Photo by Caleb Alvarado/Netflix
This article was edited to include an Editor’s Note on April 21, 2023 at 1:49pm PT.
Editor’s Note: We do not condone or excuse Colton Underwood’s alleged inappropriate behavior toward Cassie Randolph. This article makes no moral judgment of his character and hopes readers will use the information presented to form their own opinion.
Content warning: stalking
You might know Colton Underwood as the first gay Bachelor. He was the token golden boy of “The Bachelor” Season 23 (2019). In the Netflix docuseries “Coming Out Colton,” the reality TV star revisits his time on the show, as well as his coming out journey, reliving the scrutiny that came from the spotlight.
Underwood was also known as the first virgin bachelor, a point that, at the time, was attributed to his desire to wait for “The One.” However, throughout the course of “Coming Out Colton” (COC), he reveals his lack of sexual history stemmed from a difficulty with attraction toward women. However, due to severe internalized homophobia, he struggled to come to terms with his own sexuality.
On “The Bachelor,” Underwood’s relationship with Cassie Randolph was publicly criticized after he chased after her when she left the show of her own volition. Underwood’s behavior after the breakup included stalking, as well as an alleged tracker placed on Randolph’s car. This ultimately resulted in Randolph getting a restraining order against her past romantic partner. Underwood explains that he understands his behavior was unacceptable, and recounts that time in his life as something he deeply regrets. Though his intention was never to harm Randolph, his actions are not excusable. He was forced to come to terms with his failed romance. In response to his relationship with Randolph, Underwood said, “I felt like I could find someone who could change me.”
Throughout COC, Underwood reveals that during his youth, he used the facade of his upbringing and football talent to hide from his sexuality. He was captain of the Washington Community High School football team, and to fit into that archetype, he also found himself dating a cheerleader. However, after looking back on his high school years, he came to terms with the fact that he used his identity as a football player as a defense mechanism to hide from his sexuality: “I’ve lived a lie for 29 years.”
A point that Colton stresses throughout COC is the extreme homophobia he witnessed in the football locker room. He reported continuously hearing homophobic slurs used not only by players but also by coaches and other staff. This repetition internalized the idea that if “something was bad, it was gay.” Underwood idolized his coach and felt a bond of family and friendship with his teammates. However, the homophobic culture ingrained in football tainted his experience of the sport with the stain of exclusion.
He vividly remembers when Michael Sam, a professional football player, came out publicly as gay, kissing his boyfriend on draft day. Underwood finally saw himself represented in his sport for the first time and yet his teammates and coaches ridiculed and degraded Sam’s sexuality, pushing Underwood further into the closet. Underwood stressed his helplessness in the moment, feeling that he “couldn’t say shit.” Underwood felt that if he came to the defense of Michael Sam, his team would turn on him. Yet, it is one of his biggest regrets that he did not speak up.
Underwood’s experience happens time and time again within the sports community; many NFL players who have come out after their time in the NFL. Those who do come out while they are still involved in the athletic field face challenges based solely on their sexuality instead of their talent. We see this in Underwood’s friend, Gus Kenworthy, an Olympic skier.
On COC, Kenworthy acts as Underwood’s guide throughout his coming out process. As an athlete who also had to face the judgment and stereotypes associated with being LGBTQ+, he attempts to not only guide but also push Underwood out of his comfort zone. Kenworthy makes a point to talk about topics that make Underwood uncomfortable in an effort to normalize the concepts for a recently closeted person.
By using LGBTQ+ terminology like “cisgendered,” Kenworthy brings Underwood into the atmosphere of language that still feels alien to him. “What does cis mean?” Underwood remarks in a conversation with Kenworthy. While Underwood doesn’t have all the information about his newfound community, Kenworthy understands Underwood’s experience of being sheltered from queer culture.
Though he may not have known much about the LGBTQ+ lifestyle, he reported that “I knew I was different since I was six or seven.” He mentioned this feeling to his mother in the process of coming out to her at the beginning of the docuseries. His relationship with his family, as with many queer people, was something he worried he would lose. Luckily, he found a level of acceptance that allowed him to have an open conversation with his mother, best friend, brother, and father.
“My brother didn’t have to come out as straight,” Underwood says, after a conversation about his sexuality with his sibling. Underwood brings up a point that resonates within the queer community on a deep level. He understood that with his declaration as a gay man, he would now be seen as different from his family and would therefore have to announce his sexuality throughout his life.
Though some parts of his life are forever changed, Underwood found happiness as well. Underwood and his boyfriend, Jordan C. Brown, announced their engagement on Feb. 28, 2022 in an Instagram post. During the course of their relationship, up until the present day, Underwood has openly posted pictures with his boyfriend — now fiancé — and embraced his LGBTQ+ identity with the man he loves.
Though he spent 29 years denying his sexuality and hiding from the world, Underwood is now able to be open and honest about who he is as a person. He understands the ways in which he has hurt people, like Cassie Randolph, and has made his amends. In many ways, he feels as if his true life has just begun, and luckily, he is able to share it with an accepting and loving community.
Author: Taylor Kunin-Ur (She/Her)
Copy Editors: Ava Rosenberg (They/She), Bella (She/They)