As a kid, I often had so much anger built up inside me that I would bite myself hard enough to make myself bleed. On many occasions and for many reasons, I would end up in this place, alone, in my room, with me as the only person to harm. I don't remember ever wanting to kill myself, although I'm sure the idea quickly flashed in my mind at some point. I just wanted a release, a counterbalance to the rage I felt boiling inside, and somehow, inflicting pain on myself was the answer. What my brother did, what my mother said, or simply what didn't happen at all irrationally drove my teeth straight through the skin of my forearm, to the battery-acid taste of my own blood. "See what you make me do!" my inner voice would scream. Then I would wipe away the blood, and everything would seem OK again, as if the act had neutralised any high level of adrenalin, hatred, and frustration.
At this point in my life, though, those bite marks wouldn't be a good look on my next photo shoot -- unless it were vampire-themed. My career as a model has resulted in many eyes watching me, with two-dimensional representations of me spread across the great landscape of the World Wide Web, where they are liked, disliked, voted for, voted against, and commented on by faceless man with his judging eye. This has become part of a desensitised normal for me; on the Web you can find an endless number of reactions to my work and to me directly, and I have read them all.
But don't get me wrong: I have received the most beautiful messages, comments, and emails from people around the world, heartfelt words about how I have helped them come out to their families as their true selves, made their lives that much more worth living, or simply given them the determination and discipline to achieve a long-awaited goal. It still surprises me that I have had such a positive effect on people. It really is the most beautiful thing, and it is part of the reason that I am so involved in the online experience that social media enables. If I can help just a couple of people by simply responding to them, why the hell not? I would be a complete arse not too, right?
Nevertheless, there is no good without the bad. I completely understand that from the outside, I must look like the most unapproachable and arrogant person. I have my very own calendar, for Christ's sake, but is that really me or a brand? We both have the same name, looks, and sound, but it doesn't necessarily have my voice. Just like an actor in a movie, I, as a model, play a character based on myself. But whether I'm myself or a brand, I've been hated for the way I look, for whether I'm shaved or not, for the sound of my voice, for my expressions, for my choice of music, for my friends, and even for my last name, and all by people I have never met and will probably never meet. It's just part of the territory, right?
Right now, I sit at a desk with a chance to have my say on The Huffington Post. Before, I questioned how I would ever fit everything I have to say in 1,000 words, but now that I sit here...
...I am retrograded to that irrational little boy who has no words but just wants to make himself bleed. Now, with all those judging eyes of faceless man, I want to show you that I bleed red like you, and that you made me do it. To show you. To prove to you that whether you love me or hate me, I'm just like you. I'm human, too.
As the first ambassador of this new progressive movement, We're Human, Too (#WereHumanToo), I, together with the founding directors Jaclyn Amor and Antoine Young of Whisky Glass Studios, have created an all-inclusive collective focusing not strictly on human rights or gay rights but simply rights -- the right thing to do as a human being. It stands for humanity in all forms -- your religion, your race, your socioeconomic status, your gender, your sexual orientation, and so on -- focusing on the foundations of the human condition: that we are all human, that we all want to love and be loved, that we all want to be happy, and that we all want a choice. The We're Human, Too movement is the calm after the storm, using viral videos to filter strong and poignant messages across the world. The messages may shock you or make you laugh, but in the end, they will make you think about your own views on the many conflicts of majorities, minorities, and individuals today.
Stay tuned for more ambassadors and their videos. Have your own story? Let us know, and follow the official We're Human, Too Facebook page and Twitter feed. You can also follow my official Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Follow Daniel Garofali on Twitter: www.twitter.com/danielgarofali