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Mr. Gay Seattle XXXIII: A True story
Mr. Gay Seattle XXXIII: A True story
by True Halliwell, Mr. Gay Seattle XXXIII Special to the SGN At November's 45th Annual Gay Seattle Pageant, True Halliwell was awarded Mr. Gay Seattle XXXIII and Layla Manila was Miss Gay Seattle XLV.

My name is Truedance "True" Halliwell, Mr. Gay Seattle XXXIII, an active member and role model for Seattle's Gay and neighboring community. Most people know me from my contributions at the Cuff Complex, one of Seattle's most sought-after bar/nightclubs, as well as my efforts under the Imperial Courts. It is my duty and responsibility in both these areas to promote safety and education to all members of my community, and help others gain an understanding of who I am, where I've come from, and the direction I am setting for myself going forward.

We all have stories. Mine started on the Westside of Chicago in a quadrant known as K-Town, due to the fact that all the streets between Cicero and Pulaski begin with a K. I was raised by separated parents. I lived with my mother - an alcoholic/drug addict - and my father was an everyday womanizer.

After a relationship that started with anger and violence, my mother took a beating which painted her face with bruises. It was then I saw that my mother had the courage to fight back and take control of the situation - an unpleasant experience for me, as her pain and anger was now focused and taken out on me. The Beast (my mother) had her ways of abuse: mentally, physically and verbally. Being a single child, this abuse wouldn't force me to walk away, as I was there standing by her and supporting her no matter what. I felt abandoned and lonely as my mother put me under the care of my stepfather and his family.

A day I will never forget was when my mother's aggression and anger resulted in a violent act with an iron, a third-floor apartment window, and my head. Luckily, it was inches from my head, but that wasn't the case when my stepfather approached her and she stabbed him in the chest. This was the time that I almost lost my stepfather, and when I emotionally lost the Beast. Over the next several years, I felt like an immigrant among my family and fell victim to my mother's hand, resulting in the worst beating I have ever experienced. Too afraid to run away and confused as to why no one from my family came to my rescue, my body, mind and emotions soon turned numb.

I believe a message from God entered into my life when my baby brother was brought into this world. There are still times I thank God for blessing my life with him, as this is when my mother was forced to change her life, change her ways, and shape up. Though my mother was soon a changed woman, she still had the mouth of sailor and the abuse continued, mentally and verbally.

As I approached my teen years, I became more familiar with my being a homosexual. I always had a sense that I was Gay, and I do believe my family knew before I figured it out. Growing up I was teased and called hateful names. As I was also a black man, racial slurs put the icing on the cake. It wasn't until high school that I realized homosexuals had a presence, and while we didn't talk about it, it was an unspoken bond between my peers. It was here that I chose to come out, be myself, and be True.

I came out with my best friend Sara Thompson, a proud butch Lesbian, and it was then I met my mentor, Richard Gray, who gave me my inspiration through two books, Two in Twenty and Keith Boykin's One More River To Cross: Black and Gay in America. These two books lit a fire inside me and made me want to make a difference in the world.

With Richard Gray's guidance and support, I successfully launched the first Gay and Straight Alliance Club at an all-black school in the entire country. This was my spotlight, it was where I belonged, and the feeling of success was so overwhelming that I spent countless hours educating my peers on Gay rights. I was a leader among my peers, and being granted two scholarships only deepened my feelings of success and accomplishment. My scholarships were awarded by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) and Richard Grey himself. I finally felt, after all the abuse from the Beast and all the taunting from my peers, that I was no longer merely a sexual minority; I was, in fact, a strong Gay man of African descent. My life was looking great!

Quickly after graduation, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia where I wanted to continue my personal success and community involvement. It was in 2000 when I took the next step of my life and joined the US military. Though I was proud of who I was - and having it symbolized permanently in tattoo ink on my arm - that side of me wasn't seen by recruiters and I was now active in the Navy. In the next seven years, I would learn more than I ever did growing up in a broken home. After graduating top in my class and holding the rank of Sailor, I still kept true to myself. I did not hide who I was - that is, of course, if I was asked by military officials. I quickly learned the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy had a weak point: of course they'd ask, but that didn't mean I had to tell. I worked hard, and I received various awards over the next few years and set a prime example to my leaders.

In 2005, I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Clinical Depression as a result of the trauma with my family and the emotional pain I faced by not having the family that I once carried in my heart. Suffering from depression and thoughts of suicide while under the treatment of a physician, my military career was starting to struggle. I wasn't focused and I started to gain weight. At one time, I remember thinking that if I took my whole bottle of medication, this could be it. In 2006, I attempted to take my life with a busted bottle to my wrist. Times were extremely rough. Emotionally disconnected and 60 pounds heavier, it was that night with the bottle to my wrist that my friends took me under their wings and set me straight.

After reflection on my personal worth, I decided to make changes in my life. As for coming to grips with my family, it was best I didn't continue this unhealthy pattern of abuse from them; I didn't need them, and I was blessed with so many wonderful people in my life. My advancement emotionally had encouraged me to start working on my shell, and I started going to the gym and eating healthy. It was a new start.

I also set aside the faith I had in Christianity and began studying Wicca. Now that my life was on successful track, I had to make a choice that I would deal with forever, but my personal happiness, health and worth were more important. On October 23, 2007, I was discharged from the military under honorable conditions. I reflect on my choice like an unhappy marriage; if it's not going together in a good direction, then it's best to part.

Planting my roots in Seattle a little over a year ago, I decided to focus my passion for positive change in my newfound Gay community by participating in events, and eventually entering myself in the 2008/2009 45th Annual Mr. Miss. & Ms. Gay Seattle Pageant, where I was titled Mr. Gay Seattle, XXXIII. Since the announcement of my title, I have taken a personal interest in understanding and familiarizing myself with local community events so that I can be a positive role model and anticipate change going forward.

To date, I have been actively working with the local Chambers, various non-profits such as LifeLong AIDS Alliance, and I have partnered with a local promotional company VIP Kidz which is strictly focused on positive influence. Founder Athy Mruz has partnered with local patron of the scene Phillip Malone, who reached out to me. Together, we plan to make a change in our younger Gay community. Local venue StarBar, located in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood, has allowed us to bring our education-driven vision to their business. Friday, December 5, 2008 we will host our grand opening, welcoming all member of the community ages 18 and up to come and experience an event which we hope will steer our youth in a positive direction. By being role models to these individuals, we plan to promote awareness, sex education, and HIV/AIDS prevention. This will be the only organized event in Seattle which is focused specifically on Gay youth that also provides a safe place for them to gather with their friends, dance, and, most importantly, educate.

So here I am now, True Halliwell, Mr. Gay Seattle, hoping and anticipating change, welcoming all challenges and opportunities that enter my life. You will see my name in lights, highlight in the papers and in the news. I am dedicated, honored and optimistic of what's to come for me!

I would like to personally thank everyone who has been there to show support, in any sense. I would like to extend many thanks to my friends who have become my family. You are in my life, my mind and my heart - for you, I am grateful. In my life I have learned that blood does not bond you with your family; it's the love that you share that does.

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