Eric, in his own words:“For me, at the end of the day, being gay just means I like guys, but unconscious preconceptions about how to be gay inevitably affects my mood. I wonder if I do stereotypical things because they’re just personal quirks, it’s genetic, or I’ve been conditioned from the days when I used to watch Glee and listen to Lady Gaga on repeat. Ultimately it’s best to let go of picky self-analysis and strict definitions, it stifles everything, including my art. I like to use the words “gay” and “queer” to be practical, but when being gay became an identity is when it became harmful to my sense of self worth. I came out of the closet only to put myself in to another box.
My gayness has only lead to challenges that with time lead to triumphs, for forcing me to challenge the way I view gender roles, deal with stress, and for getting me out of my painful shyness in high school. Though I felt very lonely, I didn’t realize how supported I really was. I remember when I got drunk for the first time, it was at a high school party, and I was throwing up in the bathroom crying “Why do I have to be gay?!” to one of my best friends there with me. Yeah, yikes. Then I groped him, which wasn’t cool. But all he did was laugh and tell me to keep drinking water, and in the morning I didn’t even have the slightest bit of a hangover. Everyone needs a friend like that when your coming to terms with your queerness, or any time really. Thanks Manu!
My brother happens to be gay too, he came out before I did. You’d think that would be a rare blessing but initially it didn’t feel like one at all. It’s no big deal now thanks to my wonderful accepting parents, but I thought it meant I had to hide how I felt for a longer time. The chances of having two gay sons was just too unlikely, so it was even harder to accept. I also didn’t want to hit my parents with a big surprise right after my brother just came out, high school was dramatizing and awkward enough! I also had a massive crush on a girl once, making me think it was possibly “just a phase” (another reason I think strict definitions are silly). So I initially came out as “bi”, and with time our family healed. I don’t wish I’d done much differently because the experience taught me to be more self-assured. But if I could give myself a word of advice before I came out, it would have been to stop bullying myself, especially over something I couldn’t control. I remember days having to practice how to smile in the mirror because I was such a downer. The silver lining is that I smile differently now, and I think it’s even better than it was before. Now my smile is an upside down isosceles triangle.
Coming to art school in New York was another huge wake up call, it was the first time I had the experience of being in a gay community, besides the secret LGBT facebook group my school had that I was invited to. Everyone here was out, and there weren’t just gay people, but people of all the queer rainbow. I tried to make friends with gay guys but I have yet to make more than one real gay friend. Turned out all the gay guys I was dying to meet were people just like everybody else, who could be rude, exclusive, or shy sometimes. Forgetting the boyfriend I had freshmen year, it’s hard to find gay guys who want a relationship with anybody. It really depressed me when I noticed that there were somehow three times more straight couples on campus than gay couples, which if you weren’t to know better would sound like a statistical anomaly at an art school with more gay men than straight men. I’m progressively accepting the fact that seeking other people to make me feel a lasting sense of fulfillment won’t work; feeling at peace will always be completely up to me. Meditating and listening to Jack Johnson always helps.”