No one at home could help me through. By this time, Ryan had left the nest and gone to Notre Dame University. At least, that was what they told me. I was sad that he left. We didn’t spend a lot of time together, as he was always busy with school and extra-curricular activities. But when we did, I treasured it. Ryan was the only person in my immediate family who had my back, no matter what. He helped me with my homework, and never raised a hand at me. He was, however, unable to prevent Joseph, Nadine, and Charlotte from hurting me. As for Charlotte, even when I became an adult, she continued to torment me and the whole of Bishop Allen Academy.
The dawn of the new millennium brought new and worse changes at home. Joseph went into semi-retirement and spent his free time with a succession of strippers. Nadine discovered herbal Ecstasy and the fine art of mixing drugs with alcohol. In public, they maintained a façade of respectability. With my grandparents out of the picture, they were free to do anything that they wanted, including beating me up, even though I was an adult.
Fortunately, I had a way out. I had been accepted into the University of Toronto. By the beginning of the school year, I had moved out of Corso Italia and was living on campus, with most of my belongings in a public storage facility. I came into my own at UT. I no longer ended my nights crying and bruised and in mortal fear. The first night on campus, I actually got a good night’s sleep despite the loud music playing in the dorm next door. I look forward to going to class. After some thought, I decided to major in Italian Studies, in honour of my grandparents.
Outside of class, I was working out and preparing for competition. I weighed 210 lbs at competition level, and 230 outside of that. I took steroids, but mercifully I never went into ‘roid rage. I balanced competing with school and various short-term jobs. I won competition after competition, but I could not make a living at bodybuilding because I was not yet a pro. I received bursaries (scholarships) and other forms of financial aid, but I still wanted to make and save money.
My jobs included security work at conventions, data entry, promotional gigs at gay events, and stripping at bachelorette parties. I never got any gay bachelor party gigs, though, even when Canada legalized gay marriage in 2003. But I had plenty of sex, but always with guys who were gay or bisexual. I never have slept with and I don’t plan on sleeping with straight men. The recent rise of straight male-fetish gay porn makes me uneasy. One weekend, I went to the Arnold Classic in Cleveland, which was my first time in the United States. I hooked up with two hot black muscle gods, who were in the competition at the time. They said that they were gay, but did not express that to anyone else. For obvious reasons, they will remain nameless for the protection of the satisfied. We had a good time, and on Sunday night, I had sex with them in their hotel room. I won’t delve into the explicit details, but let’s just say everyone was versatile that night. I still keep in touch with them, to this day.
Despite my randy appetite for sex (and I always played safe), I wanted a boyfriend. I didn’t want to end up lonely. One spring day in 2002, I was at Tim Horton’s and I met Evan Smart by chance. We ordered the same thing: Boston cream donuts. He was a dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. Three years older than me, Evan was from Utah, and had stupendous metabolism, sandy-blonde hair, green eyes, and a strong and supple body. I was hooked on him almost instantaneously. For the next few months, we developed a friendship. He attended my competitions, and when I had the money, I attended his performances. He was such a demon on the stage, it was not even funny.
One night, against my better judgement, I was visiting my parents in Brampton. They had sold the house in Corso Italia and were living in a posh mansion on a cul-de-sac. Charlotte was no longer at home; after graduation, she moved to New York to become a model. I hadn’t been around my parents for over a year, and in my naïveté, I thought that absence would make their hearts grow fonder. Wrong. Joseph and Nadine were the same old “parents” that I had known, and they seemed almost relieved that my grandparents were gone. It was horrendous.
I drove back toward campus, my heart broken again. I pulled over on the highway and called Evan. When he picked up, he was in hysterics. His parents had called him and basically cut him out of the will. They had told him that no one in the family would ever come in contact with him, on penalty of excommunication from the Mormon Church. Evan had been trying to bridge the gap between him and his family, but it failed.
I went over to his apartment, and we commiserated together. It was a night of tears, tantrums, and trash-talking about our families. The next morning, we woke up holding each other. The rays of sun had hit his face and it set it aglow. It was beautiful. I fell in love with him at that moment.
Despite our busy schedules, we made time for each other. I continued to flourish at UT, and won the title in my weight category at the Canadian junior bodybuilding championships. We were the same height, and despite our obvious bodily differences, when it came to making love, we were on the same page.
In 2004, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Italian Studies. Evan was the only person close to me that showed up. I moved into his apartment and our relationship only grew from there. We were personally and professionally on the top of our games. Shortly after I graduated, Evan and I got engaged during the Pride Toronto weekend. Everything was going so well… and then tragedy struck again.
One night in August of 2004, Evan went out with some ballet friends of his to a bar. I stayed home and I was reading a book when I got a phone call from his friend Laura. She was in hysterics, and I was barely able to decipher her message: a gang had followed Evan and his friends, targeted him, and had beaten him up so badly that his face was beyond recognition. I immediately rushed to the hospital, and kept vigil over Evan for days until the doctors decided to pull the plug on him. When he finally expired, I lost it so bad that security had to escort me out of the hospital. Because I was not married to Evan, I had no legal status where he was concerned. He was cremated, and I had the solemn task of spreading his ashes at his favourite place: Little Norway Park, along the waterfront. He had been days away from receiving his Canadian citizenship. Ultimately, he received it posthumously.
I stayed in our apartment for months, only going out when really necessary. Eventually, the Smart family came to Toronto to collect his things, and they even took control of his finances. I could not afford the rent all by myself, so I was in effect homeless. I did not want to go back to Joseph and Nadine at all. But none of my friends and colleagues was able to put me up, so I had no choice but to move to Brampton.
I moved into their mansion, and the abuse resumed, though it was limited to once a week. I was careful for the most part to stay out of their way. Months after I came back, Charlotte was back in Canada. Her modelling career had ended in disaster; she tried out for America’s Next Top Model and was personally kicked out of casting by Tyra Banks herself for being a bitch. Back in the GTA, she was pregnant, single, and still heinous towards me. She moved to Mississauga and gave birth to a baby girl named Savannah. Afterwards, she resumed her career as a party girl, often joining Nadine on bacchanal trips to casinos and smoking, drinking, drug-taking, and partying up a storm. She even tried out for Canada’s Next Top Model, but she failed a drug test and was banned from all Canadian reality shows for five years.
Joseph continued to do law in his semi-retirement, and every woman who crossed his path. He developed a reputation for getting his clients off the hook, even if the evidence pointed squarely against them. He did everything short of murder and baby-eating, and not once was his licence threatened with being revoked.
To cope with the pain, I began abusing over-the-counter pills. Tylenol, Advil, whatever generic pills I could find at the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart; if I could afford it and if it could dull the pain, I bought it. My stomach was pumped many times. I also had nervous breakdowns, including an incident at a bachelorette party, where I just couldn’t take it anymore and left in a hurry. I left the company the following day, and I also gave up competitive bodybuilding. Things were just spiralling out of control. The yelling, the beatings, the suicide attempts, the pain that my body and soul was going through… I feared that I was fated to die because of what my family had put me through. I feared that no one would love and support me anymore. I feared that I would die unloved and unnoticed. It wasn’t until the 6th of October, 2009, that everything changed. And it was my 28th birthday.