Reported by MTV Act.
On tonight’s powerful episode of “True Life,” we meet Coke and Tarrodd, two men who live double lives in the gay and straight communities. At the start of the show, their sexual preferences are a secret to most — including the women in their lives — but over time, both open up and share their internal and external struggles with the world.
First, we meet 23-year-old Coke, whose girlfriend Tam is pregnant with their first child. But Coke is keeping a secret from Tam: He secretly works as a male escort, often for men who are also on the down low. Coke considers himself bisexual, but is afraid that coming out will tear his family apart.
Next, we meet Tarrodd, who is engaged to a woman named Jamie, but in a relationship with a man named Marvin. Jamie is in the dark about Tarrodd’s double life, but Marvin knows of Jamie, and hopes Tarrodd will someday leave her for him. Although his friends think that coming out would boost his confidence and set a positive example for other young people, Tarrodd is worried that it would cause irreparable damage to his current relationships and neighborhood reputation.
Photo: Coke and Tarrodd in the club. (MTV)
Throughout the episode, we witness many painfully honest, deeply revealing, and at times controversial interactions between Coke, Tarrodd, and their loved ones. For the first time, Coke tells his mother about his sexuality and being molested by a male family member as a child. According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 10% of sexual assault victims in the U.S. are male. Male sexual assault survivors are often hesitant to seek help for fear of how they will be perceived by others, so while Coke’s hesitance to tell his mother is unfortunate, it is not uncommon.
Adult survivors of sexual assault often struggle with identity, intimacy, and sexuality, and Coke links his sexual abuse to his sexual orientation and sense of confusion. However, it’s important to note that there is no definitive information about the relationship between sexual abuse and sexual orientation. Coke wishes his mother had stepped in, but she makes an extremely valid point — she couldn’t help what she didn’t know. If you or someone you know has been abused, tell somebody or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
While both men’s conversations with their mothers end in open arms, their significant others simply cannot forgive many years of dishonesty. Tarrodd loses Marvin and Jamie, and Tam yells a slew of derogatory terms at Coke before leaving him for good. Although she is rightfully surprised, it is extremely important to remain calm and sensitive when responding to a loved one’s coming out.
Coke and Tarrodd may have controversial points of view, but the emotions they feel while learning to accept themselves and yearning to be accepted by others are universal. If you’re feeling confused about your sexuality, you’re not alone. Sexual identity, like all identity, often takes time to develop, and we all discover ourselves in different ways, at different paces. Coming out is an ongoing process that first requires accepting oneself, then speaking and living openly. Although those who come out often feel a huge weight lifted off their shoulders, it’s not a race or a requirement. When, where, and how you come out — and who you choose to come out to — are totally up to you. Gay, straight, or anywhere in between, always be safe and honest with anyone you “discover” yourself with, if yaknowwhatimean!
Straight people can come out too! As straight supporters! If a friend or family member opens up to you about their sexuality, offer a safe place and non-judgmental ear as they sift through their feelings and experiences. Be honored that they have trusted you with the truth and be reassuring that everything is going to be OK.
Both Coke and Tarrodd are happy they came out. “We get really scared about what others think of us when we’re put into a little box,” Tarrodd told the advocate.com, “And I just want people to know that it’s OK to be themselves. And if someone doesn’t want to accept you for who you are, then they shouldn’t be in your life.”
“It’s like I’m not trapped anymore,” Coke explained to the advocate.com in the same interview. “I have someone to talk to. It’s brought about a very positive change.”
Photo: Coke speaks up. (MTV)
If you or someone you know is struggling with their sexuality and prefers an anonymous ear, the following hotlines offer 24/7 help and resources:
The Trevor Project Helpline , 1-866-488-7386
National Sexual Assault Helpline, 1-800-656-4673