Have you ever looked in the mirror and saw the same “you” you’ve been seeing for years, but for some reason, you still can’t seem to recognize yourself?
Being brought up in a very religious home, I grew up believing that my personal feelings were trivial if it didn’t align with the word of God. I often wondered why my feelings didn’t matter, especially if God was known to love his children just as they were, with no strings attached.
Growing up as a child, I knew something was different about me, something peculiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. For some reason, I viewed the world differently, and I didn’t know why. I had a love towards all people, and I believed everyone was beautiful, but my attraction to the opposite sex wasn’t there. As much as I tried, I could never get my heart to fully immerse itself to be physically attracted to women. Men, on the other hand, had an appealing side to them, a natural rigidness that peaked my interest on so many levels. I could feel butterflies in the pit of my stomach when talking to them, especially if they shared an interest in me. I became flattered knowing that something so masculine could have an emotional and physical attachment to someone such as myself.
Growing up in my home, I knew homosexuality wasn’t smiled upon. It was forbidden. Having the fear of being disowned and emotionally tormented, I hid my true skin from my family, and not just them but everyone else. I found myself camouflaging my heart’s true appearance for the sake of blending in and barely slipping past the radar. As time went on it started to take a horrible toll on me. I went through life feeling as if I wasn’t enough. My self-worth plummeted, and it showed. I no longer had that “glow.” I didn’t look well, and high school became unbearable.
Camouflaging is so hard to do when you’re always wearing a skin that you know isn’t you. It’s like fearing being eaten alive by a predator instead of fighting back. It’s defending not just what you are, but WHO you are, and knowing that you are “perfectly peculiar” in every way and that homosexual camouflage is all you have to protect you. Fear is so distasteful; it will cause you to build walls, and detach yourself from the true beauty of the world and God’s unwavering love.
As time when on, I began to let my true skin show. From there it began to breathe, and each day became a little brighter, a little easier. I found myself loving “ME” like never before, and soon everyone else did too. They may not have agreed with my lifestyle, but they agreed with my honesty, not only to the world, but the honesty with myself.
Playing Pharus Young in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Choir Boy” — a collaboration between Norfolk State University Theatre Company and The Limbic System, opening this weekend — has been such an opportunity, something so magical. In a way, I feel like his activist. Pharus is so used to camouflaging his true skin to make other people comfortable, he misses out on what truly matters, which is him.
A very wise man once told me, “Anyone who allows you to set yourself on fire just to keep them warm is NOT for you.” Pharus sets himself on fire for a lot of people, and not many people do that for him in return. Pharus later learns what love is, especially since he’s an individual who believes he doesn’t deserve it. I, for one, want to give Pharus all the love I can, because he deserves it on so many levels.
That’s why it’s so magical playing him, because I’ve been him in so many situations, for so many years, and now that I live a life that’s camouflage free, I can finally let my true skin show.
And what a beautiful skin it is.
“Choir Boy” runs June 17 – 19 in Virginia Beach, and July 6 -8 in Norfolk. For more info, showtimes, or tickets, click here.