Go, Gay Power Ranger!
BY Jase Peeples
November 05 2013 7:00 AM ET
Above: Yost, Thuy Trang, Jason David Frank, Amy Jo Johnson, Austin St. John, and Walter Jones in the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
“When I moved to L.A., I made a pact with myself that I would no longer be gay,” Yost says. “If anyone asked, I denied it up and down because in my mind, I wasn’t. I wasn’t in a relationship and I wasn’t having sex with anybody. So I had convinced myself that meant I wasn’t gay.”
Instead, Yost focused his energy on his career and got the break of a lifetime three months after arriving in Southern California, when he auditioned for a part in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and landed the role of Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger. The show was an unprecedented hit, quickly making Yost and his fellow cast mates household names. However, Yost’s Hollywood dreams soon devolved into a living nightmare. As the show’s popularity increased, rumors about the sexuality of the actor beneath the blue helmet circulated on set. “As time went on, because I wasn’t dating anyone, I think people began to question things,” says Yost. “I was struggling with my sexuality and I was terrified it would ruin my career.”
What began as occasional snide comments about his perceived sexual orientation soon turned into full-fledged bullying by members of the Power Rangers production team, says Yost. He was regularly called antigay slurs like "faggot," and he learned his costars were questioned in private about his sexuality by producers on a number of occasions. “It was humiliating,” he says. “It really became confusing for me, because I had no idea how to defend myself or even if I should. I loved my job, but people were making my work environment less than desirable. I just wanted to be left alone and allowed to act, but this ‘gay thing’ kept getting in my way. I hated who I was. I didn’t want to be gay, and I was scared speaking up would jeopardize my career. It was a very lonely time for me.”
Yost says the harassment became so severe he started to “seriously contemplate suicide” — repeatedly told by others working on the series that a person like him did not belong in the role of a superhero. Feeling isolated and fearful that he might take his own life, Yost decided to leave the role that made him a star and abruptly quit Power Rangers during filming of the show’s fourth season. “That was probably the most unprofessional thing I had ever done, but I felt backed into a corner,” he says. “I dreaded the idea of working another six months into the second feature film. I was honestly afraid I might kill myself.”
Desperate to regain control of his life, Yost underwent gay-to-straight “conversion therapy” during the following two years before it eventually led to a nervous breakdown. “It was such a bizarre experience, and it caused me a lot of mental anguish since my attraction to men obviously wasn’t going away,” he says. “Internally, I was denying what was natural to me, and when you suppress who you are that much, well, in my case there was no choice but to have a nervous breakdown.”
After spending five weeks in a psychiatric hospital, Yost moved to Mexico to recover from the breakdown he had suffered. Over the next year, he slowly came to terms with his sexuality and eventually grew to truly love himself for the first time in his life. To his relief, he found he was also embraced by his family after coming out of the closet. “I had such a fear of rejection,” he says. “I look back and wonder why I ever put myself through what I did. The hardest part is knowing I hated myself because of what other people dictated about me. That still really tugs at my heart.”