Tobi Duncan's voice is soft and polite with a thick English inflection clinging to the end of every sentence. Throughout the thirty-minute conversation we had over our unconventional Sunday brunch of sorts (him eating pasta for dinner somewhere in England as I gathered my breakfast while skyping in from the Bronx), the front man of Hopeless Record's punk outfit Trash Boat intentionally hesitates, carefully choosing every word.
Despite being unapologetically open about his (bi) sexuality, Duncan never postures like he is the gatekeeper of solutions. He is strikingly modest. Instead, he candidly states in response to my questions regarding happiness, security and self-awareness, "I definitely don't want to give an answer that implies I have the knowledge of how this is absolutely going to work for someone else." He paused, cautiously arranging his words before continuing, "I never intend to impose my living or experience on anyone else. It is certainly the way I've done it and the way I feel comfortable with my universe. However, everyone has to express themselves in their own way in their own universe."
His words are reasonable and sincere. Duncan is the first to admit that his life has been more relaxed than others. His storyline lacks the complications and wounds that many in the LGBT+ community struggle with.
He is also extremely self-aware of this fact.
"If I am perfectly honest," he admits before I can dive into the thickness of my questions, "my past and my sexuality were never that much of a struggle. I can't really live vicariously through any events in my past and let that define the way I talk about my sexuality. I didn't really struggle with it. I wasn't oppressed. My parents were very supportive. I told my mom and dad very calmly and casually. There is no heartbreaking story there for me to finally be open about."
There is no pretentiousness in his voice as he tells his story. His position is one of entitlement or privilege. He is simply a joyous man with positivity in his heart. Although I can't see his face, it is easy to envision hope glimmering in his eyes. "My way of expressing my sexuality isn't particularly through my past,” he casually admits. "It is through present and future. I've always been happy to be open about it. That's sort of the end game for everyone really."
Realistically, he stresses that he understand that his path was easier than others might be. “If you've had a really rough past you're going to be a little more apprehensive about being open and honest.”
We chat for a few minutes about the encouragement of his family and his friends and the part they played in his security. "My sexuality has always been normal. It hasn't been a stigma in my life. I feel like if you're feeling insecure or upset about something, particularly your sexuality, before looking at yourself and how you're dealing with it if suggest looking at your support network.” He pauses again, definitively checking his words. “Be open and honest with them first. Discuss it as openly and casually and concisely and humanly possible. From there you need to start rooting out where the source of where these insecurities are. If you can genuinely and honestly talk to your friends and family without any reprisal or judgment you’re good. That's the environment that you should be surrounding yourself in.”
Shifting his thoughts from what people give him to what he gives to people, Duncan says “I guess, as a writer, and artist, a musician, I want anyone who listens to our music to have the same feelings of comfort. I guess it is more of an anti-feeling really. It is almost the absence of a feeling. I want each person to feel confident enough in themselves to just live without having to place such heavy significance on if your sexuality differs from other people's."
He continues, diving into how the reality of his sexuality bleeds into his music. “I'll write some lyrics where my bisexuality is explicable. I was writing a song about my attitude and relationships in general and it wouldn't have been accurate to use female pronouns. It isn't accurate to my experience. I use male and female and it didn't really register as something I shouldn't do. It never occurred to me that I might not be accepted. I think that's how we should push forward with gaining acceptance. Just be calm and open and honest.”
Duncan pauses for a second. You can almost hear him smiling in the silence on the line. After nearly 30-minutes of analyzed statements and vigilant assertions, Duncan opened up completely for a moment. Almost as though he finally felt safe, he spontaneously released the final statement of the interview. Ironically, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
“As people, we just write what you're going to write and be who we’re bound to be. If it is us, it will have no choice but end up inclusive.”
Trash Boat will release their new album, Nothing I Write You Can Change What You've Been Through, on June 17th via Hopeless Records. You can pre-order the album here and be sure to like the band on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
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