Editor’s note: I have known my friend Kyler aka New York City drag queen Heidi Haux for a little over a year now. In addition to being a very talented queen, she’s always been a very sweet person from the moment we met. Because of the nature of of nightlife, relationships among performers in a city like New York can just remain on the surface level, “Great hair! Loved that number! Yas gurl!”. I knew Heidi the queen but less about Kyler the person. That changed a little bit this past National Coming Out when he shared some of himself with a touching Facebook that was hope combined with a pained undertone that moved me to tears when I read it. This morning I found out that he had penned an essay further elaborating on his experiences growing up. I asked to read it and after being moved to tears again, said I would be honored if he would let me post for everyone to read here on WERRRK.com. I just want to say in life there is there family you are born into and the family you choose for yourself and I know there are a lot of people here in New York City who care like family.
This is worth your time so please read this story and share it with people that you think it might help. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is enough to keep going. And thank you for sharing your story with us Heidi.
I’ve had to fight my entire life. From the moment I got a beating from my parents after hitting on a boy when I was only a child, I have been fighting to be alive. The first breath I took when I came out of my mother’s womb was not a breath of life, but the first, in a long line of gasps for air within a personal prison.
I am a white man from a middle class family. I am extremely lucky in my upbringing. I am also gay. And until less than a year ago, my entire family did to know this. When I first came out to my mother I was 19, and her first words (besides “are you kidding me?” but I try to forget those) were “don’t tell your father” I grew up in a very small conservative town. Wonderful family and community values, with a relatively low crime rate. A quintessential American town. But beneath the flowing red, white, and blue flags, the fireworks on Friday nights for football games, and the smiles and laughter in the school hallways there were bars. And behind the bars there was me.
I won’t get into the religious background here, because despite it’s uncontrollable grip on my father, I won’t give blind faith in ignorant beliefs too much time or energy. Because I have a personal relationship with God. She’s held me while I was crying for almost 27 years and today she has So many people in her arms that taking comfort in knowing we are love, and we all one is NOT enough. Today I have to hold people while they cry to. Today I have to scream in addition to my tears. My relationship with God is my business, as is everyone’s own personal relationship with what they believe is or isn’t the higher power. What really fucked ME up, was my father’s perception of that higher power. Somewhere in his guilt ridden mind he had concocted that the most unforgivable, unspeakable sin ever was “homosexuality”.
It may have thrown a wrench in his plans when his youngest son popped out a big ole flamer. And as I came into my own, and started understanding what it was that I felt, and what that meant for how other people would feel about me, I backed up and closed myself into that prison. I locked that door and tossed out the key so no one could deny me. I was just as everyone else. I would nod my head yes, and shake it no on cue. But if you live a life like mine, or see the world for what it is, beyond the matrix of this reality- those bars can’t hold you for long. And when I’d try to force myself to be quiet, to stay dark- I was making it harder and harder to gasp for air.
I’m an asthmatic. My mother rushed me to the hospital multiple times as a very young child with blue lips and failing organs because my lungs just weren’t getting enough oxygen. It’s been hard to breathe, to be active, to run, laugh, scream, and cry my entire life because you have to have healthy lungs to be a healthy human. The physical manifestation of my inability to take in the air around me wasn’t something I could just outgrow. As inward I gasped to find my own identity beyond the shame and complete “ICK” of what I thought I was, outwardly I puffed on an inhaler if I had to run to much, or work too hard. My light dwindled as I hid it under the bushel, and I got unhealthy, depressed, and angry at the world.
Looking around at the beautiful wonderful people I surround myself with today, I know that they could still be gasping for that air that I have found within their midsts. I have always been very proud of where I came from. I think my background, though a little too white-washed and American, helped color me into the full figured human I am today. But I had to leave. When you’re own mother stops you in the living room because there is a commercial for “The Ellen Show” on the Tv and says “We don’t watch that show because we don’t support people like that” When you’re father tells you that he believes Satan has your heart because you wanted to go to a Sunday Morning service at a different church one week with a friend. When you look around at your peers and you don’t see fellow inmates, but rather prison guards and wardens, all casting daggers with their eyes because they know what you really are. And even if it’s all in your head, you gotta get the fuck out. If I had not have left I could never have taken a full breath of air. In fact, I would have never breathed again.
There is a glorious moment in life when you decide to fuck normality. It can happen at any age, at any time, in any way, but that feeling of “my fantasy is my reality, and you’re reality just isn’t for me” is the most liberating. Because perception is reality, and if you can’t broaden your perception, see that life beyond how you are living it is possible, then you’re still in the matrix. And in opposition to the film, I saw the real world in flashing technicolor. But breaking out of the prison wasn’t easy, because I had created that place for myself, I had sealed all the secret passageways and changed the locks too many times to count.
