Embracing Queerness & Authenticity Through Film - Andrew's Story (Part Two)
Growing up, I understood two things about myself.
#1: I loved making videos and movies.
#2: There was something different about me that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
I didn’t see any queer stories in the movies I watched. Or the TV shows. Or even on the streets in my suburban town for that matter.
I didn’t even hear the term gay or queer until I was already in my pre teen years. Obviously, I knew I had missed the representation growing up. But I had no idea how badly I had needed it until I made my web series, Border’d.
At the time, I was set to play a man named Raphael who was a closeted gay man. Or rather I was talked into it. I initially had ZERO intentions to star in the web series but thanks to my incredibly convincing co-creator Lauryn Lugo (who I created the show with alongside my twin brother Adrian), I was talked into playing Raphael after about a month or two. It just so happened that at this particular moment in time, I too was closeted. I knew I was queer since I was 5 but didn’t even know how to express it.
And once I did know how to express it, I felt frightened to even let the thought cross my mind because of my strict religious upbringing. Having the people at my church vilify being queer as a “lifestyle choice” led to years of repression and shame around my sexuality.
Fast forward ten years and I am talked into playing a closeted gay man. As hesitant as I was to play the role at the time, in hindsight I couldn’t be more thankful.
It wasn’t until I played Raphael that my situation became clear to me. In just shooting the pilot episode of the show in September 2018, I felt Raphael’s pain as I played his character. I felt the sting of a life lived in the closet. The sting of a personal truth being denied. The sting of a partner you want to share with the world but don’t feel safe enough to share. The twinge of fear from possibly being found out. But above all, I finally confronted the shame head on I felt my entire life and challenged it. The one thing I had been running away from my entire life was now front and center and there was ZERO running away from it now.
Sure, these feelings were things I had experienced on some level beforehand. But there was something about playing the role of Raphael that made me realize being ashamed of my sexuality wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.
I realized that my yearning for the approval of others was becoming overpowered by my yearning for the approval of myself by me. I no longer cared about protecting the image of myself that made others happy. Instead, my focus started to shift to doing what made me happy. Raphael may still have been in the closet in the web series but Andrew in real life certainly didn’t have to be.
So, a little more than a year later, I came out on October 3rd, 2019. And what was originally one of the scariest days of my life became one of the best.
Jumping into the shoes of a queer Latine man for one episode of an indie web series changed my whole life. And it made me realize the true power of representation. People seeing themselves in others can create a sense of empowerment that didn’t exist before. It can inspire them to change their lives for the better. And for folks who aren’t queer, it can create a sense of empathy that is badly needed.
Last year, GLADD reported that LGBT representation in TV is at an all-time high with 12% of regular characters being LGBT. I hope this trend continues to rise because, whether you’re playing the character yourself or just watching them, you never know the strength or perspective someone can get from being involved.
Written by: Andrew Nuño, one of our video producers at Lightswitch Video as part two of a two-part series. Read part one, Diana's Story.