JARED

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I’m Gay. Very gay. I’m pretty confident in the fact that I’m comfortable being a man and being into another man.

I’ve only been out since I was 21. So, for me [being gay] is just finding a sense of normalcy. Being gay doesn’t have to define who I am as a person. How I choose to express myself and what I wear, who I surround myself with, my actions. Being gay is kind of an add-on to those things. All of the men in my family are military and, you know, that just has its own kind of hyper-masculine environment. Even though it wasn’t necessarily true, I kind of put it on myself to believe that it was gonna be hinderance in my relationships with my family. I feel like there were kind of strict roles that my grandparents imposed because that’s who I was raised around primarily. They grew up in a way different time than even I was being raised during. My grandpa was the breadwinner. He was really confident in his job in the military and my grandma had a job, she cooked and cleaned and was that nuclear-family-looking ideal. And I definitely disrupted that, for sure.

Just with being even remotely myself just didn’t fit into that kind of context. So, I felt like that’s where that responsibility kind of picked up for me to decide to hold off on coming out for so long. It was because, even though I knew my mom would be ok with it and kind of stand by me, I didn’t have enough examples from conversation around the house that it was gonna be ok. Pop culture and that kind of dinner conversation going on at the table, what was going on in the world, I didn’t hear a lot of positivity being directed towards even race and sexual expression or orientation. None of it was viewed in a positive light. So, it really put a hold on my ability to grow that way for a while until my mom and I were out on our own and then it slowly but surely kind of peaked through with my stepdad and my mom. Having that environment versus- my grandparents helped a little bit.

I came home and told my parents one day after work.

They were already getting ready for bed. I kind of stormed into their room and just had to work up the courage and be like, “I wanna start dating guys.” And they were just like, “Ok. We kinda figured that that was where you were going. Like, we know you but we wanted you to kinda figure it out on your own and then come to us with it if you felt comfortable so…” I’ve seen growth and tolerance for my family [since coming out]. My parents especially. Because I still live with them. We have, still, a lot of conversations about social and political issues and over the years kind of seeing their viewpoint change or even just soften has been very encouraging. Like, I don’t know if 5 years ago or 10 years ago my parents and I would be sitting down and watching Grace & Frankie together on Netflix. I don’t know how that would have gone over.

[I also"] came out because I wanted to be able to go out and do normal things with my friends and feel normality. If someone wanted to talk to me at a bar, or if I wanted to talk to someone at a bar, I could do that. Otherwise I was never gonna have any kind of normalcy in my love life. I was able to find a cute guy to dance with in the club one time and it was really nerve wracking and [I was] really nervous and you’ll be able to do the same thing too, you know, eventually. Timing is everything.

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Other people’s projections are not your responsibility to bear.

I definitely present or choose to embrace femininity. But just as a man just being comfortable with my long hair and the sound of my voice, it gives me a lot more freedom as far as what I can wear and how I can express myself. Especially as an artist, it opens up a lot of doors for makeup and just kind of left-of-center outfits and, you know. Things that aren’t as apparent. Especially living in Arizona, there’s not as many visual indicators of gay men who don’t fit a certain stereotype. And I think I do my best to be kind of a chameleon in the sense that I can present more masculine when I want to, but I can present more feminine when I want to. And it doesn’t really have any association with who I’m into, it’s just a creative expression for me. This is the armor I put on every day and how I’m gonna deal with everyone out in the world.

I’m doing my best to move through the world and be myself 100% and that’s something that I am still continuing to learn. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I’m doing my best to mind my own business and just be myself because there’s no one else like me. I’m the only me that there is and I’m really trying my best right now to be confident and move through the world like I know that. Especially when it comes to my art. I didn’t even write my first song that felt authentic to me until I came out.

Don’t assume responsibility for other people’s reactions- that’s not your burden to carry.

I would say the biggest thing is just go easy on yourself. Just breathe and take one day, moment, experience at a time and it does get better with time and the more you become comfortable with yourself regardless of who else is around. I think that’s the best advice you can give to anyone. I got a tarot card reading done, and one of the things they told me is to do what’s called “Mirror Work”. So standing in front of a mirror and finding any and everything that you like about yourself- or just one thing- and focusing on that for the entire day. Like, if you like your eyebrows just live by your eyebrows that day (laughs). Just live for your eyebrows on Monday morning and know that you did that right for yourself or that you appreciate that characteristic and just rep it. And then each day, you’ll find something else maybe.

The highest point in my journey so far has been my music. 100 percent.

Being able to find people to work with that don’t even blink an eye at a lyric or a melody that’s about my experience with another man. It is so comforting being able to finally be able to express myself in my art [in a way] that’s true to myself and even create fantasies that are based on not necessarily reality but what I want to come out of things and have no inhibition [in] that way. It is really liberating. And it makes for truer art.

The first time I attempted to make music and put it out in the world, it was censored solely by the fact that I wasn’t comfortable yet with who I was. And after coming out and really embracing that- sitting back down to write and think about some of the experiences I was able to accumulate as an out, gay man just felt a lot truer to my narrative as a human than what I was doing before. Art is like that where as long as it’s true to yourself and it’s a real experience- as long as it’s honest- I think you’re gonna find an audience for it. Whether it’s five people, a hundred people, or a hundred million people. It’s more effective if it’s honest.

There’s a lot of songs like “Attached” that are totally an experience that everyone has had and written about in their own way, but there’s not as many examples for gay men. Or anyone who’s queer. There’s more now and that’s comforting. I draw a lot of inspiration from a lot of other gay artists too, like Sam Smith. When Sam Smith first came out and treated his coming out- even though he had been out like it was never a question to he or his family or the people around him- becoming a celebrity or, you know, a star and then being asked and him talking about it so normally was so big for me. And I’m sure people around the world who listen to his music, like, I’ve been listening to this guy’s music and I didn’t know he was gay, but I still connected with the song. It doesn’t matter, there’s no boundary. Just because a song is written by a certain person doesn’t mean it’s strictly meant for a certain person. But for people who came from similar situations and just want to listen to something on their iPhone that’s private to them or their experiences or [if] they’re working through whatever, they kind of have something to look forward to.

Be sure to check out more from the incredibly talented Jared Steven below!

Attached is my first single off of my upcoming EP, 2AM. Visual Filmed and Edited By https://www.youtube.com/user/calvsdavid Instagram @calvintoldavid Creative Director @miostudios Song Produced By @SignalSix