put him on hold to call my publicist to ask what the best way to respond to this question would be. I had been told by past reps to keep my mouth shut about being gay, as it could limit the roles I could do, so my first thought was, "This is it. I'm screwed."

I somehow managed to respond with something like "I don't believe that love is defined by gender. Love is love." I left it at that.

I was shaking when I hung up the phone. My parents had been listening to the radio interview and said all the right things to calm me down, but inside I was petrified.

It took some time, but I realized that I didn't want to go through my life and career hiding something about myself that I wasn't really ashamed of. I'm proud of who I am and what I've achieved so far. I've worked with amazing people and have done it all while being gay. So on Dec. 8, 2013, I decided to take control of my narrative and post my coming-out video.

The first few tweets I received were beautiful. And I knew right then that I had done the right thing. Overnight the video received over 30,000 views. Bloggers, radio hosts and random people were congratulating me. I was booked to be a guest on a Sydney talk show to discuss it all. It all felt so surreal.

I was driving home from Fox Studios and the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. radio news shows were covering it. I'd assumed that my coming out might make a bit of a splash, but I never imagined it might get this much attention.

My agents and managers all called to say they were proud of me and would stick by me now and always. My family and friends were calling to tell me they love me. My boyfriend was over the moon, and I was so grateful that he could come out of the shadows at long last.

The past year has been amazing. My boyfriend and I now live in L.A., and I have never felt so free, honest and genuine. I wish I had come out sooner.

Breaking into the U.S. market is always a challenge. I've been lucky to have signed with an awesome agent and manager over here, and I've been taping for roles that are so broad and interesting that my fear of being typecast has disappeared. I feel I am doing some of my best work now that I am rid of the fear.

I think the sexuality of a character should be minimal in a good story anyway. If the character and storyline are well done, then the sexuality of the character is about as relevant as his or her eye color.

I've never been opposed to playing gay characters. I feel like I have a responsibility to the LGBTQ community to show that even if you are out publicly, you can still do great work. You're not limited or held back.

If my coming out managed to help or encourage even one young LGBTQ person feeling helpless to feel a little bit better or more hopeful for the future, then all of this is worth it.

The fact that young actors, athletes, singers, etc., can feel comfortable enough in their careers and lives to speak up and be proud of who we are speaks volumes about how far we've come as an industry and as a society.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that, yes, it is necessary for people to come out publicly, but on their own terms. The more of us who speak up and are proud of who we are, the fewer people in the future will have to live in fear. One day I'd like to think that the simple act of telling people you're in love with someone of the same gender won't generate a three-week buzz and a bunch of headlines but will become simply a source of empowerment.