Since coming out, he’s become a vocal advocate for LGBTI equality and recently appeared in a video in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre.
“I never made a decision to be gay. That came just as naturally as the colour of my eyes,” Haynes told the audience on Saturday, explaining that it felt “incredible” to be able to be himself.
“I don’t necessarily feel especially deserving of this recognition. We all know that there are many other ways, many other people who have come before me and blazed the trail as LGBT advocates and role models. And I’m walking in their shoes and I’m following in their lead,” the 28-year-old said, while fighting back tears.
“Instead, I’ll accept this award as a promise. … I’m making [a promise] to the next generation of lesbians and gay men, bisexuals, transgender youth, and I hope my example will give them the confidence and hope to be who they are as well, and for them to conquer their own fears and their own hesitations.
“I want to give them just a little more courage to know that they’re loved just as they are and to know that they’ll grow up beautiful and strong and proud,” said Haynes.
“Colton Haynes has inspired countless LGBTQ young people across the country and around the world to live their lives as their authentic selves,” commented HRC President Chad Griffin. “By simply being open about who he is, Haynes is helping to break down barriers and tear down closet doors.”