The Storyteller is an anonymous late-twentysomething from the midwest. For a number of reasons, he didn’t want me to publicly disclose his identity. So, I’ll simply say this: behind his eyes is a power that is familiar, but rarely told in its entirety—a story of longing, self-acceptance, heartbreak, and inner struggle. And the story doesn’t stop here.
I remember being so offended that my voice wasn’t deep. That was a big thing for me. And my father had this thing where he would say, “Be a man, no matter what.” I would ask myself what that was, but I never was able to figure it out. I thought that meant having a deep voice, playing sports, cursing, and fucking girls. I thought I had to fight and be bad—kick somebody’s ass and let everyone see me do it.
One day, I told my my parents I wanted to wear FUBU, Ecko, and South Pole from that day on out. I told them I wanted to wear tall tees and all these things that were completely different from what I liked wearing because that is what the boys wore in school, and no one questioned their masculinity or sexuality because they looked like that.
I thought [being a man] meant having a deep voice, playing sports, cursing and fucking girls. I thought I had to fight and be bad—kick somebody’s ass and let everyone see me do it.
When I was younger, I remember not being allowed to play with dolls, although I loved playing with them. I know now why I liked to—it was storytelling. I would take my action figures and set up soap operas. I was one of those boys who would put t-shirts on his head like hair in secret, and act things out.
I was also obsessed with Sweet Valley High, Clueless,and Waiting to Exhale. I loved when my mother threw Margarita parties. It was so much fun just listening to them gossip. And then my family had another boy. He was the most rambunctious, boyish thing ever—and that’s when it became very clear I was different.
We were ying and yang. You had this one kid who was the definition of a boyish tyrant, but I would always be the one drawing a lady I found in the magazine. He loved trucks and going outside to play in the mud, but I would never do those kinds of things. I wanted a crease in my pants, but he just wanted some cargo shorts to run outside in.
Nothing I did was masculine enough, even though I became an athlete because my father was an athlete up until high school. In his mind, since I was the oldest son, it was important to play sports. I eventually decided I didn’t want to play sports anymore because I’d done it only to make him happy.
I’d been called gay and faggot—it was really bad in middle school. And I never did anything to fight back. Instead, I did things to myself.
Things took a turn when I went to a high school for the performing arts because I came to terms with who I was as an artist. For the first time, I felt like I was better, smarter, and special in a great and amazing way. Before that, I’d been called gay and faggot—it was really bad in middle school. And I never did anything to fight back. Instead, I did things to myself.
When I knew I could be spotlighted as gay, I would really wear that South Pole shirt, be super conscious of my voice and how I walked—my mannerisms. But at the performance high school, people didn’t care who was gay, even though I didn’t identify as that at that age. So I studied musical theater and became really amazed with it because I’d grown up singing in church. And I eventually decided that’s what I wanted to do.
Six years into my life, my family had another boy. He was the most rambunctious, boyish thing ever—and that’s when it became very clear I was different.
I moved to NYC for college and it was so different than what I was used to. I always thought it would be like Showtime at the Apollo, but living here was a completely different experience. I was really able to figure out who I was through my classes, professors, and classmates. Before I graduated college, I started to work as an actor, and I had the privilege of being in several Broadway musicals that allowed me to tour the world, even though I was so young.
Eventually, I decided I wanted to create my own work. So I stepped out on faith to be begin telling my own stories through film as opposed to being a pawn in someone else’s vision. It took me several years to get myself together, but it’s what I do now, and I love it.
My definition of masculinity has changed over the years, and it still changes all the time. I came out to my family after several years of living in New York City. In the years prior to that, I would wear clothes and act in a way I thought was more masculine.
I would “put on” to make others feel comfortable because I knew if I moved through the space like I would in NYC, it would hurt them. So, whenever I was around them, I would feel my body language shift. And because I didn’t feel like explaining to them what my clothes meant, I would change that as well.
I created an actor version of me because I knew they had to (and wanted to) believe that I would be in love with a woman someday. But when I would leave, I knew I was simply “passing.” I’m still trying to find myself, and figure out what that means for my own relationship with my family. At times, I still want to be the perfect son. But more than anything, I want to be myself.
I created an actor version of me because I knew [my parents] had to (and wanted to) believe that I would be in love with a woman.