Raymond Miller is a Canadian performer who studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He has starred as Pepper, in “Mamma Mia!”, has performed in an epic production of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” and is currently a resident of New York.
I want to be a mix of Mario Cantone and Tracy Ullman! :-) hehehe. Professionally, I’d like to work steadily. I’d like to write, I’d like to continue acting, and I will always always always be an LGBT Advocate. It’s my number one passion. Sharing my thoughts on life, told with humour, and an LGBT-slant. That’s my dream.
I know firsthand the power of art to change and save lives. I’ve been saved by film, by theatre, by literature, by music. That’s why I’m on this Earth; I’m here to make people feel something, and learn something about themselves.
Besides his performing work and in an effort to attain full equality under the law for the LGBT Community and “a world culture where we don’t have to “Come Out”, because we haven’t been born into a societal lie, in the closet, forced to play a game without being told the rules that we’d never agree to in the first place.”, Raymond works with Queer Rising (http://www.queerrising.org/QR/Hi_there%21.html), based in NYC, and is a volunteer with PFLAG (http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=191) .
LGBT people have always existed in every type of family and family dynamic, in every religion, ethnic group, culture, community, city, town province, state, territory country and continent all over the world. We have always existed, and we shall outlive every fight and war against our existence.
If I can inspire anyone to not give up on themselves, and to love and embrace who they are, then I’ll die happy.
Meet Mr. Miller
My name is Raymond Miller, I’m 28 years old, and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I’ve been a working actor since I was a teenager, and recently followed my dreams to New York City. I’m the baby of the family, have an (incredible) older sister, and two parents who are my heroes.
Personally, I don’t hate myself anymore, and I never thought that day would come. I really didn’t. I was pretty sure I was always going to be a disappointment to myself.
I was labeled the “neighbourhood faggot” by age 9, by my ‘peers’. I was called every gay slur under the sun, from misogynistic insults calling me a “girl”, to the epithets “fag”, “homo”, and “fruit” that I didn’t even understand at the time. By my teens, it all but stopped because I started pretending to be someone else, had transferred to a school district at the other end of the city, and reinvented myself as a new, yet still not authentic, young man.
I hated myself. I hated who I was, I was ashamed of who I was. I was ashamed because I believed that I was letting my parents down; that all the other boys in the neighbourhood were friends, and played sports together, and I was the weird outsider who wasn’t invited to people’s homes to ‘play’ – I felt like I’d let them down by being a sissy and an embarrassment.
I knew I was different, I knew from a young age that I was ‘interested’ in other males, but as this was pre-puberty, it wasn’t sexualized. For a while I figured I’d grow out of it, or ‘puberty’ would kick in and I’d suddenly be interested in girls. By age 10 I realized that what I was, was gay. And that’s why everyone at school made fun of me.
I used to pray at night to not be gay. Then I used to pray that I would die; either in my sleep, or by some accident. Just die, and leave this life, and perhaps in my next one (if I’d get one…) I’d be straight and things wouldn’t be so scary. I cried a lot. I didn’t want to live.
I didn’t resolve it as a child. I hid from it. I punished myself for it. I wouldn’t even let myself fantasize about guys when I was alone, in the throes of adolescent hormones. I de-sexualized myself, escaped into film, and dance, and art, and music, and that’s where I channelled my dreams, my rage, my sadness, my fear.
The Times of Harvey Milk
When I was 15 I saw the doc “The Times of Harvey Milk”, and I started to think, for the first time, that maybe I wouldn’t have to “fake it” forever, and that maybe there would be a way for me to somehow Come Out, and live a real honest life with real honest emotions and experiences. I was incredibly depressed, and just plain exhausted from having to lie and act every single day. I was so tired, there were far too many days where I just wanted to die. And the doc gave me a sense of perspective: if those people could Come Out in times far more unforgiving than the one I’m around in, surely I can do it, too.
They opened the door for me – I have an obligation, now, to open it for the next generation.
Harvey’s story inspired me to Come Out when I was in high school, and when I was 18 I was introduced to the writing of Ethan Mordden; his perceptive and humorous, emotionally honest writing inspired me to never give up, no matter how bad things might get. His novel “How Long Has This Been Going On?” is, essentially, the gay “Roots.” It follows various gay characters across America from the 1940s to the 1990s. It changed my life, it SAVED my life.
As well, my best friend Ryan Kelly. I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for him. We met when we both starred in the original Toronto company of “Mamma Mia!”, and shared a dressing room together.
