“Garden shed for the garden, that is where I was hidin’, that was real love I was in, ain’t no reason to pretend.”
These lines open the final verse to “Garden Shed,” my favorite song by Tyler, the Creator, where he likens hiding his sexuality from others to being trapped in a garden shed, when all he wants to do is embrace his inner “Flower Boy”— his authentic identity, unfiltered by the constraints of hypermasculinity.
It’s a sentiment I can relate to, and with sexual orientation being a theme that Tyler addresses frequently in his music, songs like “Garden Shed” make me see myself in the rapper’s lyrics.
I came out as bisexual in high school but I didn’t break out of the garden shed at that point. I’m still shackled by hypermasculinity and the ways in which we’ve conditioned men to behave and dress.
The image of judgmental stares and chuckles as I walked into a party wearing glitter last Halloween still haunts me.
That moment was one of many reasons why I fear wearing my rainbow pride pin on my backpack, knowing the glares I’ll garner from passersby.
Listening to Tyler rap about the same fears makes me feel less alone.
Tyler’s best songs have lyrics that could’ve easily been ripped out of my own poetry notebook, and that connection drove me to frantically buy tickets to his Sept. 25 concert the moment they went on sale.
As a queer man, watching Tyler, the Creator perform in a gender-nonconforming outfit to sing love songs about other men was one of the most impactful moments of my life.
The outfit, a simple blue suit with a short bob haircut, made Tyler look genderless from the crowd’s perspective, freeing him from the constraints of hypermasculinity.
All those rules about what masculinity is evaporated the moment Tyler took the stage, and as someone struggling with embracing my identity, watching that performance was liberating.
There’s something special to me about seeing this high-profile rapper glamorously strut across the stage while performing “Running Out of Time” when men — especially us men of color — are taught that any exhibition of femininity is forbidden.
While performing the show’s closer, “Are We Still Friends?,” Tyler danced flamboyantly on a pedestal for the whole crowd to see, the whole stage illuminated in vivid, bright pink.
Above all else, the majority of the songs Tyler performed were from his most recent album “Igor,” which details the euphoric highs and tragic lows of relationship with a male love interest.
Tyler, the Creator inspires me, but not just because he uses his art as a vehicle to talk about his sexuality and the struggles accompanying that, but because he’s unapologetic about it.
On stage, he embraces his identity without hesitation — he dances, sings and behaves however he wants, and he doesn’t yield to any artificial rules of gender.
It’s this daring resistance that makes Tyler, the Creator one of my biggest role models as a young, queer man, and it’s that type of bravery that makes me want to wear glitter and rainbow pins to every party I go to from here on out.
It’s Tyler’s courage to be himself that pushes me to embrace my identity without reservation or regard for what anyone thinks.
I’m a “Flower Boy” in every way, learning to accept and blazon my identity however I can, and it only took a concert to teach me that.
In the days after the concert, I’m learning to live by one line from “Where This Flower Blooms.” It’s one lyric that expresses the beauty of coming into my own as a queer individual who’s unashamed.
It’s a mantra for self-acceptance regardless of how others perceive me: “I rock, I roll, I bloom, I grow.”