A Conversation With Ty: Part III
continued from the past two months
In your debut column you mention that your parents and grandparents are originally from Holland. How has this affected your life? How does it feel being a first generation American?
The Dutch are probably the most liberal of all Europeans and my brother and I have been brought up with that same attitude, which at times clashes with traditional American values. I was exposed to alcohol at a young age so I understand what it's like and it's not something I'm really interested in, but I'm glad that I was taught that lesson early on instead of when I go to college. My parents have been very open with me about sex and everything that goes with that which has helped me a great deal. As for being a first generation American, I think there's some pressure that goes along with that because this is a country where anything's possible and there are great expectations for me. Being gay is a part of that and I can't really say how that'll change things for me, but I'm sure somehow it will.
You've always seemed very mature in your columns, with an insight that one doesn't expect from a young teenager. What do you have to say about this?
I just try to write every column to the best of my ability, which is the same attitude I have for my schoolwork and I'm an honor student, so at least my efforts pay off. I've been through some very difficult situations so far and I think that's aged me, and I see the same thing in other kids that have been through rough times. How can that not make you more mature? My generation has to deal with things that our parents never had to, such as AIDS and school shootings, and our world doesn't seem to be getting any better. Kids aren't as dumb as some people would like us to be, and maybe things would be better if adults would learn to respect us instead of treating us like a bunch of idiots.
In your October 1998 column you discussed being sexually abused when you were younger. What led you to reveal this to your readers?
[long pause] I just felt the time was right to bring that up, but it was a very difficult decision on my part, and I remember how emotionally drained I was when that column was completed. I wasn't sure if I had done the right thing by talking about that until I started getting positive feedback from my readers and then I knew I made the right choice.
How has being sexually abused changed your life?
Before the abuse Chris and I were relatively normal kids, but once it started our personalities changed overnight, and somehow our parents never saw it. We knew all along that the stuff our molester was doing to us was wrong but we felt powerless to do anything to stop him because he has such a powerful hold over us, and even though he's dead he still exerts control over us. The abuse we endured is like a black cloud that is always over our heads and there's no escape from it. Even now I have trouble sleeping, and when I do manage to sleep a nightmare usually wakes me up. It's embarrassing to be almost sixteen and have to sleep with a light on, but that's my reality. What my brother goes through is a lot worse because he was younger when the abuse happened.
Do you have a hard time trusting people because of the abuse?
Trust isn't in my vocabulary anymore, and really there's not too many reasons why I should trust anyone. I mean my parents had total faith in our molester and look what happened. I definitely don't trust strangers at all, and I never really know when a person says "hi" to me as I'm walking down the street or at the mall if they're just being friendly or if they have designs on me? I'm very reluctant to use a public restroom anymore because I've had guys make advances on me while using one, which totally grosses me out.
Do you think you'll ever fully recover from the abuse?
[shakes head] I doubt it. I'm sure I'll be able to go on with my life but what happened still haunts me and probably always will...I don't know? Can we talk about something else?
Sure. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I usually have two hours of homework a night, so I don't have that much spare time. I try to spend as much time as I can with Eric, and also with my family. My brother and I along with another friend are in a heavy metal band together so we try practice at least once a week. We're not that good but it gives us a chance to channel our energy into something positive and it's also an opportunity to get out our frustrations.
Some people seem to feel that it's odd for a gay teen to be into heavy metal? How do you feel about this?
I think that's just a stupid cultural stereotype. Why shouldn't I listen to what I want to? I like a lot of different musical styles, including heavy metal, classical, and even country...
Now that seems odd!
Why? I know there some country fans have a bad attitude about gays, but what does that have to do with the music? I don't like all country music, but I especially like the Wilkinsons...hopefully they'll have a new album out soon. I grew up listening to different kinds of music so that gives me different influences. My grandparents grew up with swing and classical, so naturally they played that in their homes, and my brother and I spent quite a bit of time with them so we listened to it also. My Dad always played bands from the 70's and early 80's, and in fact it was through him that I had my first taste of Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Journey. It often alienates me from my peers because most of them are just into rap, which I can't stand, or some of the bands that mixed rap and metal which I like even less. Nothing against those groups, I just don't particularly like that style.
Do you have any favorite actors or actresses?
I like Elijah Wood and Joseph Mazzello a lot, and I think they both have a bright future ahead of them because they seem smart and they're willing to take chances. I also like them because they're around my age so I can relate. I really don't have a favorite actress, probably because I don't pay that much attention to them...I guess that's because I'm gay? [laughs]
Do you have any favorite movies?
Because I live near a small theatre that will take risks and show controversial films, I've had the opportunity to see some offbeat movies such as Happiness as well as many mainstream ones. I love going to a theatre and actually I prefer that over seeing one at home on video. I also love black and white films because the starkness adds something to the whole experience, and I'll go as far as to say that Schindler's List may not have made the same impression on me if it had been shot in color.
Although you've mentioned that you didn't watch much TV when you were younger, are there any shows you just can't miss?
My parents let us watch Home Improvement, and that's probably my favorite show. I'm sad to see it leave the air after being such a big part of my life, but I think it's better for something to end than become old and boring.
Does any one episode stand out over the others to you?
The episode where they thought Randy ( Jonathan Taylor Thomas ) was sick made a deep impression on me, but the entire season where Mark (Taran Smith) became rebellious was great. He reminded me of myself in many ways! [laughs]
Do you feel like you fit in with your peers or are you a part of a fringe group?
In school I'm just there, I'm not the most popular guy but I'm not an outcast either. My school encourages interaction between the different grades so there's a sense of togetherness to a certain degree, although there are some cliques. Because I go to a private prep school being smart and getting good grades isn't a stigma like it can be in public schools. Outside of school is very different for me because I don't really fit in with the different cliques. The metalheads don't like me because I have short hair, the skaters don't like me because I don't listen to their music and wear their clothes, and I'm definitely not a Goth so there's another group I'm not a part of. Even some of the public high school people I grew up call me a traitor because I left their school, but I think my education's far more important than fitting in with them. I guess you can't please everybody?
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I suppose that I'll have graduated from college by then, although I'm not certain what I'll take or even if I'll go for sure? Hopefully Eric and I will still be together, and maybe by then same sex couples will be able to marry in my state. What I'd really like to do is be a novelist, and I think it'd be cool to be published when I'm eighteen, and if I made enough money I'd love to live in a cabin next to a lake with Eric. That would be a dream come true for me.
Do you think you'd write gay themed books?
No, I doubt I write like that. Someday maybe I'd write a novel with a gay character, but why limit yourself like that? I'd love to be as prolific as Stephen King and Dean Koontz, although I doubt that I'll end up being a horror author like they are.
What's your biggest fear?
Being molested again...no actually something bad happening to anyone in my family. That would be too much for me to deal with.
How much is the real Ty like the one we read about?
There's certain things that I keep out of my columns only to protect my identity, but otherwise what I write about is straight out of my life. I mean, I don't want to be walking down the street one day and have a total stranger approach me and start asking all kinds of personal questions, but then again if somebody saw me walking down the street and found out who I was they'd just laugh in disbelief. He's Ty? No way! In person I'm a pretty quiet guy, and I'm probably not the most sociable person in the world but that's fine with me. I don't need or want to be the center of attention so I can deal with that.
If you had to describe yourself in one word what would it be?
[long pause] Misunderstood.
What do you think people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I'm an athlete. When my brother and I were little kids our parents wouldn't let us sit in front of the TV or play video games, so were always playing ball or running or something like that. Both of us have played organized baseball, and I think that was a positive experience. Although I'm no longer playing baseball on a team my brother and I along with our boyfriends play either football or baseball as much as we can.
Do you have any favorite professional teams?
I like certain players more than specific teams, and since I don't have a pro franchise that's nearby it's hard for me to have a team to follow. I'd rather go see a Little League or college game anyway because it seems like your closer to the action and it doesn't cost a fortune to attend. If my family wanted to attend a pro sports event it would easily cost us a few hundred dollars, which I don't think is worth it. I loved watching the playoffs and then the championship of last year's Little League World Series, and it was an incredible experience to see the Toms River, New Jersey team go all the way! When I played Little League baseball that was the ultimate goal, so it was cool to see an American team do that.
Last question: Is there any one piece of advice you have for your readers?
Yeah. Do your own thing, even if it means being different from everyone else.
The whole idea of being interviewed was not only a huge challenge for me, but it was also an enormous gamble. I wanted to do something different, and I think I've succeeded in that quest, although whether or not these three columns are a success is a question that I alone can't answer. I wanted to be tested and put on the spot, and I felt by doing so that I could possibly show another side of me, the part of my personality that so far has remained hidden from most of you. It was a brave thing to do, but I think I did rather well under the pressure I was under. Who knows, maybe that cup of coffee helped me a bit?
An online friend of mine once told me that when a band releases a live album it's a way for them to place their previous work into a retrospective collection so that they can move on to the next level...a way of closing a chapter in their career before moving on to something that may be new and possibly different. I realized too late that the third part of my interview would fall on my second anniversary with Oasis, but now as I'm writing this I think that coincidence is a blessing. With this third and final part of my interview I have summed up my feelings about topics I have discussed in previous columns, and even threw in a few new ones, just like a bonus track on a live album!
While I'm sure that I'll be discussing some of the important topics in my life such as my family and my boyfriend again, I think this would be a good opportunity to take a step forward and find new ideas to write about, and hopefully make a progression no only in my writing style but in my life as well.
I hope you all will accompany me on my journey towards tomorrow.