Living a “double life” is a taxing task filled with lies, self-deception, and manipulation. It can prohibit the chance of living a sound life. Many gay people struggle with telling their families about their feelings for fear of rejection and retaliation or that they may display a lack of unconditional love.
The play, "His Double Life: Breaking The Silence,” explores the complexities of family values within the Black culture, and details the struggle of a young man seeking unconditional love and acceptance from his Christian father. Written by Nial Martin, "His Double Life" has premiered in several theaters throughout the country and will show 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 13 at the Julius Littman Performing Arts Theaters in North Miami Beach.
"His Double Life" is loosely based on Martin’s own struggle with coming out to his family as a gay Black man. He began working on the play in 1996 after two suicide attempts as a way to cope with the turbulent emotions he was feeling. Since 2006, the play has been touring nationwide, creating a dialogue about the damaging effects of living a double life.
“We need to be able to communicate and understand each other,” Martin said.
The play tells the story of Matthew Sanders, a young man struggling with self-acceptance and establishing his own identity, while yearning for his father’s unconditional love. Matthew faces obstacles that threaten to destroy the relationship with his current girlfriend, while an unforeseen medical condition is poised to further tear his family apart and cause an irreconcilable breach between he and his father.
“Deep down inside [Matthew] just wants to be himself and be accepted,” Martin said.
The play stars Eddie Posey as Matthew Sanders, David Tolliver as Daddy Sanders and Dorien Wilson of the star of the hit TV show "The Parkers" as Doctor Curtis.
“[His Double Life] is a story about secrets, acceptance, family, and love,” Wilson said.
Like the main character, Martin reluctantly went out of his way to play sports and have relationships with females to live up to his father’s expectations.
“I went ahead and did it just to prove a point and get noticed by family members,” he said, “especially my dad.”
Martin’s estranged relationship with father and the incessant bullying he experienced led him to a dark state of mind.
“I was struggling with how come my dad does not love me,” he said. “When you are in that state of mind, you do not feel pain.”
His failed suicide attempts were confirmation that his story must be shared with the world in order to create a family dialogue about acceptance and the dangers of repressing feelings and emotions, he said.
“There are so many other young people that are going through the same thing but they do not have any types of outlets,” Martin said. "This stage play is creating a dialogue within the family home about feelings, bullying and suicide.”
The play has given Martin a platform to bring taboo subjects to the main stage, he said.
“Through theater, you can change lives, even if it is just one life,” he said.
Though the social atmosphere has changed and improved things for the gay community, there is still a long way to go, Martin said. “Kids are still being bullied and there are still many stigmas,” he said.
Martin praised the efforts of former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union in supporting his 11-year-old son, Zion, who recently disclosed he was gay.
“We need more people like that, that have that type of clout and say I support my son, I support my daughter,” Martin said.
He plans to continue to use theater as a way to bring these issues center stage, as well as partner with organizations to provide support for children struggling with bullying, suicidal thoughts and actions and self-acceptance.
“My main goal is to work with community-based organizations to figure out a plan for kids and teenagers,” he said. “We need a lot more discussion.”