Colton Underwood is ready to live his truth.
The former "Bachelor" star came out as gay in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday.
"I've ran from myself for a long time. I've hated myself for a long time," Underwood told Roberts in a pre-taped chat. "And I'm gay. And I came to terms with that earlier this year and have been processing it. And the next step in all of this was sort of letting people know."
"I'm still nervous, but yeah," he continued. "It's been a journey for sure."
Underwood said he finally got to a place where he could be honest with himself after 2020, the year that turned everyone's lives upside down, and made people "look at themselves in the mirror and figure out who they are and what they've been running from or what they've been putting off in their lives."
When Roberts, who is also openly gay, said she could "see the joy" and "see the relief" in Underwood, he said he was "emotional in, like such a good, happy, positive way," and is "the happiest and healthiest" he's ever been.
Underwood said he went through a "dark and bad" time before feeling like he could reveal this about himself and his "wake up call" was feeling like he "would've rather died" than say he's gay.
"There was a moment in L.A. that I woke up and I didn't think I was gonna wake up. I didn't have the intentions of waking up. And I did," he recalled, noting this moment -- and other "suicidal thoughts" -- led him to "take back control" of his life.
When Roberts asked about the women from his "Bachelor" season and how they -- among others -- may feel misled, Underwood said he "would understand why they think that way."
"I've thought a lot about this too, of, 'Do I regret being the Bachelor and do I regret handling it the way that I did?' I do," he said. "I do think I could've handled it better, I'll say that."
Underwood said he "genuinely" wishes he hadn't dragged people into "my own mess of figuring out who I was." In addition to saying sorry to those women, he would said thank you because, ultimately, they and the franchise helped him get to this place.
When he was named the Bachelor, Underwood said he remembered "praying to God" the morning he found out and "thanking him for making me straight,' thinking this would lead to him finally getting the wife and them having kids.
But Underwood said he had known the truth of his sexuality since a young age, knowing he "just felt different" from the age of 6, when he couldn't process it. He knew he was "more emotional" than the other boys in his class. It took until high school for him to realize he "was more attracted to the boys and the men" than he was the opposite sex.
Having grown up in the Catholic church, he remembered he "learned in the Bible that gay is a sin" in Catholic grade school. And during his time in sports, he remembered people using the word "gay" as a term that held "a connotation of negativity."
"I think there's a lot of things, when I look back, I'm like, 'No wonder I held it in,'" he said.
Underwood said he has grown "closer to God" in this revelation and said he knows some people will question how that's even possible for a gay man to say.
"I used to wake up in the morning and pray for him to take the gay away. I used to pray for him to change me," he said, adding that his relationship with God now isn't "conditional."
Underwood said he's had "a range of responses" to his coming out and the "underlying, most common one" has been they wish he'd told them sooner, including his dad.
"And when I hear that, I wish I would have had faith in my friends and my family a little bit more," he said. "The only reason I'm sitting down with you today is because I have the love and the support of my friends and my family."
Underwood said he still hasn't had an "emotional connection" with someone of the same sex, but he is looking forward to finding a partner.
"I've never allowed myself to," he continued. "And It's never been sort of in my cards to let myself get there, and I want to more than anything. I'm looking for someone who can push me and challenge me in all the great ways."
When Roberts asked if he had any advice for someone struggling to come out, Underwood said he still has a long way to go and is still learning.
"But if I had to go back and give anybody advice, I mean, you're gonna get through it is what I would tell myself. Keep fighting for you. Keep choosing you every morning. And when the time's ready or when the time's right and you're ready, do it on your own time."
Bachelor Nation was first introduced to Underwood when he was a contestant on Becca Kufrin's season of "The Bachelorette," the 14th season, in 2018. He made it to Kufrin's final four.
The former football star followed this up with a brief stint on season 4 of "Bachelor in Paradise," on which he had a fling with Tia Booth.
Underwood was then the lead of season 23 of "The Bachelor" in 2019, with his virginity being a frequent topic of conversation and his famous fence-jumping moment being one of the franchise's most dramatic moments. He gave his final rose to contestant Cassie Randolph but ultimately chose to not propose to her, though they later told "GMA" they had discussed an engagement.
The two dated after the show wrapped until announcing their breakup in early 2020. They later made headlines when Randolph was granted a restraining order against Underwood, accusing him of stalking and harassing her. In a police report, she accused him of putting a tracking device on her car. Underwood later released a statement explaining that he and Randolph had resolved their issues in private. She later dismissed the restraining order and requested the police investigation be dropped.
In his interview with Roberts, Underwood apologized specifically to Randolph for "any pain and emotional stress" he caused her and said he wishes it hadn't happened the way it did.
"I wish that I would've been courageous enough to fix myself before I broke anybody else," he said.
He said he "loved everything" about Randolph, which "only made it harder and more confusing" for him as he was experiencing his own "internal fight."
Prior to his time on reality TV, Underwood famously dated Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. He wrote about their relationship -- and much more -- in his 2020 book, "The First Time: Finding Myself and Looking for Love on Reality TV."
These days, Underwood is just "proud" of how far he has come.
"I'm still the same Colton everybody met on TV. I'm still the same Colton to my friends and my family, I just happen to be able to share with people now all of me," he said. "And I am proud of that, you know? I am proud to be gay."
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