It wasn’t easy. And nothing worthwhile ever is. I went to my public library and found fictional books with gay characters. I switched out the book jackets so I could read them unnoticed. I found like minded kids in my school. There were’t many, and when you’re all in your own personal prisons, it can sometimes be hard to notice one another, but trust me- your tribe is out there and just like me, you can find them when you need them. I indulged in music, and movies – looking desperately for a story like mine. Something that said I was okay, because there were many other people who felt this way. And as soon as I could, I got the fuck out.
I moved to New York City when I was 18. I knew I was gay but I didn’t say it to anyone or even out loud for months to come. And everyone wanted to know. It was theater school and everyone was loud, or proud, or a combination of the two. How could I be proud of who I was if I had no idea? I had to fight to find myself. I needed a tribe of strong individuals, people who were comfortable in their skin to surround me, and let me form my own version of that strong, confident, resilient person. I had to finally throw away that barred prison door I had brought with me all the way from New Mexico. And once I did, once I shed the place I had put myself because I was so scared of rejection, hate, and fear mongering put in my head not only from my own parents, but from my peers, and my community. My wonderful, christian, family oriented community who would rather me be shipped off and put behind ACTUAL bars, than be able to marry the man I love. Once I shed those proverbial bars, I truly was free; At least if for a moment. Those bars lay at your feet Artesia, NM: because I don’t need them anymore. I will never need them again.
Everyone’s coming out story is different. And this isn’t mine- that’s a story for another time. Today’s story is ultimately one of hope. Because that’s what we’ve lost most today. My entire life I have watched love win. I have watched positivity prevail and the world get kinder, more understanding, and less hesitant to love each other. A nation of hope. A place where, after I left the fog of my hometown, and the personal cell I was in, I have seen rights granted, and progress made in leaps and bounds. Today, for the first time in a long time but not the first time in my life, I don’t see that country. I see a hurt, wounded nation. I see marginalized communities weep at the prospect they see before them. And this isn’t about one man or one woman. This isn’t even about an election. This is about hateful rhetoric, that incited anger, fear, and the worst kind of whitelash I’ve seen in my entire life. This is about people that hate AND loving people who don’t know any better. People who never left my hometown and the thousands like it, and never got to breathe any air but their own- yesterday those people were louder than us. I’ve come in at a very unique time in our history. When the closet almost doesn’t even exist to the generation of LBGTQ coming up after me. I’m fortunate enough to have so many freedoms because the generations before me FOUGHT for them. And maybe we haven’t been fighting enough. Or fighting too much- but regardless the fight isn’t over. I know this battle was a tough one. But we MUST pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and continue towards tomorrow. Continue towards HOPE. Cry, scream, eat some ice cream- but get up and fight. Because this isn’t a story of defeat, or a story of stomping our feet because we didn’t get our way, or a story for the way-word fag looking for a light read.
It’s a story for that little boy who is trying to lock himself away because people don’t like the way he is. It’s a story for the little girl, who thinks that she will never be treated as equal as a man in this country. This is a story for black lives, because they MATTER. It’s for the little Muslim child whose being taunted by naive children of privilege, because they don’t understand anything different from their own- because their parents are afraid of different. This is a story for those parents. For MY parents. This is a story for people who would sooner abandon their child to a prison of anger and despair than let them be free to love. A woman who this year stood silent after a vicious mass murder is made against your child’s marginalized community. This is a story for a parent who doesn’t know their child is hurting because they are too ignorant to see it and too apathetic to ask. A story for a man who can’t look his son in the eye because he built his own personal prison decades ago, and he can’t see a way out. This is a story for someone who can’t tell their child they love them, but can vote for a man who will tell them he hates them.
I AM NOT SILENT. I am not in a prison and I won’t let this country lock itself away. I won’t let the loud angry change-resistant culture I left behind put me back where I was. We ARE stronger together. This isn’t nearly over, our voices haven’t even begun to ring out. Tell the world you’re not down for the count. Because there are people who have been fighting a lot longer than me, and much harder battles. There are so many people who have already lost. But we haven’t. We’re a tenacious generation and we can’t stop fighting. Pick up arms and join your brothers and sisters in the streets. I will die before I see Love lose the war. I thought that living my authentic life and pursuing my happiness was proof enough to the people I left behind we are all indeed created equal. But it wasn’t and it isn’t. Roar louder. Fight harder. Scream until your lungs give out. “I will not go quietly into this good night”
- Our lives, our communities, and our fellow man need us to stand up and use these tears as fuel. It can’t be the end if it’s only another beginning.
LOVE TRUMPS HATE
Heidi hails originally from New Mexico, but moved to New York at eighteen. She snatched her B.F.A. from the New School, where she studied film and Screenwriting.