how old is charlie bird byu

Brigham Young University (BYU) sports fans are all too familiar with the school’s mascot, Cosmo the Cougar. From 2015-2018, Charlie Bird, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as “the Mormon Church”), performed as the school’s beloved mascot with screaming fans admiring his synchronized hip hop moves with the Cougarettes. He also danced in ESPN’s 2017 College Football Awards. And, Cosmo’s viral influence caused NBC to dub 2017-2018 the “Year of the Mascot” and he claimed ESPN’s top spot in a ranking of “best mascot moments’ in 150 years of college football history.

Charlie was in Cairo, Egypt, on a business trip the day the story went live. He recalls, “I definitely was freaking out. I guess the best word I can use to describe it is ‘surreal.’ It was so funny that . . . my life was blowing up—like, the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me—and I was on the opposite side of the world in a completely different situation where I couldn’t dig into that. It was just so surreal.”

His life has never been the same since. It had taken him a lifetime to tell his family and friends about his sexual orientation, and so he never dreamed that he would be so open about it to the world. However, he felt that he could not ignore an opportunity to show support for the LGBTQ community. One valuable life lesson that he has learned from being Cosmo the Cougar is that there is power in being himself, and for him that means removing the mask.

Since the story came out, Charlie has now shared his experience about being a gay member of the Church in many ways. He recently wrote a book about his perspective as a gay member of the Church. The book, titled “Without the Mask: Coming Out and Coming into God’s Light” was released by Deseret Book on 27 July 2020. In the book, he shares some of the dangers that can come from not creating a safe space for LGBTQ individuals to thrive within the Church. He notes that if LGBTQ individuals feel isolated they will often turn to coping mechanisms like pornography, anonymous dating apps, and even suicide.

Charlie was keenly aware of what some of his peers said about the gay community and how they viewed same-sex attraction. He was also familiar with the often unkind and insensitive words they used to describe LGBTQ people — people like him. He said, “The same community that made me feel like a superstar often simultaneously made me feel broken, unloved, and defective.”

Charlie grew up on a ranch in southwest Missouri. There were signs even during his early childhood days that he was not like other boys. He often gravitated towards the things that his sisters enjoyed, like late night dance-offs, watching romantic comedies, or impromptu fashion shows. He also had a flair for artistic skills such as cake decorating, crafts, and beautiful handwriting. From a young age, he could also perform round-offs and back handsprings, making it look as if it took little to no effort.

Young Charlie also had a love for the gospel. For example, he made temple flashcards from pictures cut out of the Friend magazine and then memorized the name and look of each building. He also committed many scripture verses to heart and he never missed a day of early morning seminary.

Charlie’s mother, Cathy Bird Wallace, recalls that he also enjoyed doing other things that would be stereotypical of males. She assumed that his other preferences were just a phase, and the thought that Charlie might be gay was something that she never gave a second thought.

Speaking about her brother, Anne Bird Rodman said, “This joy that he carried with him as a young child would just radiate off him. People would comment on Charlie all the time, about how special he was. . .. He was one of those kids that you’re just like, ‘That kid’s going places. This kid is a [really] special young man.’”

Charlie told LDS Living, “When I first started to see that I was different from other guys, I began formulating this list of rules that I thought would help me fit in better in society. And I started hiding my personality and did not manifest certain character traits I thought others might consider feminine. And this was all, of course, in hopes that nobody would ever accuse me of being gay. And that was [really] tough. Looking back, it is [really] sad to see how I felt like I needed to change myself to conform. And that process—you know, as I did that, I started losing pieces of me.”

It was another sister, Janine Bird Wilkins, who taught him a valuable life lesson. She taught him that he should focus on whether his attributes were like the Savior’s, rather than trying to conform to gender stereotypes. That life lesson proved valuable in helping him to better understand his unique talents and gifts. It also helped him to better minister to others while serving a full-time mission for the Church in California.

