[ PRIDE MONTH EDITION ]
How old are you and where are you located?
57, San Jose, California
Tell us about yourself & your coming out experience.
For me, coming out isn't an event, it is a lifelong process. The hardest part may be coming out to yourself, and ignoring all the preconceived notions forced upon you about what being gay means. Coming out to friends and family is also a process, and for me, it was easier to minimize contact with some of them than to force them to deal with my reality. In retrospect, I don't regret those decisions. Coming out professionally, depending on your industry, can be incredibly hard. I've lost jobs, promotions, and projects for being gay. Last week, for the first time in my career, I had an open conversation about being gay with a group of co-workers, some of whom I don't know that well. So even at 57, my coming out experience is still a work in progress.
What is important for you when choosing underwear?
As a big guy, comfort has always been key. I do a tremendous amount of business travel, and no matter how cute the underwear may be, if it feels like a tourniquet or hits me in the wrong place, 12-hour flights and long conference days are miserable. As I grew more successful, I put a lot of emphasis on the brand. But I found that designer brands and high prices are often poorly made and definitely not enjoyable to wear. Ultimately I want a comfortable pair of underwear that is also flattering and feels just as good after 18 hours as it did when I first put them on.
How does Badami’s underwear compare/stand out to other brands you’ve worn?
I admit I was a bit pessimistic at first. I knew Anthony as a cutting-edge designer of accessories like leather harnesses, and underwear didn't seem a fit for the Badami brand. But then I realized what his other merchandise had in common was high quality and attention to detail. Badami underwear has a lot of fantastic qualities. The fabric is very soft, yet durable, and strong enough to give me some support where I need it. The design is incredibly well thought out, especially the gusset, which makes them fit well and look flattering. And you can't ignore the price--you won't find another pair of men's underwear with this much quality for the price. And I like that they are made in LA!
How has toxic masculinity affected you personally as a member of the LGBTQ community? How have you/are you working to grow from it?
Growing up gay in a farming community in the Bible belt, I had to deal with toxic masculinity from a very early age. Being bullied, threatened, and ridiculed by other kids, and even teachers and adults in the community, was horrible. In those days there weren't any support groups to turn to for help. I thought I would escape that by leaving the area, but it turns out toxic masculinity is rife in business, and prevalent even (especially?) in the Silicon Valley tech world. What I have learned over the years is that people exhibiting toxic masculinity are overcompensating because they are consumed by fear and feelings of inadequacy. Once you realize that, you gain a lot of power.
What would you like to say to your younger self or readers that relate to your story?
The attributes that make you the victim of bullying are actually the very attributes that will enable your success. There is nothing "wrong" with you for being different, it is a gift, and refusing to alter who you are to fit in will ultimately give you more strength than you thought possible. I don't know if telling a brutalized young person that "It gets better" really helps. But it does get better. Much better. As Nietzsche said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." My gay friends--my adopted family--are the strongest people I know.
How have you witnessed your own manhood (or manhood as a whole) evolve in the last few years?
I'm very lucky. I worked hard, I seized every opportunity, and I took some chances in my career that friends and family advised against. But ultimately they paid off. Once I turned 50, and had achieved professional success, I stopped being such a people pleaser. The events of the last year have shown us ignorance and fear--and toxic masculinity--are at the root of many of America's challenges, not to mention some political parties. While in general, I'm a very nice person, as Margaret Cho says, "If you aren't going to like me, I'm going to make you hate me." Realizing being my authentic self is not always going to be popular, and being OK with that, has been a great life lesson. And that is definitely part of what manhood means to me.
Finally, what's the story behind the awesome tattoos?
See the answer to the previous question. LOL. It is a long story. But the short version is: I always felt like a badass on the inside, and wanted the outside to match. I had wanted to get some ink for years, but I was always afraid of what other people would think, and worried it might impact me professionally. Then I was mugged and seriously injured on a business trip to Prague in 2005, and realized there are no guarantees in life. I got my first tattoo the week I got home, even before I had my chipped teeth fixed or started the year of dermabrasion to remove the scars on my face. Since then, I've spent a lot of time in Hawaii, and did research on Polynesian tattoos, and found their message really spoke to me. All of my ink pieces are warrior shields. One of the first was from a well known artist, Boze Kapoi, from Pride Ink in Maui. Most of my body art, including the chest piece and forearm shields seen in this photo, are by one of the best Samoan artists in America, Sef Samatua, from State of Grace here in San Jose. Having these warrior shields gives me the confidence to face anything.