As Pride Month comes to a close, The Oshawa Express’ Chris Jones sat down with members of the LGBTQ community to discuss their lives and their stories.
While no two people have the same narrative, the hope for these individuals was to shed a light on the struggles those in the LGBTQ community face, as well as to show there is more to them than their sexuality.
For those who are reading ahead, there is at times the use of strong language, as well as details of their lives which were difficult to share.
Each individual who took part was given the option to use an alias.
This is part two of three in a series detailing the life and struggles of these members of the LGBTQ community.
Growing up, Nathan Rhodes-Truppe was the kid who loved going to school, was very well-behaved, and got straight A’s except for art and gym.
However, he admits he feels he was sheltered.
“I didn’t really understand a lot more of the ‘socio-cultural’ stuff growing up, just because my mom was trying to protect me from things she was worried might be too much for me,” says Rhodes-Truppe.
However, he says he was very loved.
“We were the family that went to Disney World every two years, and we did trips whenever we could, we’d go to the zoo all the time,” he says. “I was pretty lucky in that sense that I had a lot of love and support – a very close-knit family growing up.”
Rhodes-Truppe, like his younger sister Kayla, is a part of the LGBTQ community, and identifies as gay.
He moved to Oshawa in Grade 4, and attended Harmony Heights Public School. It was at this point he began to learn a new vocabulary.
“I had never heard what ‘gay’ was until I was probably in Grade 4,” he explains. “So, relationships and stuff like that just never were a thing to me. I understood that people loved each other, but I never understood anything beyond that. I was just focused on school.”
He says growing up he knew he was different, he just couldn’t pinpoint what that meant.
“I knew that other kids were having crushes on people, and
I was like, “I don’t see it. I don’t get what’s going on,’” he explains. “It wasn’t until I was probably 12, when I was like, ‘Okay, this is what’s different.’ Whereas all the other guys in my grade were noticing the girls, I was like, ‘I don’t see that’ but I was noticing the guys.”
At first, he went through a period where he told himself he was bisexual.
“In my mind, that would be easier to accept, and for other people to accept, because at least then I’d still like girls,” he says.
He notes this is a struggle a lot of people who identify as lesbian or gay go through.
“They have that ‘bi-phase’ as people call it, but it’s actually just us trying to come to terms with what our identity is, and not really knowing what that answer is yet, or being 100 per cent comfortable with that answer,” Rhodes-Truppe explains.
He didn’t start identifying as gay until later, because even after he came out when he was 15, he still identified as bisexual.
“I don’t think I started using the term ‘gay’ until about a year later when I was 16,” he says.
When he came out to his family it was through an email, which he sent out at 10 p.m. so his parents wouldn’t see it until the morning.
“That’s kind of the generation I’m in,” he jokes. “Technology makes everything easier, and less emotionally vulnerable.”
He explains he’d already come out to a couple of friends and their parents, and had formulated a plan if his parents didn’t respond well.
If it hadn’t gone well, he had been invited to move in with a friend.
“I got called in the next morning, and my mom was really upset,” he says. “But not because she didn’t accept me. But, because she was like, ‘Why would you think that I would kick you out? Do you think that I’m that kind of parent? Cause I’m not, I would never kick you out, I love you.’”
He believes he was very blessed because his immediate family was very accepting. However, once he started coming out to extended family, it wasn’t all positive.
“Some of my aunts had made requests to my mom that I not ‘act very gay’ in front of their children because that is too much, but they accepted me,” he says. “Not everyone reacted amazingly in my family, but thankfully the people I was closest with did.”
With a laugh, he notes his sister was “really confused” when he came out to her.
“She was like nine at the time, so she didn’t really understand 100 per cent, but I had also told her that I was pregnant as a joke to cut the tension, so she thought I had been joking for the first month about my sexuality as well,” he laughs.
Bringing a guy home to meet his parents was an interesting step sometimes.
“They’re great, they’re very much the type of people that will welcome them in, we’ll have a great time, we’ll hang out, and then if they notice anything that’s worrisome, or if they see a red flag that I should keep an eye out for, they are like, ‘Hey, I got weird vibes from this one,’” he explains.
His parents have both gone to Pride events with him, and have walked in parades as well.
“I started doing drag, and they’ve been to pretty much every show I’ve done in eight years,” he adds.
Rhodes-Truppe entered post-secondary studying, but he’s taking some time off to re-evaluate what he’d like to actually do.
