Leon Else Says Gay Stereotypes Made Him Hesitate To Come Out
Like many artists, Leon Else has previously struggled with a bit of an identity crisis.
But instead of worrying about if he was going to make poppy music vs. country, or how he wanted to brand himself, he struggled coming to terms with his sexuality.
“Before I finally came out, I had such a low opinion of myself because of my sexuality,” he explained to Galore. “I was so ashamed, disgusted, and fearful. I hated myself, and I hated the fact I was gay.”
It’s no secret than many LGBTQ people are nervous to open up about it to their friends and family, but another thing that’s difficult for an outsider to understand is how LGBTQ people may struggle internally.
Leon Else got super real with us about what it was like to not accept that he was gay, and how common stereotypes deterred him from coming to terms with who he truly is.
Thankfully, he’s since come out to the world, and will be performing songs from his killer EP at LA Pride this month – his first Pride ever.
We talked to Leon about how he came to terms with himself, why you can’t find a lover until you love yourself, and how there’s no wrong way to celebrate Pride.
Your song “What I Won’t Do” talks about the familiar feeling of having someone in your bed, but not feeling like there’s actually an emotional connection. You wrote the song over a year ago, how do you combat falling into this habit (that so many of us do) nowadays?
I used to, yes. I wouldn’t allow myself to have anything more. I was so scared of how to deal with anything more. I had had things more in kinda secret, but it just destroyed anything because I was so fucked up because of my past. I was so scared to truly be myself and be vulnerable to someone, in case they hurt me.
I didn’t know how to let someone truly love me because I didn’t love myself. I had no self esteem, or self worth. I would give off this persona, that I was [this] cool, ice, unapproachable guy that was strong and had all his shit together. When to be truly honest I was a broken man inside. Completely and truly, just running from his problems. They started to catch up with me, this song reflects that.
Do you think social media and dating apps contribute to this?
Yes and no. I think it’s more about what you want. I don’t think you can blame apps, etc. We can definitely see more of what’s out there, but the grass isn’t always greener. There is definitely a problem with social media and self love. Everyone is so consumed with comparing their everyday life to someone else’s “Instagram filtered” life, which looks perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist, so we are setting ourselves up to fall when actually we can only validate and find happiness and love within ourselves first. I think unfortunately people search for happiness in others, and objects, sadly they won’t find it there. It has to start with you, you inside.
What is your personal experience with dating apps?
I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life on one. I wasn’t looking for it, the stars aligned I guess, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Because of those events, my whole life actually ended up changing for the better. Do I think I was lucky? Hell yes, but grateful nevertheless.
Do you think gay guys are unfairly stereotyped as being down for a string of crazy hookups and not wanting relationships?
Honestly, I think so. Before I finally came out, I had such a low opinion of myself because of my sexuality. I was so ashamed, disgusted, and fearful. I hated myself, and I hated the fact I was gay. So my opinions was of that – sleazy men, all fucking around, cheating, dark. But actually, I thought that because I had people’s opinions and thoughts forced on me.
I actually believe because I am a gay man that I want a loving secure fun relationship and a family. I don’t want to have crazy hookups and no relationship, so I know that the gay world isn’t all about sex and non-relationships. I know if I’m [the way I am], there are a lot of other gay men like that too. It’s a shame the world does stereotype gay men like that, because of their own ignorance or experiences. I think in time that will change. I changed.
It’s all about showing and educating people that all gays aren’t sex crazed maniacs, but let’s not forget also a lot of straight people are sex crazed maniacs. Humans are humans at the end of the day.
What’s another stereotype you’re really sick of?
I’m not really “sick” of anything, it all is what it is, but I guess if I was to pick one thing it would be that not every gay man is a screaming queen or feminine. That is one huge stereotype right there. Gay men are just men. Just like straight men. Some are camp, some are not. Gay or straight, ya know?
The EPs got such an 80s bop to it, I love it! Who are some artists from the era that inspired you?
Ah, thank you! It wasn’t intentional actually, but some of my inspirations from that era are David Bowie, Prince, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, and Elvis – to name a few. They all are so amazing and I love their music, their instruments, their stories and emotions they caught in song.
80s fashion is also huge right now. Are there any trends you think we should’ve left in the 80s?
No, I think people should wear whatever the hell they want, and not be judged or have my opinion pushed on them. If you like it, the fuck what everyone else thinks, wear it.
You told OUT you’d never been to Pride before. What kept you from going previously?
I wasn’t out. I was scared, I was ashamed, I thought gay men were disgusting. I was basically like a homophobic gay man. Of course, that was all of what I thought of myself, but reflected it onto the community, so Pride would have been the last place to go.
But, I am so excited and so grateful that I am in this place where I can be free and be myself, and go and actually be a part of celebrating who I am. And what a way to do my first pride, the year I come out, and I get to perform. It’s going to be very special to me.
Do you think lots of LGBTQ people face similar nerves surrounding Pride?
If I did, then there absolutely must be others that do too. I know, unfortunately, that I’m not the only one to have gone through shit, and identity problems, and feelings of shame and hiding themselves away, which makes me sad. Because it’s a beautiful thing, and I just wish I could help those that see themselves in such a way to see they are perfect the way they are. Just like how I’m working on seeing myself right now.
People have condemned Pride for the straight people who attend to dress up and get drunk and may not necessarily support the LGBTQ movement in other ways. As someone who’s never been to Pride, do you have any thoughts on this?
I don’t know anything about this, to be honest, but I think Pride should be about inclusiveness, for anyone. I think it’s about being proud of yourself. I think people being there is support. You see everyone shows support in different ways, so someone just coming to laugh and have fun at Pride could be their way of showing support. Not everyone shows support by doing charity work, or marches, or donations. Everyone has their own way and they are entitled as long as there is no trouble and no hate. It should just be a fun celebration that involves anyone and everyone.
Have you planned your outfit yet? What are you going to wear?
I’m just going to go as myself. That’s what I’m working on right now. Me, and being enough, and taking small steps to grow.
Besides going to Pride, what are some other ways people can get involved in the LGBTQ community?
I think just being aware, following media. I think education is the biggest thing. Educate yourself of important LGBTQ topics. and see what topics or movements you would maybe like to get behind.
Photo by Ross Ferguson