From Self-Loathing to Self-Love: How I Cast Out the Real Demon Inside Me

Some believe that our past defines us. Others would say that being too precious with our past inhibits us from making a better future. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. I've never been great at balancing the two. At times, I've been quite precious with my past. Only recently have I learned how to trade time spent wishing for a better past for time spent envisioning a more fulfilling future.

In November 2010 I decided to do an intimate tour that would place me in front of my friends and fans with just a piano and an evening to bare all. From my debut album in 2005 to the 2010 Tony Award, I never censored myself, and I never had a setlist. I figured that after a few months of living in this level of vulnerability, an organic disconnect would occur, condensing a "precious" past into a few universal lessons we all relate to. As the tour progressed, I began to learn what that universal lesson was for me: self-love.

I grew up gay in a small, fundamentalist Baptist town with five students in my graduating class. Knowing I was gay at 8 years old, I recall hearing my pastor passionately convey to his congregation how my kind was an abomination, abhorrent, and detestable in the eyes of God. Now, I was a very sincere boy. I remember making a pact with God on Sept. 12, 1988, saying that I would spend three hours a day reading the Bible and praying until God removed this "thing" inside me. (I can count on one hand the days I missed up until August 1992.) In junior high I secretly enrolled myself in Christian counseling, a program called "The Healing of the Homosexual." For six years I attended, just knowing that God would cure me of this demonic oppression! I would go to events where 20 to 30 people at a time would lay hands on me, attempting to cast out the demon of homosexuality. I was often terrified but always hopeful, thinking each day that this may be the morning I would wake up "normal." But 12 years of giving myself fully to the pursuit of "righteousness," and still the "healing" was never granted. However, the foundation for a self-destructive lifestyle was well established. See, you can't train a child to believe he is detestable in the eyes to God and expect him to have any value for his own life. The older I got, the more my bad choices reflected back to me the deep-rooted self-loathing I had agreed to long ago.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess how my young adulthood played out in a big city like Los Angeles. I consider it rather cliché. My salvation eventually came in the form of a sponsor who chose to be a strong gay mentor. It was the start of my life taking a healthy turn, and the beginning of real success and happiness.

My live album, Live @ Joe's Pub, is this tour, captured during a sold-out performance in New York City. I take listeners through stories about various record labels and other not-so-ideal professional encounters, doing my best to tie it all back to the life-changing power of self-love. But hear me when I say that there is nothing precious about my story. We all have one, some more devastating than others. But I believe that if I am willing to honor it, learn from it, and let it go, then I'm ready to live a life that is not limited by my past. This is why the last song of the evening is a brand-new song called "Let It Go." And that's what it's all about for me nowadays: not being limited by my past.

Happy new year, everyone!