Charlie says, “Rather than define my character traits by exclusively feminine or masculine, I should define them by whether or not they were Christlike.” Identifying as gay has helped him communicate with others an important part of who he is. Additionally, being gay is “so much more than just sexual attraction,” as it has also helped him to be more authentic and it has also brought him closer to the Savior.

With no one to confide in for much of his life, Charlie found himself struggling with depression and self-loathing. He felt as though he had to do everything alone. However, once he started sharing the truth about his sexual orientation with friends and family, he found acceptance that he never anticipated and felt unconditional love from those with whom he shared.

It was not until he began seeking to understand why he was gay that Charlie went to the temple seeking answers. It was there that he received revelation from God that changed his perspective. He says:

Charlie brought his opinion piece in the Deseret News to a close with these thoughts for all of us to ponder:

1993 saw the birth of Charlie Bird, the year before I received my Brigham Young University degree. Twenty-five years later—my age is really showing—he shot to fame as the adored dancing and tumbling BYU mascot, Cosmo the Cougar. When Charlie’s Cosmo first danced with the well-known Cougarettes in 2017, a video of their performance went viral. Instantly, Cosmo became the most famous university mascot in America.

I finished Charlie Bird’s poignant memoir Without the Mask yesterday. I wholeheartedly suggest this book if you’re searching for an emotional account of a young person’s battle with same-sex attraction.

Many will disagree with his strategy and his choice to remain in a church that does not support gay marriage but is making greater efforts to show compassion to its LGBTQ members, but this is his story and no one else’s. Without the Mask, in my opinion, will be a useful starting point for dialogue and comprehension in many Christian families. I left with a deep sense of respect for Charlie’s bravery, honesty, and inner fortitude. It was a superb read.

However, beneath the exuberant leaps and famous outfit, Charlie was struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation as a gay man in a very traditional and religious family. His truth and his faith were at war. Sheri Dew, the president of Deseret Book, encouraged Charlie to write an article about his journey, which led to the creation of this book.

His writing is exquisite as he conveys his feelings that defy the teachings of the faith that has molded his life and his devotion to it. Never a victim and emphasizing that he doesn’t want to become a “gay Mormon” poster child, he describes how he identifies and learns that his feelings and his faith can coexist.

“This joy that he carried with him as a young child would just radiate off him,” Anne Bird Rodman said of her brother. People would frequently remark on Charlie and how unique he was. He was one of those kids that you thought was just going to go far. This kid is a [really] special young man. ’”.

Charlie concluded his Deseret News opinion piece by posing the following questions for all of us to consider:

Brigham Young University (BYU) sports fans are all too familiar with the school’s mascot, Cosmo the Cougar. From 2015-2018, Charlie Bird, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as “the Mormon Church”), performed as the school’s beloved mascot with screaming fans admiring his synchronized hip hop moves with the Cougarettes. He also danced in ESPN’s 2017 College Football Awards. And, Cosmo’s viral influence caused NBC to dub 2017-2018 the “Year of the Mascot” and he claimed ESPN’s top spot in a ranking of “best mascot moments’ in 150 years of college football history.

Charlie didn’t visit the temple in search of answers until he started trying to figure out why he was gay. There, he experienced a revelation from God that altered his viewpoint. He says:

Young Charlie also had a love for the gospel. For instance, he created temple flashcards by cutting out images from the Friend magazine, and he then committed the names and styles of each structure to memory. He also memorized a lot of scripture passages and never skipped a day of seminary in the early morning.

FAQ

Does Charlie Bird have a partner?

Personal life. In 1974, he married Mary O’Connor, and they had two daughters. They divorced in 1998. In 2016, he married Claire Mould.

Where did Charlie Bird serve his mission?

Bird was born and raised in Southwest Missouri, and served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Redlands, California.

Who is the current BYU mascot in real life?

Cosmo the Cougar has been Brigham Young University’s beloved mascot for over 60 years!

Who was Cosmo the Cougar in 2017?

Stephan Millard, 2017-2020.