Gay Man Finds Confidence and Sheds His Toxic Masculinity. ‘For Once, You’re Seeing the Real Me.’

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When Jack came out as a teenager, he made sure to stress that he was not “that” type of gay – going so far as to make homophobic jokes and really stress just how masculine he was. This behavior continued all the way into college – until he discovered theater, that is. While studying at Sarah Lawrence College, Jack was cast as a shy, unassuming character in a coming-of-age play. This character, who more closely approximated Jack’s true personality, would eventually enable him to feel more comfortable with himself and abandon the toxic masculinity that had previously held him back.

Transcript provided by YouTube:

00:04

My name is Jack. I’m from Chicago, Illinois.

00:09

So I came out of the closet when I was about 15 years old. I come from like a very, like,

00:15

masculine, sportsy middle class suburban background, and I think just, like, the pressure built

00:21

up one day and I wrote a very long Facebook letter explaining to everyone that I was gay

00:28

in the letter. I made sure to like remind people that, like, I’m not that sort of gay.

00:33

Like, I’m still like a sports gay, like I still wrestle and I play football. Like, I

00:38

was this sort of gay that called other people faggot. I made gay jokes. I was like really,

00:44

really trying to, like, stress my masculinity and, like, perform this role. You know, like

00:50

I shat talk with the boys. I would go out to parties. I would get really drunk. I was

00:56

just genuinely acting like an asshole because I was afraid that if I slipped up at any point,

01:03

I would sort of lose this social status that I thought I had.

01:08

When I went to college, I decided to, like, not go to a college that I liked. I decided

01:13

to go to, like, a very masculine school. I went to Indiana University. I tried joining

01:19

a fraternity. I went to football games. And I was just generally really depressed and

01:25

I was drinking a lot and I was having a lot of unsafe sex and was suicidal.

01:30

And then eventually push came to shove and I decided to change things. So I came home

01:37

after my first semester of college and I decided to go to Sarah Lawrence College, which was

01:42

a smaller… it was a more arts-based school. And I was still telling my parents that I

01:48

was pursuing a career in political science, but what I really was interested in was writing

01:55

and theater and performance.

01:57

I made these, like, really weak, cowardly, like, baby steps towards joining the theater.

02:03

I would go to meetings, but I didn’t sign up for any classes. I went to auditions for

02:11

like my first semester, the fall semester there. I went to audition, but I think at

02:17

the time I told myself that, you know, I had just forgot to prepare an audition piece,

02:23

but I think in my head, I intentionally didn’t prepare anything. And it was sort of like

02:28

already like purposely pushing myself into this position of just being an asshole or

02:33

sort of a pariah.

02:34

So luckily what winds up happening is one of the directors of one of the plays, I remember

02:40

it was for the basement theater – it was for the smallest theater. He asked me if I wanted

02:44

to be his stage manager. He was like, Come to auditions. He’s like, Help me read. And

02:51

he was like, You could get involved in theater this way if you’re, like, too nervous to be

02:55

a performer or do any of your own stuff.

02:58

So we went to auditions and he had me read for this character, Warren. “This Is Our

03:02

Youth” is kind of like a coming of age story, like three kids in a love triangle. Two guys

03:08

and a girl. They party a lot. They do a lot of drugs. And he had me reading for this character,

03:15

Warren, who is depressed, who’s, like, very shy.

03:21

As I was reading the role, I found that I was really good at it. I found that, like,

03:27

more so than the other people who were reading the role, I could sort of acclimate myself

03:33

to the character’s speech patterns to his specific timing, et cetera. They wound up

03:39

offering me the role. They were just like, You know, you’re good at this. You should

03:44

just do it. You’ve read for the role anyways. And at the time I told myself I was excited

03:49

because it was pages and pages of dialogue.

03:51

So I got the role and we started rehearsing, and at the time I was still drinking and partying

03:59

a lot. And I remember like the first couple of rehearsals, like, I kept on, like, nearly

04:04

sabotaging myself. Like, I once came two hours late ‘cause I woke up in my bathtub because

04:10

I fell asleep in my bathtub, like, covered in glitter. The other two people who were

04:14

in this show, too, who wound up being very good friends of mine were also sort of like

04:20

wild child partiers. And so they with the director, we sort of, like, worked out this

04:28

system of rehearsals. He sort of, like, incorporated that, like our social lives into it. So rehearsals

04:35

were very, like, calm, like we’d have a beer and we’d talk or we’d, like, go outside and

04:40

like smoke cigarettes and, like, walk around.

04:43

We started rehearsals and the other two people in the cast, one of them who is sort of the

04:49

main guy who was acting opposite may who, funny enough – so like I was playing like

04:54

the depressed, sad inward character, which is how I really was. And he was sort of played

05:02

like the really hot, very arrogant, gregarious guy, which is what I thought he was in real

05:08

life. So when we started acting, I only knew this guy by reputation and he was kind of

05:12

like the suave man about town. Like, yeah, everyone wants to sleep with him. He was very

05:18

rich. He was like a former TV star when he was a child and I was, like, really scared

05:25

that he was going to overshadow me or that he wouldn’t like my performance.

05:30

What wound up happening is this guy that played opposite me who played sort of the beautiful,

05:35

arrogant, best friend, wound up becoming my best friend because I realized that all those

05:40

things that I had placed on him weren’t true, and then continuing the process, all the things

05:49

that I placed on myself or thought I should be weren’t true as well, because he wound

05:55

up being a very sweet, great guy.

05:58

As the process went along, I just learned to be alright in my emotions and I just learned

06:05

to be alright with not being traditionally masculine or not always being the center of

06:13

attention. I sort of realized there were ways to center myself without hurting myself and

06:20

And so the production happened. It was the big production of the semester. I remember

06:25

I was very proud because we sold out each night and people came to see the show, and

06:30

I remember after the show was sort of like my friend group, we went outside to smoke

06:36

a cigarette later afterwards, and one of them said, “That’s, like, not the Jack I know”

06:44

or something. Or like, “Oh, I think it’d be – I didn’t know you had that in you the

06:49

entire time.”

06:50

And I was sort of realized that I, I was sort of like, Oh, that is me though. And I was

06:56

like, For once you’re seeing the real… the real me.

07:01

The way I changed after the play was I think i was just more comfortable living in that

07:09

area of not knowing. I’d still to this point had problems with substance abuse and I still,

07:16

you know, am trying to conquer anxiety and mental illness. But there’s no sturm and

07:24

drang, I guess is the term about it. I don’t put on a show for people anymore. And I really

07:31

don’t ask people to put on a show for me.

07:38

So before I was performing this hyper-masculinity and I think… I think now I just don’t

07:44

really care. But really just allowing myself the space to figure myself out and not worrying

07:54

that there’s anything I should or should not be.

This post was previously published on YouTube and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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