Above: Duncan Roy’s portrait photography is awesome. The Los Angeles-based photographer runs a blog that perfectly captures the best and worst of LA. Sadly, I think he has chosen to stop posting. Read these little gems in Roy’s sweet corner of the Internet.
After six months in Los Angeles, I was single, broke, and very depressed. I have struggled with depression all my life, but this was different.
On free days, I drove to the Grove to buy clothes. I remember looking at my reflection and thinking I looked good.
In L.A., looking good means nothing. Everyone looks good. Looking good is a minimum requirment for living there, like giving up bread and having a car.
L.A. is a causal city. No one dresses up for anything. I went to the first day of my job in a blazer and button-up shirt. I never wore the blazer again. It made me look like I was from somewhere else, the Southern Baptist boy in a big city, shaking hands and nervously eyeing the trans folk. That wasn’t going to be me, so I scrapped my nice suit for scoop-neck t-shirts and the skinniest jeans I could find. In one weekend, I became an L.A. gay.
In the height of my depression, I got my septum pierced. “Why not?” I thought. “It doesn’t matter if I look ugly.”
But the piercing did not look ugly. My new clothes looked good. I had always wanted to wear more jewelry but never had the confidence before. Whenever I consdiered buying earrings in the past, I remembered a moment in middle school, years before I came out, when my dad yelled at me in a restaurant for wearing three rings on one hand.
He pointed at the young woman sitting with us, a nursing student with a red face who looked down at her plate. “See Alex? She’s not saying anything because she knows it’s wrong. It makes you look like a girl.”
Not long after his little episode, I joined the Varsity football team to hide my blossoming gayness. Football was my inlet into straight male fraternity. I studied them. I changed the way I walked. I learned their language. I mimicked them and became one of them.
I fell in love with their tousling and their incredible innocence. They had such little capacity for cruelty. They wanted wives and kids and a management job at some local sand and gravel company. I didn’t know much about gay people at the time, but I had the idea even then that my world would be a bit more sordid than theirs.
All my life, I have clung to this masculine ideal. I have compared myself to it. I have watched straight men behave through the glass of my sexuality like someone left outside the party, unable to get in. Looking through the window, I place their straightness in a league above me, as somethign I and all the other little gay darlings can only aspire to, grasp at, yearn for, and never fully obtain. I have always felt inferior to their stupid football games and baggy shirts.
In many ways, this is what led me to the gym. This self-directed homophobia has done the same number on me that it has done to so many homos. It makes us beef up and dress down and try so hard to be tough.
I had to let go of all that when the breakup happened. I don’t know if it was L.A., or the Grove, or my playmates, but somewhere in all that, somethign switched. A light went off. I broke from my childhood. I became a new man. Los Angeles freed me. It took heartbreak and shopping and fucking and sucking but by the time I left the city, I could drop my wirst. I could wear jewelry. I could say “gurl” and “yass” and sing the words to Whitney Houston on a dance floor in West Hollywood. And for that, L.A., I am grateful.