I’ve understood my sexuality most of my life, but growing up in the hip-hop community and being black is hard. People say words like fag, homo and all other kinds of crazy slang. Those words are hurtful, but it is accepted as a normal way to talk. When that’s constantly happening around you, it can be hard to feel comfortable with yourself, especially in a way where you can speak up against it. As I’ve gotten older, it’s something that’s been easier to do. But it’s not something you can easily do when you’re a kid.
I was about to turn 21 years old when I decided I wanted to come out to the world. I decided I wanted to be honest about myself as a grown man—and honest to my fans. It wasn’t about the blogs or anything that could possibly come from it. The decision was for my fans. I thought, How can you support someone if you don’t know them? I felt strongly about turning 21, and I wanted to be as honest as I could be for anyone else struggling with being themselves and being open about who they are.
That’s why everyone found out at the same time on Twitter. A great thing about social media is that it makes it possible to kick down doors. You don’t need to have the conversation with people individually. Of course, friends and family responded differently. They were shocked. I think everybody was shocked. Everybody was like, What? I got a couple texts that were like, “Did someone hacked your Twitter?” No, that’s me. “Why didn’t you tell me?” some said. “Why didn’t you tell me first?”
It feels like a burden lifting, like you’re stepping out of your own shadow.
I told them that I wasn’t coming out on Twitter for my friends, because I know my friends are going to love me no matter what. It was something that I needed to do for my fans.
I was in Malibu on a trip with my brother, my mom and my dad. We all sat down to talk about it, but my family is very supportive. There was nothing; they weren’t really negative about it. They were happy for me.
My fans have also given me a great encouraging reaction. I support them no matter what, and in return they support me. I got a lot of Twitter DMs and emails from them about their own coming out stories. I’ve even had a couple conversations with fans where they ask me how they should go about it—not just with their friends, but also with their parents. It’s not an easy thing—I won’t lie and say that it is—but it’s something that feels like a burden lifting, like you’re stepping out of your own shadow.
I will always give credit to my fans, because my fans aren’t the average rap fans. They’re open-minded. People from the LBGTQ community have always showed up to my shows. There are people who are Hispanic, black and white…I have such a diverse crowd. I don’t make music because it’s the toughest music that’s out. I make music to encourage understanding. I make music to bring people together.
Rapper Taylor Bennett released his third mixtape, Restoration of an American Idol, in February. He came out as bisexual on Twitter earlier this year.
Read more essays from Playboy’s Pride series here.