My friend Sentell Harper, who did not care if I shared something deep or funny or wise, sent me a message a couple of weeks ago. He’s a theatre artist—a stunning chameleon capable of refashioning lives into honest solo performance—collecting for a new project. He asked me what I would say to my younger gay self. I think he meant child self; what would I say to kid Ryan? Or preteen Ryan? Or young Fruity? What would I have said to the young man who left for university? Or, before that, the teenager hiding some fucking pretty sleazy secrets on top of that hill?
I have a lot to say. Different things at specific times. Some warnings. Some advice. Some jokes. Some beacons. A whole lot more hope than he would have thought possible back then. More truth than was imaginable because it would have ruptured some space-time membrane, blown a hole through the front.
Are there rules to this hypothetical? Will I hurt a butterfly if I come back like a sassy shaman or soothsayer? Will I be me if I tell him anything? At all? The game
would have changed will change. No?
If swathed in sass I said, “Hey, little boy! You are a prince among beasts, and it’s your burden to deal with it. But stop falling for all the bad boys and monsters; you’ve got to be open for a lot of good, Hon.” Wouldn’t it break? I would not have fucked him the way I did that very first time. Right?
Or, perhaps, I come back as a sage. And so, I carefully say, “Ryan. Are you listening? So many people are going to love you. So much pain will seem unbearable, but you’ll definitely come out all good. Don’t forget to be generous and thankful. You will be one of the lucky ones.”
But, you know…the way I am now…hmm…I’d be more interested in telling him all about the work he had to do ahead, about the backpedalling I’ve had to do, about the re-education, about the art, that fusion takes time.
Then, I’d probably say: “The hardest thing you will ever do is come out to your family, and to yourself, as an artist. Deal with that earlier, please!”
But, maybe I should just look in the mirror and truly ask:
“Did you check your privilege today?”