By Shea Stephens

As a black male growing up in the South, I was always thought that black manhood was a lifestyle itself. I have to act a current way, dress a current way, put on a facade if you will.  I went several years of fighting my sexuality because where I came from, it was demonized and cursed. So I went a good 14 years of putting on this façade, because of the fate of homosexuals I was taught as a child. It wasn't until I was challenged by an acting teacher to play a homosexual character in scene where I had a moment of enlightenment… That I saw how very blinded I was. I have always had an issue with my identity. However, it wasn't until I played this character that I was challenged not to play a stereotype, but a human being. And express his flaws and his fears. I really had to do some self-evaluation. I had to ask myself “who am I really?”, which asked me because one of the hardest things in life is looking at your true self in the mirror. I was terrified because it wasn't something that I wanted to face, but I couldn't play that character's truth until I faced my own truth. My art is very important to me. When I am not being honest in my art it kills me. So I decided to challenge myself to dig deep in myself and find the truth. I had to say, "I am a gay male and it is okay." When I owned that part of myself, I could play the character and I was able to loosen myself and express myself within the role. I never felt more free and alive. I owe that to my art. Showing me the truth about my humanity and that by showing me that truth is okay. I am a human being. I am compassionate. I am flawed. I am imperfect. I am beautiful. And I am gay. This was my moment of clarity.

Shea Stephens is an actor and filmmaker from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Art holds the mirror of humanity. I use my art as a form of activism inspire and uplift others.