He’s 8 years older than me, and he was, and remains, my best friend and constant source of support, understanding, love and strength. A gay man who took a (crazy) barely-Out gay teen under his wing and helped me find myself. I would die for him.
When you’ve spent most of your life trying to be someone you’re not, and can never be, it’s hard to then suddenly “be yourself.” I’ve been Out since high school, and it has indeed been a process of self-discovery. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I’m an open book. Sometimes that comes back to kick me in the ass, but it’s the only way I know how to be anymore. I simply got so sick and tired of always lying and telling stories. If my truths hurt me, at least they’re truths.
I’m a gay man. I identify as Queer. Proudly Out, Proudly Gay, Proudly Queer.
Meet the Millers
My parents are incredible; two intelligent, compassionate, well-read, liberal free-thinkers.
I hid a lot from them when I was growing up, mainly because I was so embarrassed by how I was perceived by my peers, and I didn’t want them to know too much. I put on a brave face, and pretended everything was fine.
There was tension in my teens years; I was simply stressed out. I was mentally tired, emotionally exhausted. Every day life was a constant effort. Work. Performance. Pretend.
We’ve been incredibly close since I Came Out; living honestly is SO much easier!
I came out to them when I was in high school, I’d just met a guy, and we hit it off, and I thought “ok, I’m ready to do this”. We were at dinner, I told them I’d met a guy and he was really great, and I liked him a lot, and I was seeing him, and my Mum and Dad just smiled. My sister cried. My Mum then asked “how old is he?”, to which I replied “40”. then “just kidding, he’s 20.” And that was that.
My sister later explained why she’d cried; she was overwhelmed by the moment, and in that moment realized just how much Hell I’d been through in my life so far. She’s been an incredible support and fellow advocate.
My parents have both devoted their retirement years to LGBT Activism. I’m in awe. I must have been Gandhi in my past life to have been deemed worthy of them. They’re in their 60s, and they’re LGBT Advocates, and activists; they’re outspoken, they’re compassionate, they’re tireless.
While other parents I know are taking swanky golf vacations, my Mum and Dad are answering calls for PFLAG’s support line, organizing and attending Equality fundraisers and outreach programs, and even corporate events and seminars on Diversity. They’re sort of local icons in the Toronto gay scene; everyone knows “The Millers”.
Families often have a grieving process where they need to let go of the child they ‘thought’ they had so they can realize that, really, not that much has changed! It is a big deal to find out you have an LGBT family member, but they’ve always been LGBT. You just didn’t know! Families who don’t deal too well initially are greatly helped by being around other people who’ve been they are, or still *are* dealing with the new reality. It’s HOPE. Hope that their confusion will turn into acceptance, and then celebration and pride. I have seen, firsthand, families go from being unwilling to acknowledge their LGBT family member, who then are ready and EAGER to march down the street in a Pride Parade, declaring their love for that same person. PFLAG puts families back together.
When you march with PFLAG, the LOVE that you feel from the crowd is incredible. There are a lot of people who cry as they see us march; perhaps because they wish their families could be that proud of them, or perhaps because they see the work they’ve helped begin coming full circle. You make eye-contact with people, and you just connect with them: they’re marching with you. We march for them. Again, it gives Hope. It shows that families cannot simply “tolerate” having an LGBT child, or family member….but they can want to celebrate it. Shout their love from them on streets in front of 2 million people. It’s beyond liberating. It’s borderline religious.
I’m a terribly flawed person, but I guess we all are. I have received a lot of feedback from my blog (http://littlekiwilovesbauhaus.blogspot.com), and my youtube page (http://www.youtube.com/user/MOKandRIFF), and even facebook, about how my videos and writing have helped other people see a path for themselves in life. Many people have said that the videos with my mother are what inspired them to Come Out. That means more to me than anything.
I wanted to be able to share anything and everything with people who don’t have an LGBT-outlet. At first it was just silly videos of me and my friends on youtube, having a laugh, generally being idiots and occasionally having the odd sociopolitical discussions. We’d get responses from people all over the world, who were watching us, and that was great! Not because we were getting watched, but because these were people who didn’t have ‘gay best friends’ to hang out with. It’s so rare to see young(ish) LGBT characters on television that aren’t totally neutered and made “acceptable for a straight audience”, and I wanted to just have something online where alternative queers like me, who might not live in a place with a thriving LGBT scene (if any) could see, interact with, and get some food for thought (and maybe a laugh or two) from other queer people. uncensored. no holds barred.
