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June 02, 2018   Written by M. Tennyson | Photographed by Bryce Belyeu

I didn’t grow up gay. At least I didn’t realize I was gay. I grew up in a conservative, born again Christian home. I had a great childhood and I was raised to believe that I could be anything that I wanted. My family was supportive about my music and art. Outside of my home, I was bullied a lot. I got called “faggot” nearly every day. I attended a small, private Christian school and even there, I was made fun of regularly. I even had a student write a death threat to me in the fifth grade. High School wasn’t much different, although I was very lucky to have a strong group of best friends outside of school that evened the emotional playing friend. Generally speaking, I got by. I never dwelled too much on whether or not I was gay and my disposition always bounced back to a happy and positive space. Once I got to college, the construct that I was raised in began to fall apart. I had my first gay experience and began to panic. What if everyone was right my whole life? What did that mean for me? My relationship with God? My family? I went to Emerson College, a very liberal, open-minded school where I was encouraged to explore all pieces of myself. I did just that, doing my best to hide the truth from my family. Once I moved to LA, I got connected to a church that I liked. I also settled into the rhythm of my own adult life. I knew that this gay thing wasn’t a phase. I also knew that in order to honor who I was and who I was raised to be, I needed to examine what the Bible and my faith had to say about my sexuality. I met with various men’s leaders at the church. I took a class on sexuality there and I read the Book. I prayed hard and I cried in bed at night asking God to change me. But nothing changed. In fact, I realized the God and I were on the same page. I didn’t have anything to worry about!

 

That Christmas, I went home to be with my. I was 23. Christmas morning, I woke up early to cook for the family. While doing so, my mother picked up my camera and started looking through it. She found a photo of my boyfriend and I smiling with our arms around each other and she immediately knew the truth. My family and I spent the next two days arguing, opening up the Bible and debating. At some point, I shut down. Too many hurtful things were said. I left. It’s been almost 10 years since then and it’s surprising how much has and hasn’t changed. I’ve gone back home many times. My approach has to been to keep communication open, honest and respectful. I’ve tried to treat my parents with the same love and compassion that I want from them. I’ve tried to be the best version of myself. To live my life in hopes that they’d one day see me for who I am. I recently realized that I’ve lived a great deal of my life searching for unconditional love. The same unconditional love my parents promised me so long ago. They said I could be anything. They said that they would love me no matter what. I realized that there are limitations to those sentiments. I’ve gone home to see them and be with them and each time I’ve had to spend months unpacking all of the invasive questions and hurtful conversations all in the name of keeping communication open. They have met my husband and “embraced” him, but then they didn’t come to our wedding because they couldn’t justify supporting us and believing the word of God. In my most recent trip home, I experienced the very same things I did during that first trip after coming out. Things started off fine as they always do, and then the hurtful words started, the invasive questions, the refusal to see me as I am. So, I left. 

 

It’s funny how much has and hasn’t changed. What has changed since then is my sincere love for myself and who I am. It took me these past ten years to explore all of the light and shadow that resides inside of me. I am relentlessly looking at how I can be a better person, how I can better understand myself and how I can shine my light in the world around me. I’m beyond blessed to have a beautiful chosen family; one that loves me unconditionally. I have a husband who does for me what no one else can. A man that sees me, is here to witness my life and hold space for my experience. I am so incredibly thankful. I now know that music is my way of channeling the lessons that I’ve learned from talking with God and the Universe, shaping them and then sending them back out into the world so that I can help elevate the whole. This is my gift and my duty as a queer man, an artist, a husband, a friend and a member of my family.

F O L L O W   M .   T E N N Y S O N

S T R E A M   M .   T E N N Y S O N

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