It’s taken me a long time to put words to how Moonlight touched me. The moon itself, has always been an obsession of mine: I used to love the anime Sailor Moon, I tried to predict what shape the moon would take as kid, I kept trying to figure what sorcery was responsible for getting a man to the moon and how I could harness it for myself, it was in the moonlight where I first realized that I was queer.
It was a warm summer night, the moon was full and I was just about to leave Austin and start my time at the University of North Texas. For years I had been hiding who I was from myself but under the mesquite trees in my friend’s front yard, I looked past the branches and I stared at the moon. Over the sound cicadas hissing, I heard a voice inside say, “Stop hiding”. I started the coming out process the following week, I went to Waco and came out to my closest friends, one of whom hasn’t talked to me since.
Chiron’s story and my own are very different, I wasn’t raised by a drug addict, nor did I have much experience with a drug dealer, my bullying in high school never lead to a physical altercation, my family struggled but we never were as impoverished as Chiron’s; and yet his story is my own. His wrestling with his own sexuality mirrored my own, he grew up in an environment that caused him to repress who he was; much like my childhood in the conservative evangelical world caused me to feel unsafe vocalizing the reality of who I am. I turned inward and hid, I’d overanalyze my movements, the way I walked or moved my hands, I tried feigning a deeper voice, but that didn’t last long. And to further hide who I was – I was viciously hostile to other LGBTIQ people. My story is more similar to Kevin’s, in that I became the bully to avoid being bullied.
My first year away from Christian school was the year our family moved from the Bible Belt of California (Orange County) to the actually Bible Belt, in Texas. Every day of the first year of my I was called a faggot. I can recall making eye contact with one of my teachers, Coach Rodriguez, I almost cried when I realized he wasn’t going to stand up for me. I went home on the bus and contemplated the best way to end my life. It took me years of wrestling with self-hatred, years of study, and prayer to reach a point where I could love me the way that God always intended me to. Moonlight reflected my struggle with myself, it showed my wrestling with the very fabric of who I was and said to me, “You’re not the only one”. Viewing my own struggle played out through the lens of Chiron wasn’t what broke my heart.
It was what Moonlight failed to show that broke my heart, a truly happy ending. It never showed Kevin or Chiron coming to the realization that they weren’t broken. That was implied of course, but it was never actually shown. What else wasn’t shown – an actual gay Black man. No one thought it was a good idea to cast a gay Black man to tell the story of two gay Black men, which is a problem for another piece. Ultimately, I loved Moonlight. I cried when it won Best Picture, I bought it that night. I’ll probably watch it again tonight and marvel in the beautiful visual aesthetics, celebrate the wonderful acting, rejoice in the vision of a brilliant Black director, embrace the beauty of the story of a Gay Black writer, and dance in the moonlight.