The videos of my Mum and I came about when I just thought it would be really helpful for people to see a gay boy and his mother talk frankly, honestly, openly, and humorously about LGBT issues, life, Coming Out, pride, and all those things that (let’s be honest) the majority of gay people can’t talk to their family about. So many LGBT people settle for “tolerance”. They think that’s the best that they can hope for, from family. And for many, it’s probably true. But not for all, and I still believe that progress can be made if you work for it. It won’t be easy, it WILL be uncomfortable for a spell, but openness and dialogues can be had. The response so far has been amazing. I’ve received dozens of letters from boys and girls, and men and women, who’ve told me that the videos inspired them to Come Out, and many have said that they’ve shown the videos to their parents and it helped THEM understand the Coming Out process. Sometimes it’s easier to see another family go through things, or talk through things, so you can see where you fit into it. People always think that they’re the only family to deal with having a gay child. They’re not. :-)
Riff & His Mum on Gay Pride, LGBT Equality, Coming Out and More
Seeing the doc about Harvey in my teens opened my eyes to just how much struggle and WORK had to be done for me to be the gay man that I am today. I’m enormously grateful for the men and women who opened the door for me, and I thank God for them every day.
I’d also read The Mayor of Castro Street, and Harvey simply became my hero. A man with a vision, and a message, and the courage to selflessly live openly, putting himself in the spotlight and in harms way because it was the right thing to do. He sacrificed his own personal safety and security in order to give it to every other LGBT person.
The least I could do for the man I owe my life to, is to immortalize him in ink on my body. I just felt I needed to connect with him in some way, to say “thank you”. I’d been planning it in my head for 10 years. The words: “You gotta give ‘em Hope”. The left-hand fist: proud, strong and defiant. The candles: for the procession the night he was killed, his light still shining. the words “thank you, Harvey”, with his birthdate at the bottom, the words “NEVER BLEND IN”, in a bold font and below, the date of the stonewall riots; a movement born. I look at it and I see him every day. People always ask me about it, to see it close up, and I tell them all about Harvey and why I got it. And my parents think it’s beautiful, so that’s a bonus!
Harvey’s legacy is his message. We need to be Out. We need to be advocates. And it’s not just for us, it’s for the next generation, it’s for every LGBT person who isn’t born into the family of compassionate liberal free-thinkers. We have to help them, we have to give them Hope, because without Hope people give up, like I almost did on occasions I don’t like to remember. And it’s not just in the USA, it’s all over. Kids are coming out in middle school, teens are taking same-sex dates to their proms and dances, LGBT youth are actually able to date during adolescence, anti-gay bigotry is finally (albeit slowly) becoming as repugnant in the public consciousness as anti-Semitism and racism. Harvey didn’t live to see this, but he’s responsible for it. He opened the door, and he saved us. The work of Cleve Jones continues to amaze me, and new faces are coming up; Robin McGehee, activist. Lt. Dan Choi, activist. Artists like Harvey Fierstein, Ellen DeGeneres, Ian McKellen, John Cameron Mitchell, and more. Writers like Ethan Mordden and E. Lynn Harris. They’re continuing the expansion of public consciousness of LGBT people, and diversity.
Harvey’s story is one that continues to save lives today. This book will prove to be an incredible tool not only for preserving the legacy of a man who helped change the state of LGBT rights worldwide, but as a continuing force inspiring LGBT people to Come Out and claim their lives as their own, and to non-LGBT people, helping them understand that the LGBT community is truly their family, too.
There will always be people who can “Pass for white” (as I like to put it) who will choose to. By white, of course, I mean Straight. It’s the term I use for those who try to hope that bigotry will avoid them, and attach onto someone else, as long as they can blend in and pass for something that they’re not. What is the impact? Look at America: anti-LGBT discrimination is still written into law in MOST States. That’s the impact. The more we hide, the longer it will take to break down this culture of anti-LGBT prejudice and bigotry.
This world is not just about me. My life and my decisions and actions affect others, and their actions affect me. I was raised in the LGBT-inclusive United Church of Canada, which is also inclusive to other beliefs, faiths, religions, and ways of life. I am no better than anyone else. I am not entitled to any more than anyone else. But I do belief that I have an obligation to do what I can in this life, to open the doors and help make things easier for those who have not had the opportunities, outlets and support that I’ve had in life. I’m not perfect, I’m far from it, but I do live each day hoping I can be a Visible Minority, and someone people enjoy being around. Every day is a new opportunity to change the hearts and minds of someone about the LGBT Community, and the need for a culture of understanding and equality.
I am gay. I am Queer. The words that were once used to hurt me are now words (and concepts) that I embrace.