The Bachelor's Colton Underwood Comes Out as Gay: 'I've Ran from Myself for a Long Time'
Colton Underwood is speaking his truth.
During the personal conversation, titled "Colton Underwood: In His Own Words," Underwood said he "came to terms" with his sexuality earlier this year after a long period of self-reflection.
"I've ran from myself for a long time. I've hated myself for a long time, and I'm gay. And I came to terms with that earlier this year and have been processing it," the reality star said. "The next step in all of this was letting people know. I'm still nervous. It's been a journey, for sure."
"I'm emotional, but in such a good, happy, positive way," he added. "I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my life, and that means the world to me."
Asked why he was choosing this moment to reveal the news, the former football player said he had reached "a place for me in my personal life that was dark and bad."
"I think overall the reason why now is because I got to place where I didn't think I was ever going to share this. I would have rather died than say I'm gay," he admitted, later adding that he knew he was "different since the age of 6."
Continuing, Underwood elaborated about previously having suicidal thoughts, saying, "There was a moment in L.A. that I woke up and I didn't think I was going to wake up."
"I didn't have the intentions of waking up, and I did," he said. "And I think for me, that was my wake up call of like, this is your life — take back control. I think looking back even beyond that, even just suicidal thoughts and you know, driving my car close to a cliff, like, 'Oh, if this goes off the cliff, it's not that big of a deal.' I don't feel that anymore."
Underwood led season 23 of the ABC dating show in 2019. He was dubbed the so-called "virgin Bachelor," and virginity became a frequent talking point throughout his season.
He ultimately gave his final rose to contestant Cassie Randolph, though they didn't get engaged. They dated until announcing their split in May 2020, two months after she helped nurse him back to health after he contracted COVID-19.
Their breakup was tumultuous. Months after the announcement, in September, Randolph filed a restraining order against Underwood, alleging that he placed a tracking device on her vehicle and that he had showed up to both her L.A. apartment and her parents' house in Huntington Beach unannounced.
She claimed that on one occasion, Underwood loitered in the alley outside her bedroom window of her parents' home at 2 a.m., and said that he started sending her alarming text messages.
In early November, Randolph dropped the restraining order against Underwood. In a statement to PEOPLE at the time, Underwood said the two "were able to reach a private agreement."
On GMA, Underwood told Roberts that he was in love with Randolph, 25, during their relationship. "And that only made it harder and more confusing for me," he said. "I loved everything about her."
"It's hard for me to articulate what my emotions were going through that relationship with her, because I obviously had an internal fight going on," he said. "I would just say that I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. I'm sorry for any pain and emotional stress I caused, I wish it wouldn't have happened the way it did. I wish that I would've been courageous enough to fix myself before I broke anybody else."
Last year, Underwood opened up to PEOPLE about his high school years, during which rumors about his sexuality ran rampant.
"It was one of those things where you hear something so often, you start believing it," he said at the time. "I thought, maybe I am gay. The captain of the football team should be having sex and drinking, right? But I wasn't."
These feelings of uncertainty weren't new for Underwood, who had searched online, "Am I gay?" as far back as grade school. "I didn't know who I was," he told PEOPLE. "And I come from an athletic family, so it was always, 'Move on, you're good.' So that threw me off. In high school, when I was struggling with my sexuality, I'm not going to talk to my parents about it. So I internalized it."
Ultimately, Underwood found comfort and security in his first serious relationship, with Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. After they broke up, he signed up for Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette on a whim. Following a stint on Bachelor in Paradise, he became the Bachelor.
"Even while my season was airing, I battled the gay [rumors]," Underwood said at the time. "They'd say, 'he's gay, he's hiding it.' No. But I've been there, done that now."
Following his GMA interview, executive producers of The Bachelor issued a statement of support for the reality star.
"We are so inspired by Colton Underwood's courage to embrace and pursue his authentic self," they said. "As firm believers in the power of love, we celebrate Colton's journey in the LGBTQIA+ community every step of the way."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
This story originally appeared on people.com