Welcome to day seven of our ten day feature – Everybody has a Story.
Our seventh entry comes from Texas born Alessandro Del Toro. Here’s his story…
- Firstly, how old are you and what do you do for a living?
I am 30 years old. I am an adult film actor, model, and dancer. I am also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I work full time at a community mental health centre and also have a small private practice on the side.
- Please can you give us a brief background about your life?
I grew up in a very homophobic community in rural Texas. My parents were Texan Republican, with traditional Mexican values (as much of a paradox as that may seem). Our town was small, so gossiping was a way of life. To make matters worse, my mother and grandmother were devout Pentecostal Christians. We attended church a total of 4 times per week. Everything around me told me that the best option was to deny my true identity, but I’ve never been much of a conformist.
- When did you realise you were gay?
I realized I was gay very early on in life. I remember as far back as age six being so confused by my attraction to boys. I had no idea what being gay was, or that it was even a possibility, but I had such a strong attraction to boys that I thought I must be a girl. Over the years, it became evident to me that I was different, and I did not know how to contain it or deny it, nor did I want to learn how.
- When and how did you come out?
The very first person I told about my questioning sexuality was my girlfriend at the age of 14. It felt weird to open up to her about it, but she was my best friend and I knew she would help me make sense of what I was feeling. She helped me out in order to decipher what I was feeling. Eventually, through talking to her I figured out what I was really feeling.
Eventually, I was able to come out to other friends during my sophomore year (around 19 years old), and I eventually came out publicly later that year, including my parents. But perhaps my ultimate coming out was when I did my first adult film. Within a few months everybody in my hometown knew!
- Have you ever experienced any discrimination due to your sexuality?
Growing up in rural Texas, I definitely felt alienated by my sexuality. There is a stifling environment here in the town, where people just don’t seem to understand. I faced opposition at home when I first came out. That was perhaps the most disheartening. Over the years my family’s resistance has taken many forms. It started as rejection, turned into denial, followed by tolerance, and only just recently reached acceptance.
I also felt chastised by the church. It’s difficult to grow up in an environment where church and religion play such a central role and not to take those messages said in sermons personally. I felt shunned when I heard the “word of God,” and eventually started to feel as if the church was not for me.
Furthermore, I took political oppression very personally. I remember being 14 when I watched Massachusetts become the first state to gain marriage equality. It was the first time that I became aware that I did not have the same rights as my straight counter parts. As an adult, I rode the emotional rollercoaster of having marriage equality in my new state of California, only to have it repealed by Proposition 8 (this stated marriage was only recognised by the state if it were between a man and a woman). I worked hard canvassing door to door, working the phone banks, and rallying in opposition of this.
As I told my story to people over and over, many of them strangers, I felt harsh opposition and faced the reality that many people did not see me as equal. The 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down Proposition 8 was a huge step in the right direction, as far as California went, but it would be a long two years of ups and downs as I saw state after state get the same rights as I now had, some of them later taken away by a higher court. It wasn’t until the federal government granted the freedom to marry for all that I started to feel equally protected. So, in short, I’ve felt discrimination for the majority of my life.
- If you could give your younger self, or anyone else currently struggling with their sexuality what (if any) advice could you give them?
The single most important piece of advice that I can give to a younger me, or any young person out there struggling with their sexuality is: “Your life matters.” Growing up in a world that doesn’t always mirror that has left us susceptible to anxiety, depression, and higher risk for drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide. I, like many others succumbed to the effects of homophobic oppression and endured many years of affliction. I spent so many years of my early adulthood trying to address and rectify the pain I had endured as a child.
First, I covered my weak inner child with strong muscles. I decorated my body with tattoos, to mask the ugliness I felt inside. I beautified the outside, thinking that would ensure that I felt loved. I continued that journey when I started to heal mentally. I addressed my inner hate, I learned how to mend my broken relationships, and I learned to make better choices. While I reached a state of peace that I had never felt before, I felt compelled to continue my journey. I went back to my spiritual roots in search of something greater. It is here in the last layer of healing, that I feel we become the most powerful. I encourage other young people to find their inner light, connect with it, and share it with others.
We are not just a valuable part of society, but an essential part of it. As LGBT individuals we have within us the capacity to emanate creativity, we hold a different perspective, and we have great capacity for compassion. So, my advice is to go out into the world and be you. Your life has purpose and meaning, and your suffering has not been in vain. That pain can be fuel to the fire of desire to make a difference.
My journey, for example, has brought me back to Texas. I proudly serve as the president of Eagle Pass SAFE (Sexual Advocacy For Everyone). It is the only LGBT-affirmative organization in the Southwest Texas rural area.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Alessandro for his help with this project and for his frank honesty.
If you’d like to keep up to date with Michael, follow him on Instagram @AlessandroDToro, or on Facebook facbook.com/alessandrodeltorox or on Twitter @AlessandroDToro
Also, if you’d like to learn more about our EP SAFE visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/LGBTQEPTX/
And if you would like to donate to their cause, to aid them in becoming a non-profit organization visit their GoFundMe page: