Coming out isn't an easy thing to do, especially when you're not sure of what you're feeling. For many who identify as gay, it's something they know and feel from an early age. Swank Studio talent director Tee Lindsay had an inkling of his sexuality at the age of 7 but didn’t understand the proper way to label his attraction until a few years later.
Lindsay came from an incredibly religious household, and with that came an even bigger fear of how his family would react to his truth before he was ready to divulge it to them. In many ways, he didn't want to disappoint them. Add to that not wanting to be teased or bullied by classmates and thinking there’s something wrong with you, you start to internalize everything.
As we continue to celebrate Pride Month, EBONY spoke with Tee Lindsay to learn more about his freeing journey of coming out to his church-going family as a gay Black man.
EBONY: At what age did you realize and understand your sexuality? Who was that person you confided in?
Tee Lindsay: Definitely as early as elementary school. My earliest memory has to have been in second grade, but by fifth grade, I knew what to call my attraction. I confided in my late, best friend, Tymisha Gray. We were hanging out in her dorm when I told her. She was extremely supportive and showed me so much love. She even helped me come out to some other friends. I miss her a lot.
How did your family react when you told them? Were you afraid to tell them?
I didn't get a chance to tell my family. I was outed by someone my parents attended church with. I was definitely afraid to tell them, and I think their reaction confirmed why I was. They yelled, cried and prayed over me. Then came a lot of lecturing and ultimatums, but honestly I think they mostly felt hurt because I had kept this secret that so many others knew. It was like they didn’t know their son as well as they thought they did. It kind of added insult to injury in the situation.
When I was outed, I was initially shocked because deep down I knew it was only a matter of time based on the way I was moving. I think my subconscious was hoping it happened because after I didn’t really have anything to hide from anyone; it was all out there in the open. So a sense of relief definitely followed a few days after. Thankfully, since that day, I've felt a positive shift in our relationship.
Did you feel pressure from society to hide the real you from the world?
I used to feel it a lot, especially growing up in the church. Not necessarily from the overused "God hates gays" perspective, but more so from knowing other queer people who hid who they were from the world. I felt that I needed to do that as well. When I became an adult, I eventually stopped feeling that pressure. But, then when I entered the entertainment industry, especially working in the music industry, I began to feel it again. I tried my best to come off as not "too gay" or feminine. As I've grown in the industry, and as a man, I've gotten to a place where I'm extremely comfortable with who I am.
How does it feel to be living in your truth in 2023? Is this something your younger self would've imagined?
It feels amazing, but I do think I always knew I'd eventually be living out loud and proud. I'm someone who can only tolerate being uncomfortable for so long. Growing up, I just didn't know what that picture of me living my truth would look like, but it's safe to say I painted a pretty picture.