Profiles in Courage:
Andrew Huesman, 21, of St. Paul, Minnesota

By Jeff Walsh, Oasis Editor

Many gay teens have crushes on their best friends. Some insist that if they could just manage to tell their friend "I'm gay" at the right moment, things might combust into kissing, sex and an amazing relationship. But the words rarely come, and if they do, it rarely ends up being a mutual feeling -- although we've all heard tales of such teenaged best friends-turned-lovers that make us all feel a slight tinge of envy. But they are truly the exception.

When he was 18, Andrew Huesman got to live out this dream. Near a Minnesota creek, Huesman undressed and joined an already-naked friend in the water. Afterward, they got dressed and some horseplay persisted until Huesman was on top of his friend. He leaned in, kissed him and then asked if his friend was gay, too. Unfortunately, His friend reacted negatively and Huesman ran away, unable to stay in his hometown now that his secret was known by someone else.

The advantage of Huesman's story is that when he rolled on top of his straight friend, cameras were rolling, and if you're lucky, you might get a chance to see what happened if "The Toilers and the Wayfarers," the black and white film for which this scene was filmed, comes to a theater near you. (If not, the director told Oasis it might be coming to videotape later this year).

Huesman is really queer, though. The scene appears at the beginning of a sometimes engaging film with a good heart. Huesman's character eventually turns to prostitution to pay the bills, but he never loses the genuinely warm spirit that makes you like him. To that effect, Huesman might be the cinema's first gay teen hooker with a heart of gold.

Keith Froelich, the film's director, said Huesman brought a lot to the role, and took the part very seriously.

"There's a lot of him in that part. He's probably more flamboyant than the part, but he captured it pretty well and had a serious attitude toward the film," Froelich said. "From his first audition, I knew that I wanted him and I had to talk him into taking the part. I was really having trouble casting that part. But I called a friend of mine who led a gay youth group and he gave me the name of 4 or 5 young men, and he specifically mentioned 'Huey,' and said he thought he would be really good in the part."

Huesman said he drew on his own experiences growing up gay when he created the role.

"When the character was in school in the small town, my reading was that he felt really awkward.. the outcast, the ugly duckling... and I certainly felt like that growing up," he says. "But when he went to Minneapolis, the character just became more comfortable."

Huesman said it was nice to live out the fantasy on-screen that so few people ever get to know in real life: "Oh yeah, like come onto your friend, and they come on to you and you make love on the roof of a building. It never works out."

Huesman, 21, is now living the "classic, tragic tale" of working as a "waitress" (his word) to make ends meet while struggling as an actor, and when Oasis interviewed him in July, he was hoping to get a leading role in another independent film. Toilers marks Huesman's first movie, also possibly marking the youngest on-screen gay role played by an openly queer young actor. Huesman changed his mind at the last minute, though, when it came to doing on-screen nudity.

"When we had to do the scene by the swimming hole, I said I didn't want to take any clothes off, so that's how we did that," he says of the scene where he stripped to his briefs. "My character wasn't the one that was naked a lot of the time, though."

Oddly enough, only the openly straight actor did nude scenes for the movie, and Huesman said the guy was a "very good sport" about the scenes and was a lot of fun to work with.

The first time Huesman saw himself on film was on a theater screen at the University of Minnesota Film Society last year.

"At first, it was hard to get used to seeing myself up on the screen," he says. "I would just cringe in my seat the first time I saw the movie. Because Keith didn't want me to see it on videocassette, so when we had the preview, that was the first time I had scene it. So, I was nervous, but I got used to it."

'I related more like a girl'

Huesman has been open about his sexuality since he was 15 and a sophomore. "I was out in high school, so I've been out for most of my teenaged years," he says. "One of the first support groups in the country was in our school, and we had people from the community come in to talk to us that were political leaders and good role models. I came out having a real strong support system."

He also experienced no drama in coming out to his parents or fellow classmates.

"I came out to my mom when I was 15 and my dad when I was 19. They both are very supportive of me. I'm fortunate, I had a really good experience," he says. "In high school, I used to do speaking gigs with a lesbian friend of mine. It was easy for me because it was like, 'audience!,' I just interacted with them, and they laughed and I loved it. We just talked about growing up gay and stuff. I think it's a really great way to educate people."

Although he also uses the term gay, Huesman says he is actually transgendered.

"I think I knew I was different when I was very young, but for me that was more about gender expression than sexual orientation. I didn't realize I was attracted to boys and not girls probably at about 13," he says. "But as a young child, everybody always thought I was a girl and I felt different in that way. I think boy and girl children relate very differently and I related more like a girl, not to say that all boys and girls are alike, but as a young child I definitely communicated the way girls do."

Transgender is an umbrella term which addresses everybody who transgresses gender norms, he says. "So, it would include cross-dressers, transvestites, transsexuals -- which I identify as, I would like to eventually get a sex change," he says.

Huesman credits Leslie Feinberg with helping him accept being transgender. He described "Stone Butch Blues" as a revolutionary book which "just eloquently expresses the transgender things."

His parents are also aware of his desire to have a sex change, and are supportive.

"My mom loves me and doesn't care. She thinks it's fine, but she worries about stuff," he says. "My dad is just very blue collar, kind of like ... (imitating his father's voice) 'I just want you to be happy... I think you'd make a knock-out woman. Papa doesn't understand it, but do what you want to do.'"

'See when she was a boy!'

Huesman says he generally does wear women's clothing, but just everyday normal clothing.

"I'm not wild or flamboyant. I wear girls' shirts, chic jeans, the socks, shoes. I'm more natural," he says. "I have a very feminine body, so I look androgynous. I don't look like RuPaul. I love Ru, but that's not my style of everyday attire."

He still isn't sure how being transgendered will play into his acting career.

"As for me, I think of myself as an actress on the big screen. A diva! (laughs) I'm trying to think of my whole life as moving forward with starting hormones soon, but it costs a lot of money," he says.

So, it would be conceivable that there will be movies now where Huesman plays male roles, and in the future, films where he plays female roles.

"That would be funny, because the movies where I was a guy would become cult favorites in years to come if I got famous," he says. "'See when she was a boy.'"

He quickly seems to enjoy the possibilities switching his gender may have on his career options.

"Honey, I could be Miss America! They thought that Vanessa Williams Penthouse thing was a scandal? Ooh, child.. when they find out.," he says, laughing. "Maybe the Adam's apple might tip them off."

The author, Jeff Walsh, may be contacted at jeff@oasismag.com.
©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.