|Charlie Bird with ‘Cosmo the Cougar’|
Charlie Bird, who performed as the Brigham Young University mascot Cosmo the Cougar from 2015-2018, came out recently in a touching essay for Deseret News.
For those of you who haven’t seen Bird’s amazing performances as Cosmo, check this out:
View this post on Instagram$5 if you can guess which one is me 💰 @byudunkteam @cosmo_cougar #byu #dunk #acro #byudunkteam #nikeA post shared by Charlie Bird (@birdmancharles13) on Jan 11, 2018 at 7:52pm PST
In his coming out story, Bird shares that behind the mask of Cosmo, he felt ‘invincible.’
My senior year as Cosmo was unforgettable. It was thrilling to watch fans around the globe share Cosmo’s newest dance video, which garnered hundreds of millions of views across social media platforms. I performed live on ESPN at the College Football Awards, and NBC Sports dubbed 2017-2018 the “Year of the Mascot” in honor of Cosmo’s viral influence. When I was Cosmo, I felt invincible.
As scary as it seemed to dance in front of 60,000 people, an even scarier thought often crept into my mind — “If they knew who I really was, would they hate me?”
I wore another mask while I was at BYU — a mask to cover the shame I felt for being “different.” For years I pleaded with God to change my sexual orientation, but after returning to BYU from a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I began realizing that being gay is an integral part of who I am. As I grappled to develop a better understanding of myself, I felt immense pressure to hide my sexual orientation. I was hyper-aware of what some of my peers said about the gay community, how they viewed same-sex attraction and the often unkind and insensitive words they used to describe LGBTQ people — people like me.
The same community that made me feel like a superstar often simultaneously made me feel broken, unloved and defective.
Bird notes that during his senior year, BYU was ranked as the second-most LGBTQ-unfriendly college in the United States, based on student responses to a Princeton Review survey.
Imagine all those folks cheering for you, and traveling the country proudly representing a school and community that held a clearly negative view of who you are as a person.
It’s a good read. Click here for the full essay.
I never planned on coming out as Cosmo the Cougar. I never dreamed I would one day have enough courage to come out publicly as gay. Today I did both in an article with Deseret News. I hope that by sharing some of my experience I can help start conversations that increase empathy and understanding between the LGBTQ community and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even more importantly, I wish to give hope to other people in my situation that may feel isolated and alone. Please check out the article and let me know what you think! Huge shout out to my teammates, coach, and BYU athletics for their love and support. I will forever bleed blue! 💙 (link in bio) #byu #gay #lds #lgbt #lgbtq #hope