In the latest issue of DNA, Law And Order star, Raúl Esparza discusses coming out as bisexual and the freedom of ageing. Here’s an extract from the interview by Ian Horner from DNA #234.
Actor Raúl Esparza, an American of Cuban descent, has been a major player on Law And Order: Special Victims Unit as the hard-nosed prosecutor, Assistant DA Rafael Barba for six years.
Four years before starting on SVU, he divorced his wife, Michele Marie Perez, his high-school girlfriend whom he married at 23, divorced at 34, and two years later when asked about it by The New York Times gave a revealing personal story, coming out as bisexual.
“So many artists I admire are bisexual,” he told The Times. “I knew a lot of gay men growing up. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it as long as it was someone else, but not me.”
He related how he’d fallen in love with a man at New York University, a composer, who encouraged him to get into acting. Meanwhile, his mother urged him to get into therapy.
There was a reaction to the story, he felt exposed, and he went to ground. And hasn’t spoken of it publicly since.
I was in New York and talking to him specifically about SVU and living and working in New York, and we covered a lot of ground. Then I went in.
“You may not want to talk about it, and that’s perfectly fine, but you famously told The New York Times you were married to a woman and had an attraction to men, and I have to say that I was in exactly the same situation in my forties,” I revealed about myself.
I paused, gauging his reaction. He responded with a gentle, “Hmm.”
I pressed on: “And my life up-ended. How are you travelling with that situation now? What are you able to say that might encourage others?” I asked.
“I wanna say, I don’t generally talk about my personal life,” he replied. “I just don’t think it’s all that interesting to discuss what an actor is doing in his private life. I used to think I owed that conversation to people but now I don’t. I just don’t. However, having said that, what I will say that’s encouraging is that I often felt I needed to offer a lot of explanation about who I was, who I loved, what I was attracted to and, in a way, apologise for myself because I didn’t fit into what I imagined my life would be. And I don’t believe that any more.
“I don’t believe we owe people explanations about how we live and who we love,” Raúl continued. “I don’t believe these things even need to be fixed on the matrix of human sexuality. I don’t believe there can possibly be anything wrong with loving someone completely, whatever their gender. And over time I think I’ve become less interested in trying to explain myself or apologise. I’m much more joyful about the reality of simply being myself.
“Who I am may not fit anybody’s definition of what a person is supposed to be or how they’re supposed to live. I mean, I’m probably the most conservative guy you’ll ever meet in many ways, but I don’t feel I need to fit a mould anymore.”
Raúl says that shift in attitude comes with getting older.
“I’m 49 now and I really just don’t give a shit what you think of me! [Laughs] But, also, the world has changed. I was raised with a model of sexuality that said all gay men were generally lonely, were generally unhappy. And that’s not true! At all! And here’s an interesting thing… it’s not even what I experienced at the time with the gay men I knew. I did not experience lonely, unhappy men but, nevertheless, I internalised that story. I believed that anything that wasn’t 100 per cent ‘normal’, meaning 100 per cent heterosexual, as if anybody ever is, meant that you were destined for a life of loneliness and unhappiness, and that’s completely not true.”
Read the full interview in DNA #234.