In a post celebrating World Theater Day (March 27), out actor Jonathan Bennett said that theater saved him from his homophobic small town.

Bennett is best known for playing Aaron Samuels in the 2004 comedy Mean Girls. Last year, he starred in The Christmas House, Hallmark's first gay holiday film.

Bennett, 39, shared a video of himself on Instagram singing on stage at 16.

He said that this version of himself was “awkward,” lived in fear, was bullied, and was called “a faggot” when he walked down the halls of his high school.

“He cries himself to sleep every night and develops stomach ulcers because of the stress and the homophobia in his small town,” he wrote. “He thinks really dark thoughts and lives miserably in secret.”

He found “the tiniest bit of refuge” in “his high school theater.”

“He walks in and for the first time in his life, he feels safe,” Bennett wrote. “He feels seen. He actually speaks out loud and isn't called a faggot and no one makes a mockery of him. He isn't ridiculed for being different, he's CELEBRATED. He's not a loser, they actually make him a STAR.”

He added a message of support for teens struggling with their sexuality or identity.

“To any one reading this that identifies with my story, know that you are not alone and that you are a star and you deserve to shine bright,” he wrote. “And never stop singing and dancing, no matter how good you are because it's not about being perfect, it's about shining your light. And the world NEEDS your light.”

Bennett last year became engaged to Jaymes Vaughan, the co-host of Celebrity Page.