Brandon Flynn of '13 Reasons Why' on 'chosen families' and safe spaces for LGBTQ youth: 'truly everything'

·4-min read
Brandon Flynn wants people to know the power of chosen families and creating safer spaces for queer youth. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Brandon Flynn wants people to know the power of chosen families and creating safer spaces for queer youth. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

In the last few years, Brandon Flynn has given viewers one memorable performance after another, from his star-turning role in 13 Reasons Why to Ryan Murphy’s Ratched — not to mention the upcoming comedy The Parenting and the highly anticipated reboot of Hellraiser.

Simply put, the man has been busy.

Despite his tight schedule, the out and proud gay actor, 28, always finds time to prioritize his mental health, though admittedly, he says, it’s one “one of the hardest things” for him to commit to.

“It's a journey of its own,” he tells Yahoo Life of his self-care routine. “Most days start with meditation for me. I try to relate to myself in a spiritual way — that it's not just all go go, go get them! That there is some sort of deeper, unseen purpose I'm trying to align myself with. If I can be that thread for other people throughout my day, then that day's been a success. And the next day will hopefully be a little bit easier.”

The mantra of living “day by day” has been a philosophy of Flynn’s for as long as he can remember. Born and raised in Miami, the actor says he felt a lot of shame and stigma when he first came out as gay to his family and friends at 14 years old. And that’s partly what drives his activism today.

"There wasn't a lot of pride [then]," Flynn says of that time. "It was mostly a lot of shame and fear and hope that maybe one day I would be straight. I thought I needed to be."

This Pride month, Flynn is joining forces with bubly sparking water, which will be donating $100,000 to the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, to amplify the campaign and to celebrate chosen families and support queer safe spaces — a cause that’s near and dear to his heart.

“Being able to use my voice for my art and my craft, and use my voice to support a community that's always supported me, it has illuminated what pride is,” says Flynn, who came out publicly in 2017 to support Australia’s marriage equality bill.

The actor recounts his own journey toward self-discovery, and how “chosen families” were paramount to his own mental health as a young kid. “I had a lot of support from peers, from teachers, and I couldn't wait to go to school every day,” he remembers of that time, referring to their allyship as a “confidence booster” that carried him all the way to Hollywood.

SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 16:  Actor Brandon Flynn attends the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 16, 2018 in Santa Monica, California.  (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
"There is some sort of deeper, unseen purpose I'm trying to align myself with," Brandon Flynn says of his self-care routine. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

“I kind of love that history of old Hollywood, finding out stories of, like, closeted actors and how that worked out,” he shares, acknowledging the impact gay role models like Ellen DeGeneres and Zachary Quinto have had on him. “It's powerful. And then my journey is sort of integrating into that mix," adding, "It's cool to be a part of.”

These days, Flynn says he finds solace in other LGBTQ actors who, like him, are unapologetically open about their queer identities — something he says is monumental to queer youth. Providing them with a sense of purpose and belonging is “truly everything,” he explains, especially now, when over 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in state courts across the country.

“No matter where we think we are in 2022, with progressiveness and everything, [being LGBTQ] is still dangerous,” he says. “Our rights, our liberties, our lifestyles are constantly being threatened by other mindsets. Finding people who support you, who have a similar language as you do, who have a similar heartbeat, and interest as you do, is crucial to our joy.”

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