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Sunday, May 13, 2012

First-Person: Caleb McMullen (Part 1)

A Journey of Self-Discovery and Creative Freedom
by Caleb McMullen
It was New Year’s Day 2009. Of course, I had been partying the night before and for whatever reason I was possessed with the need to continue the partying the following day. Windsor, Ontario had two gay destinations: a sad little club whose name changes with every new takeover of management and an equally sad strip club on the other side of town; the wrong side of town. And that’s where I felt so inclined to approach the owner of this fine establishment to set up a very unique opportunity.
For all the nudity that could be found, there was not a drag queen in sight. I am from Toronto and this lacking of stiletto sporting men seemed curious to me, even though I was in a temple dedicated to the beauty of masculinity. However, in my drunken euphoria, I managed to get permission to perform as a drag queen on the stage the following night.
I suppose this story deserves a bit of context. I came out in a flood of colour and lights when I was sixteen. My outing was, of course, disastrous to my born-again Christian parents whose dream of having a youth pastor for a son was dashed to pieces. We were at odds. They believed that my “choice” was of the devil's influence. They believed that I had been confused by the evils of the world, a world that quite frankly worships sex as god supreme. And I, in my rebellion, embraced all extreme forms of my recently claimed homosexual identity. I had to. I was in a transformative time in my life.

My Christian activism was the pride of my church, my parents and my peers...

For the sixteen years leading up to this point, I had been ‘The God Child’. I started teaching Sunday School at age 12. I sang in the choir. I performed in plays about martyred missionaries. In fact, I went on missionary trips myself to convert the world to Christ. My Christian activism was the pride of my church, my parents and my peers, so they were understandably crushed when I publicly announced one Sunday morning, to the 150 member church congregation, that I was “suffering from homosexual tendencies.”
My one regret in life was not this public announcement, but rather my apology to the church for my ‘sin’. You see, brainwashing takes a while to undo, and I had sixteen years of brainwashing to rid myself of before I could both accept and embrace my identity.
There was not a dry eye in the congregation of Christians. They cried for my sin, but they also cried for my bravery to admit to my sin and ask for the support that I needed to escape the claims that the devil had so obviously taken on me. And I, in the moment, felt brave and strong and right that my homosexuality was merely a condition that could be cured.
They were ‘saved’ because of my delusions.

Following my despicable display of self-loathing, I was embraced 150 times. I received love and encouragement from my Christian family. I even heard several weeks later that my confession brought individuals to the Lord. They were ‘saved’ because of my delusions.
It was about two weeks later that information surfaced that I had been sexually involved with one of the youth group leaders of my church (and my guilt of this involvement that brought me to my public apology). At this point, the youth group leader was embraced and I was shunned. The arms that reached to embrace me two weeks earlier were then used to emphatically gesture while their owners spouted accusations of my sexual involvement and demanded the removal of my membership from the church. A ‘sin’ like this simply could not go unpunished.
There were police reports to give, lawyers to meet and charges to be pressed. As soon as I had revealed to my Dad that I had become sexually involved with the 36 year old youth group leader, all control was out of my hands and into those of judicial enforcement. Quite frankly, I didn’t want this man to be charged. There was no crime done to me. In fact, his influence on my life allowed me the opportunity to come out of the brainwashed closet that I had called home for so long and enter a world of personal freedom and discovery.
It was through a short stint of counselling that I came to realize that my homosexuality was not a sin; that it was simply a part of who I am. It was part of my identity and I could either suffer by continuing to reject this, or embrace it and be free. I chose the latter.
What followed was years of rebellion from the life I had once lived.

At this point in my life I was understandably angry: angry for the years of self-hate that I had induced and endured; angry for every prayer and spiritual petition through which I asked to be made ‘normal’. What followed was years of rebellion from the life I had once lived. And for whatever reason, this rebellion led me to my discovery of makeup.
Being sixteen, and not being well enough connected to the black market to procure a fake ID, I started attending Toronto’s only all-ages gay event: The Homo Hop. For the next couple of years I lived for these monthly parties. My best friend Premal, who also had recently undergone his own de-closeting, and I would attend these parties decked to the 9’s with every sort of makeup we could find. I would take special care to say goodnight to my parents wearing this mask, taking great delight in their obvious pain of having lost their wholesome little boy. Children can be so cruel.
Looking back, it makes sense to me now that I would take to a physical transformation as my own personal identity was under the knife of reconstructive surgery. Makeup started to become a way of life for me and I didn’t feel like myself without it. I didn’t feel beautiful without it and so the makeup itself slowly became more extreme. I adopted a ‘fuck-you-attitude’ and being a die-hard performer, used this attitude to create a character that could facilitate my rebellion. Throw stiletto heels, boas, bras and gelatin boobies into the mix and she was born, like a baby star being introduced to the universe: Trinity DiMarco, my expression of rebellious freedom.
Sincerely yours,
Caleb McMullen | Artistic Producer | Mnemonic Theatre Productions


Saturday, May 19th from 10pm-2am | @ La Perla (783 Queens Street West) | Cover $10

COME. DANCE. DRINK. CONNECT. CREATE. Have a project you're craving to produce? Come meet actors, directors, producers and casting directors at a party geared towards the connecting of people for the purposes of new artistic collaborations.
Let's make theatre happen, one drink at a time!
Drag performances (a mere distraction, or perhaps icebreaker) provided by Trinity DiMarco and John Fray.

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