“I work full time at a Dollarama… I am a supervisor for the food and beverage part of the Tribute Communities Centre… I’m going to start helping out with my family business, which is a book store, and in between that I do some drag sometimes, and I also speak to high school [students] about safe sex and sexuality, safe partying, and healthy relationships,” he says.
Rhodes-Truppe has been performing drag at Club 717 in Oshawa for a number of years, performing under the name Talia Skye Davenport.
He says, in part because he’s in the drag community, he’s got a fairly big support group today.
“I do Pride Prom every year [in] Durham, and all the kids there have a great time, and they always seem to enjoy when I’m there, so that’s awesome,” he says.
He’s also part of a LGBTQ-friendly fraternity, of which he is a founding member. He says they are also big supporters of his.
“I am very blessed that I do have a very wide support network,” he says.
When he came out to his friends, he says the reaction was more of a “mixed bag.”
“Unfortunately it’s kind of stereotypical – a lot of the females were very supportive, but some of the males I had been friends with throughout elementary school really started to distance themselves from me, and would start calling me names and stuff,” says Rhodes-Truppe.
While he was lucky to have many people on his side, he did lose quite a few friends from coming out as well.
Today he is simply too busy to deal with the people who aren’t supportive of him, having three jobs, performing drag, responsibilities at the fraternity, and enjoying the often time consuming Dungeons and Dragons.
“I’m just booked. If you want to make an appointment to hate me, you’ve got to wait a couple of months because I’ve got too much going on,” he says.
Rhodes-Truppe recounted experiencing bullying due to his sexuality.
“The thing was, I was getting bullied for being gay before I knew that I was gay,” he says. “Even in elementary school, I kind of had a feeling I [liked] guys… but I wasn’t identifying as anything. I had a girlfriend in Grade 8, I was still getting called ‘f*g’ and ‘homo’ and stuff like that.”
He hadn’t even said anything about his sexuality, but a number of his classmates had already made the decision for him.
“It didn’t really get bad until I came out,” he explains. “Once I came out it was kind of just a daily sort of [thing]… kids whispering in the hallways because, ‘there’s the gay guy.’”
He remembers once walking down the hallway, and another kid came up behind him and pulled back around his neck, and a teacher walked by without doing anything.
“I’d received a death threat when I was in high school, I got choked in the hallway, so, I mean in some ways it’s that sort of, ‘Well, it could have been worse,’ and I acknowledge that it could have been worse in a lot of ways, but it still wasn’t a good time,” he recalls.
He was one of the few LGBTQ students in his school who was open about his identity.
“It kind of puts a target on your back,” he says. “Because different means that you stand out a little bit more.”
A memorable incident came at prom he went with his boyfriend at the time with a group of friends.
“I won prom princess, and I was ecstatic,” he says with a smile. “No one remembers the prom king, everyone remembers the prom queen, so that was kind of my goal.”
There had been a rumour leading up to the event he was going to wear a dress, something he and his friends had ever talked about.
“Someone just decided I was going to go in a dress,” he explains.
After campaigning for prom queen, he was the runner up and named prom princess.
“While I was celebrating, I got pictures taken with the other prom royalty that had been crowned,” he explains. “Someone had gone up to my partner, who just knew a couple of my friends, and while he was alone, had cornered him and said, ‘You should know that your boyfriend’s a f***ing disgusting fa**ot,’ and then they left the prom in disgust that I had won princess.”
This was a defining moment for Rhodes-Truppe, because he had been lucky that a lot of his bullying wasn’t physical, but it was words and attacks like that which were “synonymous with my experience in high school after coming out.”
He believes events like those are important in life, not because they are positive, but because the people who can get through them can survive through adverse conditions.
“It makes us strong in a way that a lot of people don’t understand,” he says. “Were they terrible things that happened? 100 per cent. Would I take back any of them? Not in a heartbeat because they made me who I am today.”
Rhodes-Truppe says everyone has their own experiences – it doesn’t matter what they look like or who they are inside – and he thinks if one can recognize this is a terrible thing that happened to them, and if they can overcome it, they’ll be stronger.
Today, his employers are very accepting of who he is, and some of his coworkers have even come to his drag shows.
He has had customers who make fun of the way he speaks, as he can often come across as “effeminate” in his mannerisms.
“I have gotten comments,” he says. “I wear my rainbow shirts to work everyday… When you let the world know who you are, it puts a target on your back. But I wear that target proudly.”
He says he’s had customers who have told him to “take that gay sh** off my shirt at work.”
However, he says other customers come up to him and give positive comments, and thank them as it makes them feel more comfortable.
His response to the negative comments is always, “Well, I’m going to wear a bigger rainbow shirt to work tomorrow.”