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Brandon Kyle Goodman embraces their authentic self in new book

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

If you're ever sitting around on a Monday feeling a little angsty, maybe a little frisky, check out some of the so-called Messy Monday stories on Brandon Kyle Goodman's Instagram feed. But just maybe don't have the sound on if you are at work.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

BRANDON KYLE GOODMAN: It's Monday, Messy Monday. So tell me something good, or tell me something messy.

Cool with it like he was into it or, like, cool with it like, [expletive] happens?

When I failed my driver's test, the proctor said, what do you do for a living? I said, I'm an actor. She said, oh, well, if I ever see you in a movie, I'm going to point and say, he can't drive. Shady.

Happy Pride. I don't know. This is the gayest [expletive] I've ever heard.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANG: Goodman has built up a huge following with these Messy Mondays, doling out some truths, some laughs and, most importantly, some love. And now they're out with a new book that opens up about their own origin story and messy, messy life. Goodman is Black, queer, nonbinary. They grew up in a religious immigrant household, and they know all too well what it's like to hide, to hide the most meaningful parts of yourself. Their new book, "You Gotta Be You," is an ode to shaking off the expectations of others and tossing out the boxes that society nudges us all into. And above all, it asks every person to consider this question - who would I be if society never got its hands on me? Brandon Kyle Goodman joins us now. Hello.

GOODMAN: Hi. How are you?

CHANG: Hi. I'm so good. And I first just want to say that I happened to pick up your book during a time when I was struggling. And I was very grateful that I had these pages in my hands. Like, you helped me think about something in my own life a little differently. So thank you for that.

GOODMAN: Oh, my goodness. Thank you. That means so much. That means so much. That's my hope.

CHANG: I mean it. Well, I'm just going to dive right in to the guts of this book because...

GOODMAN: Yes.

CHANG: ...You start from a really upfront place. You share that early on, before you felt rejected for your race, before you felt rejected for your sexual orientation, you were rejected for your femininity and for not acting like a boy.

GOODMAN: Yeah. You know, I think that as a kid, when you're, like, you know, 2, 3 and you're just playing, people kind of let you do whatever you want. And then, you know, when you start getting to that preschool, kindergarten age, then there starts to be these rules that I feel like get put on you. And what was really clocked kind of immediately was that I was really effeminate. And I was always kind of being told by, you know, classmates, by teachers, by - even at home to, like, butch up, to be more of a man - like, this - perform at masculinity, which is very confusing...

CHANG: Yeah.

GOODMAN: ...To a 5-year-old. But I realized that was always kind of this thing that I always was trying to go back to - was, how do I perform masculinity? How do I perform being a man so that I can fit in and also, like, stay safe?

CHANG: When it came to being both Black and gay, there was something that you wrote that really stuck with me. You said, with white gay boys, there seemed to be an unspoken expectation that I would need to be a certain kind of gay to fit in. I would need to perform and be even more femme than I was. Can you talk about that pressure?

GOODMAN: Yeah. You know, I think the queer community in itself is also still reckoning with the racism and internalized homophobia that happens. So there's this thing - right? - where queerness exists in our zeitgeist. People say, yas (ph), queen. Or you see our fashion. Now you see guys on the red carpet wearing dresses and wearing halter tops and all this stuff. But the community in which all those things come from, which I would say is Black and brown queer folks, aren't protected and aren't valued and aren't validated inside of that. And so the performance of queerness or all those isms really gets credited to white gay people. And so there is a feeling that I felt personally inside of those white queer spaces where there is a performance that you're expected to do. Like, yas. Hey, [expletive]. I can't say that on NPR. Hey, girl.

(LAUGHTER)

GOODMAN: You know, you're supposed to...

CHANG: Yeah.

GOODMAN: ...Like, really...

CHANG: Yeah.

GOODMAN: ...Accentuate it...

CHANG: Right.

GOODMAN: ...Because, you know, everyone wants the idea of queerness and wants the performance of it but not always the people.

CHANG: I mean, because I related to a lot of this sort of racism that you were talking about inside queer spaces because I feel it in straight spaces. Can we just talk about dating white guys for a minute? Like...

GOODMAN: Yeah.

CHANG: Let's both...

GOODMAN: Let's talk about it.

CHANG: ...Get into this.

GOODMAN: Let's get into it.

CHANG: So you say when you were younger, you never thought you could be as attractive as a white man. And so you dated white guys in part for the proximity to white privilege. And...

GOODMAN: Yes.

CHANG: I got to say that is something that resonated with me. I totally related to that. And you said that that - dating white guys for proximity to white privilege - it only fed into your self-hatred.

GOODMAN: Yeah, because it was - you know, I was latching on from a place of lack. So I was latching on...

CHANG: Yeah.

GOODMAN: ...To this thing of, like, I'm missing something. There's this void that's missing. And my hope is that these white men will fill that void. And then you trick yourself into thinking that they are. But then you always realize that you're not like them...

CHANG: Yeah.

GOODMAN: ...And that you're also - if you are approaching it from that angle where you're not whole and you're lacking, then you are, I think, unconsciously or subconsciously, excusing bad behavior from those white men where you become a racial prop. My husband is white, and luckily I've worked through my stuff before.

CHANG: I was going to ask you, how much have you evolved away?

GOODMAN: Oh, yes.

CHANG: Being married to Matthew, how much have you evolved away from how you used to think about being with white men?

GOODMAN: Before we met, I did. You know, before we met, I was really, like, clear about how much I loved myself. And really, Matthew and I would always joke about people always saying, I want my other half. And it's like, no, baby, I'm a whole person. I'm looking for another whole person, not somebody to complete me, somebody to add to what I'm already doing.

CHANG: Exactly.

GOODMAN: When Matthew and I met, I was already, like, fully in my love of Brandon. And so he was able to be a partner that I think helped me grow, if anything, helped me, you know, expand into who I am as opposed to being somebody who's a patch - you know, a patch for the scars.

CHANG: Well, I want to end on a pretty basic but important question.

GOODMAN: Yeah.

CHANG: When in life did you decide that what you wanted to do through your art, through your personality - what you wanted to do was to help people learn to love themselves more? When did that hit you that that's what your purpose is?

GOODMAN: That's a really beautiful question. Nothing is black and white. There's a lot of gray. And we get to hold multiple truths. And I think I learned that from my mother. My mother, who has been a source of pain, has also been a source of comfort and inspiration. You know, I think she, when I was very young, really instilled in me, what is your mission statement? As a person going out into the world, like, what do you value, and what do you want to stand for? And I think I always wanted to make people like myself feel valuable. And as time went on, I think I, you know, further specified that it's love - you know, people to love themselves and see themselves and know that they are three dimensional, full people and that they're worthy of love even with all their flaws, even with all their mistakes. And I don't think we say it enough. I think...

CHANG: We don't.

GOODMAN: ...We hold love a lot.

CHANG: Well, as you say, we are enough exactly...

GOODMAN: Yeah.

CHANG: ...As we are - so easy to say, sometimes so impossible to internalize.

GOODMAN: Yes, that's the work. That's the journey.

CHANG: That is the work. Brandon Kyle Goodman's new book is called "You Gotta Be You: How To Embrace This Messy Life And Step Into Who You Really Are." Thank you so much for sharing this time with us, Brandon. I so enjoyed this.

GOODMAN: Thank you so much. This has been amazing. I really appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MENAHAN STREET BAND'S "THE CONTENDER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.