It is of utmost importance to me as a human being and artist to be real, raw and relatable. I place very high value on the people who view my art and encourage me regularly- you keep me going, friends and followers alike! It is with this in mind, and with deep care for you that I am choosing to share something very personal. I don’t feel compelled to share this information because of force or pressure, but rather as a way to further relate to and connect with you. I hope that if anyone can relate to my experience, it will help them to feel encouraged, inspired, and loved. As with my photos, I will begin with a story.
Since I can remember, I’ve always been that kid to walk up to strangers and say hello. I’ve naturally loved picking flowers, playing dress up, running through a forest, climbing trees, and all those other imaginative things that kids do. From elementary school and on I’ve always lived in a dreamy sort of state; I like to refer to it as the “Cloud State”, a common place my mind ventures in order to see life through rose-tinted shades. Come hell or high water, my mind has become pretty great at retreating to this place in what feigns to others as an overwhelming case of constant optimism. Despite troubled times, taunts from others, or personal “failures” my brain has protected me by choosing to “dissociate” and separate itself from the impact of such devastations. Its not really a choice, its just something that happens. Lucky me right?
I think a lot of people experience this phenomenon as a coping mechanism, but dissociation isn’t the personal thing I want to talk with you about, rather, dissociation is a contributing factor to a larger issue I hid from for much too long: self denial. Its easy to paint pretty colors on a dilapidated house, but underneath the paint there is still a broken, shattered frame.
For over 10 years, I allowed my fear and dissociation to cloud my ability to see who I truly was. Of course there were parts of me that were developing and flourishing but there were parts of me that I was afraid to accept because of outside opinions, upbringing and the likes.
Fast forward to a few years ago; in many ways I had discovered how to find fulfillment- in my friendships, in my art, in my career, through working with kids. On the outside I probably looked like a rainbow painted mansion, just bursting with happiness and success. I had a job, I traveled, I had a long term girlfriend, things many people might not have. But something on the inside was still screaming at me to wake up, no matter how loud I played the music or ran through the trees.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop thinking about this boy. Every time the thought would arise, it was like I’d take an electric fly swatter to it in my mind. My religious upbringing droned on to tell me I could only love a certain way, that I couldn’t just love anybody… despite love being one of the most frequent words in the Bible, I couldn’t seem to find a satisfying love no matter how hard I tried through the “correct” channels. The more I attempted to follow these guidelines placed before me by others, the more I entered my Cloud State. Things were just peachy, I told myself, but I was drifting further and further away from the reality of who I was.
It wasn’t until a few friends came along and showed me real, unconditional love, that the process of reeling myself back to Earth really began. At a time in my life where I was feeling completely lost, these blessed souls took countless hours out of their lives to help me find myself, to show me acceptance, and to begin the healing process I had needed for the previous 10 years since I had first begun suppressing myself.
The resulting experiences were quite shocking and foreign; I had never felt truly fulfilled as a wholly self-accepting person. I had placed so many unrealistic expectations, responsibilities and limitations on myself that I was literally suffocating. One afternoon in August of 2013, I finally caved; I would not lie to myself any longer. After two weeks of tears, many nights curled up in my bed, and countless hugs from my close friends, I emerged still feeling like a baby deer, but ready to face even the loudest of lions.
Through three years of fully honest self discovery I have landed myself before you today. Through a series of self portraits I have expressed my deepest emotions to you, and for the first time in a public setting I am eager to say, I AM GAY!
And guess what? I’M OK! I have never felt more alive, more in tune with myself and my surroundings, and more connected to the people who choose to love me back, no matter what they believe. I’ve discovered I am worthy of unconditional love without feeling dirty or like I don’t belong. I’ve discovered that no matter what anyone else believes or says, I know myself better than anyone, and if I feel loved by friends, my family and myself, no one can really take that from me. I have found love, and it actually doesn’t require anyone’s approval but my own.
It doesn’t matter what you believe, you should never judge another person and put them below you. Even if you believe in God or some other religion, it is very clear that our place is not to judge and condemn each other. Placing the focus on judgement and condemnation is missing the entire point of life- to love and be loved. For years I felt like I was a filthy, broken disgrace for having the “inclination to be gay” as many refer to it. I will never shun anyone for believing something different than me, however I will hold people against their outward reactions in response to who I am as a person. I, nor anyone, deserves to feel unaccepted in this world.
If anyone out there is feeling burdened by self denial, expectations of others, or just feeling down- know you are not alone. Know that being surrounded by true love, from yourself and others, is absolutely worth any obstacles you may face to get there. And true love can’t really be found without being completely honest to yourself and others. If you need someone to talk to, I am happy to be that listening ear.
For anyone struggling to accept that you can believe in God and be gay, Matthew Vine's talk really helped me to accept this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezQjNJUSraY
If you are a male experiencing depression or know someone experiencing depression as a result of this topic or any other, please check out Heads Up Guys, a brilliant organization lending insight and guidance for guys who need it. We're trained to believe we always have to be tough in our society, but real strength comes from recognizing and facing our weaknesses. I believe you can do just that; to check out Heads Up Guys please visit: http://headsupguys.ca
On a side note, I haven’t yet found “the boy”, but I look forward to the day I do. I look forward to sharing love just like any other united couple, and I hope to have a long life together. Until that time, I am happy knowing that each day I grow closer to my true self, and I wish the same for you.