The theater has always been a safe space for me.
This singer and actor discusses the details of how his family processed the fact he is gay. He also shares his experience with bullying, dating, and how theater has always been his safe haven. This story was captured while he was in a show in Charlottesville, Virginia, but he currently resides in New York City. Read and listen to learn more!
My coming out to my parents happened over the course of a year.
I came out to my mom first, and I expected her to be totally onboard. I was surprised that she wasn’t. My mom initially was sad. What’s interesting about my parents is that they both had very close relationships with the AIDS crisis in the 80’s. My dad is a Pharmaceutical research scientist who worked on the active virus in the early 80’s, and my mom was an Intensive Care Unit nurse in Philadelphia. She was literally taking care of dying men, and holding them in her arms as they died. She tells stories of a lot of men who died alone because their families disowned them. My parents had very first-hand experience with that crisis, so my mom was sad when I came out because that was in the back of her head.
My experience with bullying has affected a lot of my relationships, because it took me a long time to trust anyone who was male.
I spent most of my 20s single. I had a few flings with people that were unavailable for a myriad of reasons. I went after these unavailable guys because it was safe. I wanted intimacy, but I wanted to be with someone who didn't have to commit to because I was too afraid of them hurting me. I never really thought about why that was happening until I got into my late 20s and people started asking, "Why are you single?" after thinking about it, I attributed a lot of it to my bullying, and general distrust of men. I don't think it's affected me professionally at all because the theater community was always a safe place for me. I was in theater as a kid, the theater was always my place. I was bullied in school, but I was not bullied in my extra curricular activities. My straight friends were bullied for being in theater as well. They say, "Oh, everyone called me a faggot." You'd think they would not want to be a part of theater because of that, but they continued to be a part of it. I guess feeling safe in the theater space made me trust the rooms I work in. I have a special relationship with the rehearsal room. It's a safe place for me, because it's always been a safe place for me. I guess I'm still living in my safe space.
I feel my mom felt like she had failed me in a way because all of these things that were said to, and about me when I was younger, were in a way coming true. At the time I came out, I was shocked that she wasn’t on board, and it distanced us for about a year. She had a hard time with it, and she only started to come around. She seeked out PFLAG and she started telling her friends, and her friends were all like “of course Timmy is gay!”
I was 18 when I came out, it was my Freshman year of college.
I never told my dad, but my mom told my dad a year later. My dad is Irish-Catholic, grew up in the 60’s, you know, of that generation. It was more so that my dad and I didn’t talk about those things. Even if I was straight we wouldn’t have talked about who I was seeing. You know? So it just never felt like an appropriate thing. So, my Mom came to tell my dad because my grandmother told her to. My dad did not take well, and it's taken a long time for my dad to come around. My grandmother, God rest her soul, the coolest woman...was in her mid-70s at the time. She was a super-Fundamentalist Christian, the type of Christians that think that we are going to Hell. We were all really anxious about telling my grandmmother because I was very close with my her. We were like, "How is she going to react, what are we going to do?" I will never forget this moment, I was in my dorm room with my boyfriend at the time and the phone rang and it was her. I looked at it and I was like, "Shit!". I picked up the phone and she said, "Timothy, it's your Grandmother. I just want to let you know that your Mother told me" And I was like "Oh?" and she said, "And nothing could ever change the way I feel about you. I love you and I support you." It could have been just that, and she could have been one of those people who put it away in a closet and never talked about it again. Instead, on her nightstand there were books that were about "Gays in the Church" and, "God and Gays." She was the first person who would say to me, "Are you seeing...is there anyone in your life?" She was such a huge cheerleader for me.
People in our community don't have any patience for people who don't understand our lives and who we are.
I think we are so quick to judge them as they are to judge us. Something I have learned, not just through my dad, is that you know they will come around. You have to be patient, and allow them to come around. Once they come around, it's great. It's a beautiful thing, and you can almost appreciate it so much more because they had to go through something to support you. I'm glad my parents weren't the type who when I told them I was gay, they responded right away with, "That's great! Okay, fine!" I appreciate the struggle for us to come together and see this thing because then I think it makes...there just so much...it's such a stronger love, you know?
My boyfriend was just on vacation with my family in June, and it's the first time my Father has vacationed with someone I'm seeing.
At times, I would see the two of them sitting and talking about books. They are both total nerds. It was so great for me because it's like my Dad loves me so much that he was able to change this thing about himself. It wasn't like, "I have to change, this is my kid." It was like, "I'm going to understand this one day." I'm going to reach a point in my life where I don't even know the person he was before, and I think that is really a beautiful thing. It makes my relationship with my dad all the stronger.
When the whole Chick-fil-A thing was going on four or five years ago, my Dad and I weren't at the point where he was like "I love my gay son."
He was coming around, but he certainly wasn't on a soapbox. He and my mom were driving past Chick-fil-A and talking and my dad goes, "You know what I'd like to do?" and my mom said, "What?" My dad said, "I'd like to put on some lipstick and a bustier and walk into Chick-fil-A with my best friend." He wanted to walk into Chick-fil-A dressed in drag and say "F U Chick-fil-A" . My mom could not wait to call me and tell me this story. From that point on it was sorta like alright we are getting there.
It took me 18 years to love this person who's my person, you know, because there was a lot of self-hate, there's still self-hate, we all hate, everyone hates themselves.
Why should we just expect someone close to us to just be on board right away? I came out 12 years ago. In those 12 years, I feel like our society has come leaps and bounds. What's on their television, or what's on their computer is information that's telling them that they should accept us. Even if you don't have that first-hand experience of knowing someone who is gay, society tells you in a large way that you should feel a particular way. So 12 years ago, we really didn't have that. That was a time pre-Massachusetts ruling. That was pre-everything, and so it's an interesting thing.