“Just come inside. Suck my dick.”
He smelled like liquor and sweat and could barely keep his eyes open. Presumably it had something to do with the handful of assorted, nameless pills he’d taken from the dish on the back of the toilet at the Playboy Mansion.
He’d snuck me in. I had a movie coming out on Nickelodeon in a few months and I couldn’t be seen there, but we went. He wanted me to go. When it became clear he would soon get sloppy, I drove him home.
“Just come in. Suck it. You know you love it.”
This was all he ever seemed to do with me: take me to events, get obliterated, and coerce me into pleasuring him. He was handsome, and his cock was nice. There were times when I thought I’d been having fun. That I was choosing to do what I did. The night of the Playboy Mansion, however, I felt nauseous at the prospect. I wanted him to get me auditions, do his job, and treat me like an actual client.
But more than anything in that moment, I wanted to go home. I said no and then he was silent for a moment.
“Who else do you even have to hook up with?”
No one. I had no one. He knew it. He knew how alone I was because he was one of the people telling me how I afraid of myself I needed to be in order to work. He told me that I could neverunder any circumstanceset foot in a gay club, look for guys online, hookup with men, or even go on a date. Rumors would spread about me. I was “gay enough as it is,” he said. I shouldn’t be adding fuel to my flaming fire.
This was a man who, along with so many others, had convinced me so thoroughly that my sexuality was a liabilityespecially to my ability to find workthat I now found myself cowering in the same dark closet I’d almost died fighting my way out of years before.
I was outed to my family at 18. Before they kicked me out of the house, my parents told me they’d wished I’d died when I was a child. (I was diagnosed with cancer at just 10 years old, given a 50/50 chance to live.) That Christmas they blamed me for my mother’s attempted suicide. I contemplated suicide myself.
Instead I packed up everything I had and moved to Los Angeles. There I began to build a chosen family on a foundation of love and acceptance. I’d finally begun to love and accept myself.
But just three years after starting my new life, I found myself working with a team of people who’d successfully convinced me to hate and hide the person I was all over again. Many people contributed to my fear and despair, but only one of them used it as a way to pressure me into getting him off: my manager.
I went inside, gave him what he wanted, and left. I still remember barely being able to see the bends in Laurel Canyon through the fog and tears that night.
Signing with him and my co-managera womanthe year before had been a dream come true. I’d moved to Los Angeles from Oklahoma just two years earlier, and the management company, Untitled Entertainment, was the biggest in town at the time. I’d been fooling around with one of the woman’s clients, another actor who was also closeted (he has, since then, come out publicly).
He played her a recording of us singing together and she insisted on meeting me. I went to Untitled, met with her and another manager, and they decided to co-manage me.
It was a dream come truethe break I’d been waiting for.
A few days after I signed with them, the woman emailed me and asked me to meet the man later that night. We met in Los Feliz. He spoke French to someone outside the bar and told me he was fluent. He ordered me a glass of wine. It felt more like a date than a business meeting.
“So. We need to talk.”
I expected him to tell be about my career trajectory: the classes he wanted me to take and meetings he would be setting me up on. I was ready.
“About this” He slowly, deliberately, looked me up and down. I don’t remember everything I wore that night, but I vividly recall the feeling of wanting to crawl in a hole and die.
“You’ve got to tone it down dude. This is too much. They’re gonna see you from a mile away.”
This was the purpose of our “meeting” that night. He hoped to plant the seeds of fear in me, to convince me that I was wrong for being myself, and to tell me that if I wanted to work with the “big boys,” I needed to stop looking, acting, and talking like, well, me. To this day, I remember how he laughed at the hat I was wearing and told me to burn it. It was a newsboy hat (and it was really fucking cute).
Conveniently enough, the bar where we’d met was walking distance to his place. His boyfriend was out of town. I should come back with him.
So I did.
We sat on his couch and he unzipped immediately. He asked me to talk about his dick and compliment it before he had me suck it. I obliged to both requests.
The next day, I wrote a breathless, enthusiastic email to the woman who was also managing me.
“We had such a great talk last night, and I totally get it about all the gay stuff. Thank you for setting that up! Really excited about everything and so thrilled to be working with you guys!”
Thinking about that email now makes me want to vomit.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even realize I had experienced these traumas during my career as an actor. It wasn’t until the deluge of #MeToo stories hit the internet that I started to examine things a little more closely. More than 60 women (at the time of writing) have come forward to report that Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed or assault them over the course of his three-decade career, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Others are still out there, silent in fear.
Shortly after the hashtag began trending, a friend posted about his experience with a predatory agent on Facebook. It hit too close to home.
We, as gay men, are forbidden from being our authentic selves and made to fear the very fiber of who we are in order to work and to pursue our dreams. But far too many of us have had that fear used against us in order to have sex with us.
And none of us were even men at the time. We were just boys.
As I read my friend’s recent Facebook post, the anxiety, depression, and deep, aching fear came surging back to me. I remembered all the times that this man who was supposed to be protecting me and guiding my career mocked me, belittled me, and used the most tender parts of my identity to get what he wanted from me.
Kevin Spacey is merely one wolf in a pack whose power runs far and deep within Hollywood. Far too often, young boys in Hollywood are sniffed out and thenif suspected to be susceptible preycornered. In his allegations against the Oscar-winner, actor Anthony Rapp claims that Spacey made sure that he was alone. He stood in the doorway to prevent the young actor, then just 14, and pinned him on the bed.
Rapp told BuzzFeed that he was able to “squirm away.”
But far too many of us aren’t able to get away. We are manipulated and violated until any semblance of self-worth is gone completely. Multiple actorsincluding my aforementioned friend, Blaise Lipmanhave come forward with reports that former APA agent Tyler Grasham sexually assaulted them. In his Facebook post, Blaise claimed that the epidemic of sexual abuse in Hollywood is “bigger than Weinstein.”
“The conversation has moved on to the size of this epidemic and how to dismantle the system that protects these predators,” he said. “And it’s given space and courage for victims to speak up, against their abuse.”
After years without any communication, Grasham poked Blaise on Facebook.
How many boys did men like Spacey and Grasham make hate themselves? Boys who thought they had to do what these men wanted to get ahead? Or thought they needed help from these men to get work, thought they’d just found their big break?
For gay boys trying to make it in Hollywood, it goes beyond the age-old trope of the “casting couch.” Games of psychological warfare are played to force these boys back into a closet before preying upon them. An entire industryactors, agents, directors, managers, and producershas been complicit in allowing this environment to flourish for nearly a century.
Blaise and I were just two of the young men fed to the wolves, slaughtered like lambs. There are countless more like us, and more are already coming forward.
Lipman’s agent, who has since been fired from his job, is currently being investigated for sexual assault after multiple victims have filed police reports attesting to the abuse they experienced. After assaulting my friend, Grasham set him up on a meeting with a manager.
I’ll give you one guess as to who that manager was.
Photography: Frazer Harrison/BAFTA LA/Getty Images