Love, Simon director Greg Berlanti: How Muhammad Ali gave me courage to come out to my parents

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NOTE FROM JESS CAGLE, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, PEOPLE AND ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY:

In the moving comedy-drama Love, Simon (in theaters March 16) Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel star as the parents of Simon, a high schooler played by Nick Robinson who struggles to tell loved ones that he’s gay. Acceptance in America has increased dramatically in recent years, but coming out as LGBTQ is still a profound and often traumatic experience.

PEOPLE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, along with GLSEN, the non-profit that fights to make schools safe for all kids, invited individuals from all walks of life to share real-life coming out stories. COMING OUT STORIES (produced by Ryan Buxton) can be seen at people.com/comingoutstories and on PeopleTV (download the app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device).

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Love, Simon director Greg Berlanti got the courage to come out to his parents from an unexpected source: Muhammad Ali.

After years of struggling to find the “right moment” to come out to his parents, the TV producer (Riverdale, Supergirl) was inspired to do so after watching Ali light the 1996 Olympic torch while staying with his mom and dad in a cramped hotel room.

“[Ali] really inspired courage,” he says. “He lit the torch and I turned off the television set. I said ‘Well I want to tell you guys…and for a long time I’ve known I’m gay.’ I just sort of had one long run-on sentence.”

While Berlanti admits that the conversation didn’t “go super well,” he says their relationship improved after the Dawson’s Creek producer wrote his parents a letter explaining that he’s still the same person he always was.

“My father got the letter and he called me. I could hear that he was really moved by it,” he says. “That was it.”

 

This article originally appeared on People.com

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