As many of you know, I’ve spent the better part of this year writing and recording my record Crazy Ride. While largely a meditation on the loss of my mother, it also explores the heartbreak, confusion and excitement that govern life. I don’t think it’s possible to experience loss without somehow gaining a new lens with which to view the miracle and occasional misery of human life. With that said, while I’ve become more fearless in chasing my singer/songwriter dreams, for many years I’ve struggled with both how to and whether or not to address my sexuality within my writing. Despite coming out at 13, I have never made a conscious effort at merging my personal and professional life. Generally I’ve stayed within the realm of caution, telling myself, “it’s about the music.” Now that my video “Run” is coming out, I know it’s time for me to take a strong stance as a member of and an advocate for the LGBTQ community, exploring my truth and building strength with anyone who carries the burden of difference.
I believe that regardless of career, being open is still very much a big deal, although I do appreciate and empathize with the over-arching view that “it’s no longer a big deal to be gay.” Even with Sam Smith sitting tall at the billboard top ten, we are sorely in need of supportive voices to counter the awful statistics and narratives that have historically plagued the LGBTQ community. It feels ridiculous to consider portraying myself as anything but confident with who I am as a gay man, especially within the wider context of the enormous social changes that have occurred.
Because I’m blessed to be in a position to have a voice, I consider it an honor to be different. The deeply understood reality of this quick, short life has resolved me to live it on my terms and not be ignorant to the reality that most of human suffering is tied to flexible beliefs. I’m not pushing my sexuality in anyone’s face as much as I’m being who I am. I’m not a gay songwriter as much as I’m a songwriter who happens to be gay. In regards to “Run,” I put a male actor in my video because the song was written about one. I fell in love with a boy and got my heart broken, so that’s what you’ll see.
While anyone can relate to my music, I will not be vague in its presentation for appeal purposes. I will not shoot music videos of relationship ambiguity for a label or interview and say “I broke up with this person” instead of “this man” because, to me, having to alter my truth feels “shameful.” Out of all the destructive emotions a human can feel, shame by far is the most insidious. It is destructive when I have to think about changing pronouns in songs or be vague in interviews or videos. It’s exhausting as a person because to feel like your truth can bring about violence makes you want to shut down. If people choose not to listen to me, there’s nothing I can do beyond practice compassion.
I have no idea how high music will take me, but I do consider it my duty to break down the one dimensional caricatures and stereotypes while I can. I especially don’t want kids to see their futures solely consisting of sadness. People laugh when I tell them Mariah Carey is one of my largest influences, but her difficulties in facing her “otherness” as not quite black and not quite white was the closest reference point I had growing up ( listen to her song “Outside”). Her struggle to accept being biracial felt similar to my struggle in being unable to identify with the adult gay narrative or straight social development—dating, sports, etc.—that existed. It is an honor to, like Mariah, be able to put my voice on the line so others know they aren’t alone.
I hope you enjoy the video. Please don’t be afraid to share your own stories of heartbreak—love is impossible when carrying the burden of shame.
Let’s continue to help each other feel a little less alone.