Entertainment » Culture

Man Behind Famous BYU Cougar Mascot Comes Out

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Feb 27, 2019

A young man named Charlie Bird played the part of BYU mascot Cosmo the Cougar. But the mascot's mask wasn't the only thing concealing the man beneath; Bird revealed in a recent op-ed that he was keeping the truth about himself from the wider world.

Not any more.

Bird came out as gay in the op-ed piece, which was published by Deseret News.

"As Cosmo the Cougar at Brigham Young University, I kept the best part of my life a secret from everyone around me by wearing a mask," Bird wrote. "I traveled the country, performed for millions of people, took pictures with screaming fans, signed autographs and danced like no one was watching - even though everyone was."

As Cosmo, the young man writes, he enjoyed YouTube fame and performed on ESPN. Cosmo, he said, inspired NBC Sports to proclaim the 2017-2018 sports season "Year of the Mascot."

And in the midst of it all, Bird worried: "If they knew who I really was, would they hate me?"

After all, he wrote, "The same community that made me feel like a superstar often simultaneously made me feel broken, unloved and defective."

Bird had known for years he was gay, and had prayed for "God to change my sexual orientation." But the truth finally set him free. After coming to terms with the fact that "being gay is an integral part of who I am," Bird began to emerge from the closet. In time, he and a group of others at the university began to "cultivate a more inclusive campus environment."

"I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment," Bird wrote, "when our group received permission to hold the first-ever public discussion panel regarding LGBTQ issues at BYU."

Even so, Bird noted that progress has been slow and there's plenty left to do.

"During my senior year, the university I proudly represented was ranked as the second-most LGBTQ-unfriendly college in the United States," Bird wrote.

Even now, he added, "my future sometimes seems bleak and overwhelming."

But now, having left behind both the mascot costume and the closet, the BYU graduate has discovered the unparalleled freedoms of living authentically. Coming out, Bird attested, "has allowed me to feel more fully the love of others. Doing so has allowed me to feel more fully the love of God."

Taking to Instagram with a photo of himself in uniform and holding the Cosmo mask, Bird posted about his op-ed, writing, "I hope that by sharing some of my experience 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."

Added Bird, "I wish to give hope to other people in my situation that may feel isolated and alone."


View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by Charlie Bird (@birdmancharles13) on

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook