I am... Michael
Folks in the LGBTQ+ community are usually lumped into one category; however, we're all different in our own special way. The "I Am" series interviews folks, from all over, who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and so on in hopes to bring awareness to the differences and similarities we share. Participants are asked the same questions as to highlight how one question can have unlimited possibilities. There is limited editing on these questions to maintain the integrity of the interview.
(Photo used with permission)
Name: Michael aka @iownamerica aka Mikey Miami aka Michael Bonita aka Dirty Boy aka Pretty Papi aka Your New Man’s a Fan
Age: 29- Sagittarius
Gender identity: I'm still discovering that.
Sexual identity: Pansexual, but isn’t everyone?
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Where do you live now? Brooklyn, New York
Did you live anywhere else between Hometown and current location? If so, where? How did you get to where you are now? What was your journey like?
I moved out of Miami when I was 21 - I just had to get out of the city. I hate being too comfortable and felt like I was way too comfortable staying in my hometown.
I moved to Chicago with my best friend. I had never even visited Chicago and most of my friends and family didn’t think I was actually going to move. I knew I needed to live in a big city and New York was an option, but it felt so cliché to move to NYC and looking back, I think it was the best choice.
I moved to Brooklyn after living in Chicago for five years. I was getting too comfortable again and wanted to shake things up. I also always had an itch to live in NYC and felt it was perfect timing.
What does your gender identity mean to you?
I’m not really sure. Living in New York City has opened my eyes and mind and I view things and gender identity so differently than I did just a few months ago. I’m trying to figure this out and I feel like if I gave an answer, it could change tomorrow or some other day.
What does your gender expression mean to you?
Gender expression is fun. I think it’s funny how cis hetero people take it so serious. I love to shake shit up and make people uncomfortable or rethink what gender expression is. I like being both masculine and feminine. I paints my nails, rock purses and skirts and I’ll still snatch your girl.
What does your sexual identity mean to you?
Who you're trying to fuck but that can change from day to day or from person to person. I wish people put less pressure on what someone’s sexual identity is or whether someone is straight or not. It’s like - if you’re into someone, does all that other shit matter?
What has your journey been like to becoming comfortable with who you are?
I’m still working on that. I’m not 100% comfortable, I think this is a life-long journey. But I’m more happy these days. I’m happy to be surrounded by a community that is so supportive and so accepting of who I am.
As I get older I just care a lot less of what others think or what society says that I should be. I’m here for a while and might as well be happy while I’m here.
I’m more fearless in who I am, what I represent, who I surround myself with and how I express myself through my physical appearance. Every day I challenge myself to be more authentic to myself and so far, it’s working out. I’m experimenting more and growing every single day and that helps with being more comfortable in who I am and who I want to be.
How has your experience in your current location been as a LGBTQ+ identified person?
It’s been so wonderful. There’s a great community out here. There’s so many spaces for us especially for POC.
Have you ever faced discrimination because you’re a LGBTQ+ identified person?
Not really or at least not in a way that it affected me enough to care or remember it. I’ve been thankful enough to live in progressive cities. I also try to mostly go to queer spaces.
Is there a time you felt complete joy because you’re a LGBTQ+ identified person?
Yes, anytime we are winning. I think the show "Pose" becoming so popular is a great example where I’m so proud.
Seeing Angela Ross on "American Horror Story" was another exciting moment. It’s a way to say we’re here and we WILL be seen.
Representation is so important and there’s so many fearless people who are really making sure this happens. It’s great to feel represented.
What’s your story? What do you do / what are your hobbies / fun facts about you / things you like to do in your free time?
I love art but can’t make any myself. So, I find it so important to support artists, specifically artists who are still alive and young. People try to say that the only great artists are dead artists. I invest in living artists. I’m an art collector and art curator. My home is like a mini art gallery.
If you are an artist/musician/entrepreneur/business owner/etc, please explain what you do, how you got started, how your work has progressed and why you do it.
I’ve always enjoyed art but began dabbling in art myself in high school. In college, I forgot all about art until I took a year-long course in which we had to set up and curate an art show at our school’s museum, the Frost Art Museum. We had to work with professional artists and it was such a great experience.
Once I moved to Chicago, I was surrounded by so many talented artists and so I put together my first art show. It was so much fun to set up and have their work seen by others.
I continued doing this while living in Chicago. It was just freelance stuff or things I’d put together for fun. I’m still new to New York, so I’m still working on the art connections out here. Hopefully next year I’ll get back into the swing of things.
How do your identities (sexual, gender, racial, ethnic, religious, political, etc) influence your work? If they do not influence your work, how do you keep them separate?
I just want to uplift queer POC. We don’t get offered the same platforms as non-queer white people, so we need to make those platforms for ourselves and I hope to contribute to that one day, even if it’s just on a small scale.
Where and how would you like to see your work progress?
I want to continue to uplift POC and want to begin making my own art next year.
What are your dreams and aspirations with your work or life?
I want to own an art gallery one day that only shows work for POC. I want to help artists become known and be able to make a living making their art.
I’m also obsessed with rings and want to start creating my own, but I need to take some classes first.
Where can people find you online? Please only add links that you don’t mind strangers following you on!
Instagram - @iownamerica
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