Tyler Blackburn Comes Out as Queer: 'I Just Want to Live My Truth'

Tyler Blackburn

'I've identified as bisexual since a teenager.'

Tyler Blackburn is opening up about his sexuality.

In a new interview with The Advocate, the 32-year-old actor, best known for his role of Caleb Rivers on Pretty Little Liarsreveals that he's queer. Blackburn describes himself as a "late bloomer" who went through a period of "self-hatred and shame" while growing up.

"I got bullied a lot by other boys, and I just felt like my soul was slowly being taken from me," he says. "I ended up eating lunch in my biology classroom in 10th grade, and I had no one to talk to. You form a shell around yourself for protection. And you start to make decisions based off of things outside of what you want and who you are."

"I stopped doing so many of the things that I loved doing because it felt safer," he continues. "That right there is the outcome of oppression. When you literally have to mute who you are in order to feel safe. That’s soul-crushing."

Now, in an effort to be "as happy as possible, as free as possible," Blackburn is ready to tell the world who he is.

"I'm queer. I've identified as bisexual since a teenager," he shares. "I just want to feel powerful in my own skin, and my own mind, and in my own heart."

Despite some long-term relationships with women years ago, Blackburn says he always had an "underlying curiosity" about men but felt pressure to conform.

"I heard so many things from within the queer community about bisexuality being a cop-out or bulls**t or the easy way out or something, and that always stuck with me because I felt the pressure from all sides to have [my sexuality] figured out," he says. "And I think for the longest time, I suppressed more of my attraction to men."

"It wasn’t until my late 20s, towards the end of Pretty Little Liars, that I really allowed myself to go there and not just wonder about it or lust over it, but experience that vulnerability and experience the emotional aspect of what it is to be bisexual," he adds.

One thing that prompted his public statement was being cast in Roswell, New Mexico, a CW series on which he stars as Sgt. Alex Manes, a gay war veteran and amputee. Blackburn decided to come out to the show's creator, Carina Adly MacKenzie, while filming the pilot episode.

"I knew this guy in and out," he says of his Roswell character. "I understood feeling oppressed. I understood having issues with my father [and wanting to feel] accepted by him. I understood wanting something but being afraid to have it. I understood self-doubt."

Blackburn says he was simply "tired of caring so much" and wants "to own my space now."

"I just want to live my truth and feel OK with experiencing love and experiencing self-love," he says. "Yes, there is an element of, I want to feel like it’s OK to hold my boyfriend’s hand as I’m walking down the street, and not worry. Is someone going to look and be like, 'Whoa, is that guy from that show? I didn’t know that [he was queer.]'"

Despite feeling "courageous" about his decision to come out, Blackburn is still figuring out where exactly he fits.

"Just because you decide 'I am this thing' doesn’t mean you immediately feel like you fit into that thing," he says. "That’s another part of the journey that I still don’t always know how to navigate, but I’m feeling more courageous and fortified to explore."

"... Now we’re at a place where fluidity is spoken about in such a beautiful way that it doesn’t make me feel as pressured to have it figured out,” he adds. "My goal above everything is to feel as happy as possible. As free as possible. I don’t just mean happy, like, 'I’m laughing all day, every day.' That’s actually insane. That’s impossible. What I mean is, I want to feel free."