What do you do for a living?
I create art, in a very broad sense of the word. I got my degree in dramatic arts and have been blessed to make my living acting. I also write poetry, paint, and make music. Between all of my outlets I make enough to get a shower and sandwich every now and again.
Do you think you fit in?
Absolutely not. Primarily by choice. I spent a lot of my early life trying to fit in. My family’s very unconventional. My father is transexual. My mother is bisexual. I was raised Jewish. So I was the only Jewish kid in the black community, the only black kid in the Jewish community. I tried for so long to fit in just to feel accepted in one way or another. Now as an adult, I realize how detrimental it was to put so much energy into fitting in rather than truly being me. The true me is what’s most attractive and what’s most engaging—as an artist, as a soul, and as a creator. If you try to fit in you’re just another in a row of a thousand.
Were your parent’s sexual orientation apparent when you were young?
I always knew. My father started hormone therapy when I was around two. Gender identity and sexuality conversation were out in the open in our house. I understood what homosexuality was, what androgyny was, what transgenderism was—basically the whole spectrum of sexuality—from a very early age. It was normal for me. I was taught that people fall all over the spectrum. It was really hard when I started school and I was trying to fit in with the other kids. My world was so antithetical to theirs.
Did your home life affect your own percieved sexuality?
I don’t think sexuality is a choice. I believe you’re born with an innate set of preferences, and I always knew I was heterosexual. What was hardest in my adolescence was figuring out how to be a man when the only male role model in my life was becoming a woman. I didn’t have an example at home of what a man should be like. Quite the contrary, becoming a man was so effeminate for me. I had long hair down to my waist for a long time when I was a kid. Of course, I told myself it was because I wanted to be a rock star. But really I was following the example of my father.
Did you look outside your immediate family for male role models?
I definitely outsourced all my examples of male role models. It wasn’t conscious at first, but once I realized the only way for me to become a man was to choose what I thought were positive characteristics and attributes, I started looking everywhere. It was a whole process of watching everyone—whether they were my peers, their parents, or the people I saw on TV.
If you were at the airport and had to leave the country where would you go?
Paris. I’ve never been and I’ve always had this incredibly romantic notion of what it is as an artist.
You said you went to South Africa recently. What was your experience like there?
As a creative, here in America the majority of my peers are Caucasian. There’s not a lot of encouragement in the African-American community to go into the arts or any creative field. I’m used to being in creative circles where I’m the only, or one of a few African-Americans. What was really incredible in South Africa was to find myself surrounded with the same like minds—intellectually, philosophically, creatively—but not being in an ethnic minority. Everyone there was on the same wave length, but we were all black. I joke about it, but when you find another person of color—not even necessarily black—there’s an instant gravitation towards that individual, because we know we’re fewer and more far between. It was wonderful to be immersed in that energy without having that little voice in the back of your head saying, “You know you’re the minority here right?”
What’s the most important component in good health?
Attitude. Good health is a choice. Do you enjoy what you’re doing, or do you feel a sense of loss when you’re living your life? The worst attitude to have is the victim mentality. I think a victim mentality is not owning responsibility for the circumstances of your life. The idea that the world did it to you, or that God did it to you. I’m a firm believer in manifestation. We are what we choose to be. Think it, and it can be as real as your hand in front of your face.
Did you grow up around other black people?
Primarily, no. The result of my father’s gender identity was that he had cut off relations with most of his family, so I never knew my black family until I was an adult and started to reach out and heal those relationships on my own. I was in magnet programs all throughout school, which are specialized education programs designed to cultivate certain high aptitude students. Since education isn’t as highly valued in the African-American community there weren’t too many parents that identified their kids’ aptitude and took the steps necessary to get them into these programs. Growing up my peers were the kids in magnet schools and the Jewish community. It wasn’t until I reached high school that there was a huge black population around me.
Did you feel accepted by them?
There was a distance there. I always gravitate towards artists and intellectuals. That may have been seen as stand-off-ish by the black community. I never felt ostraciszed or shunned by any means, but I also didn’t feel a part of that community. As I grew into an adult and started feeling racial tension, my identity as a black man has grown stronger, and my connection to the black community has grown stronger.
Did you ever want to be white growing up?
No. I can’t say I ever wanted to be white. I knew I was looked at differently, and I knew that I didn’t want to be looked at differently, but I never wanted to be white. I hold an incredible sense of pride in being an African-American. Imagine what we, as a race and culture, have gone through. Yet not only have we survived—we’re thriving. That’s a powerful story.
How would you describe your world view in 3 words or less?
Open. Loving. Engaged.
Would you have ever described yourself as angry?
Visciously. I was a burning ball of red hot rage at a certain point and actually committed to a locked psyche facility when I was in 6th grade for three weeks. I was angry at the entire world. When I was ten or eleven, there was a lot of tension in my house. I was becoming a young man and railing against my father. That’s when it was hardest to deal with his gender identity and figure out my own. I just felt incredibly isolated. I switched schools at that time, as well. And home-life wasn’t really a ‘safe’ place emotionally for me. There was a suicide attempt at one point and I remember afterwards talking to a social worker at children’s hospital. We got into an argument and when I tried to leave, he grabbed me. That’s when I just flew off the handle. I started hitting him and kicking him as hard as I could. I ended up in handcuffs at eleven after that. There were some dark patches, I’ll say that.
How do you feel about the self-help industry?
I think there’s a pandemic of people feeling like they’re broken or inadequate in some way or another, and there’s a thousand-and-one quick fixes to their problems. Read this book. Do this workshop. Drink this tea. Whatever. Modern media and society has become fixated on inadequacy and the consumerism of today provides us with a plethora of solutions people are trying to capitalize on. I think we need to value each other more. We’re taught that we’re not good enough. If you have this car, you will do these things, and you will be happy. That’s one of the fundamental problems with our society. The have-do-be way of thinking should instead be the exact opposite: be-do-have. If you choose who you want to be day-by-day, you will do incredible things, and you will have whatever you want, because people will be knocking down your door trying to get a piece of that energy.