Where Are They Now: Anthony Rapp
By Dustin Fitzharris
What was it like growing up gay in Joliet, Ill.?
Honestly, because I grew up in theater, I was around gay people from a young age. The weird thing for me looking back is that I have no memory of when the labels or the words "gay" or "lesbian," etc., entered my vocabulary. People were who we were. I was 14, and I started fooling around with a 17-year-old kid from my high school at a friend's house. I was discovered under the covers by my friend's father. He told his wife. His wife called my mom, and she confronted me. So, from when she confronted me and was a little disturbed by what had happened -- and she wasn't disturbed from a moral point of view, but because she felt like he had taken advantage of me because he was a little older -- it was clear it wasn't all right.
But then you came out to your mother over the phone when you were 18.
Yes, but in the meantime I was like, This isn't cool. I probably shouldn't bother with this anymore. Although, I still kind of did. Other than that, there was no sense of persecution.
I ask because of the recent teens suicides related to bullying about being gay or different.
No, never. I was lucky.
What would you say to people who are going through difficult times with bullies?
I mean it's easier said than done, but try to have some faith and courage to weather the storm. Do whatever you can to take care of yourself and do whatever you can to find safety. There are resources, so reach out if you need help. You don't have to go through it alone. You are not alone.
When you did come out, you said you were a bisexual. However, you do prefer the term 'queer.' Why is that?
The only reason I didn't entirely love "gay" is because it would make seem false any romantic or sexual relationships I ever had with women, but I'm absolutely primarily gay, no question. I did not feel like when I was having any relationships with women that it was running away from my true nature. I think there is an ultimate preference. I do know some gay men who absolutely never want to touch a woman ever. I also like the umbrella term of "queer." There's a part of me that likes that queer also means unusual or strange. I do think it's unusual and strange, and I don't think that's a bad thing. It's OK that it's unusual and strange.
During the election in 2008 you were a supporter of Barack Obama. How do you think he's faring on LGBT rights?
I think people can argue against and for these tactics, but I think he took the Abraham Lincoln approach to "don't ask, don't tell," for instance. When Abraham Lincoln took office, people were wanting him to immediately abolish slavery. He took the longer view of wanting things to take root so the country would support such a bold move. I do believe that's why [Obama] didn't immediately come into office and abolish "don't ask, don't tell." He wanted to go through a process. I think he's also been completely sandbagged by the level of opposition. It's not been a slam dunk, but I also don't doubt that there's a strategy and a long view.
So, are you still a supporter?
If there was a revival of Rent on Broadway tomorrow, who would you like to see play Mark?
I saw a production in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and that young man who played Mark was fantastic. His name is Steve Goedken. I think he's really talented and deserves to be seen by all kinds of people.
Through all of your ups and downs, is there a song or a quote that keeps you going?
The only way out is through. That is something that is forever there for me.
For more on Anthony Rapp, follow him on Twitter.
Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, the original stars of the smash Broadway musical Rent in a special one-night only event at New York 's The Town Hall on Monday, January 10, 2011. Tickets prices range from $25.00 and $95.00 and can be purchased on Ticketmaster.com or by calling (212) 840-2824.