It’s a philosophy I created a few years ago when I decided to venture back to music after over a decade as a school teacher. What I have learned in my lifetime is things are not always black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, or gay and straight. We are all on a journey. We all have a story to tell and a quest to complete. This is mine.
As a child in New Jersey, I loved music. I loved musicals. I performed as a singer anywhere and everywhere I could. I was an odd bird, an old soul singing Sinatra, Sammy, and Streisand in my elementary talent shows. I will never forget the first time I was bullied because of who I was. It was in the boy’s bathroom where my name and a homophobic slur was spray-painted on the wall. I did not dare say a word at home, to my friends, or to my school. I didn’t even know what it meant, and have often wondered why I was the target. So many children get bullied on a daily basis for just being who they are. These early traumas leave lasting scars on too many of our young people.
Fast forward to my freshman year of high school, where I got deathly ill. I fell victim to meningitis caused by chronic Lyme Disease. Suddenly my little singing career, socialization at school, and my pretty normal childhood were all flipped on their heads. For the next four years, I battled my disease with antibiotics, hyperbaric oxygen treatments, doctors, medicine, and a total lack of the “teenage” experience. I didn’t have a first date, a crush, or a kiss.
When I was seventeen and finally healthy, I got my first part-time job at a local performing arts center selling tickets. That’s where I met her. She was the most dynamic and enchanting person I ever met. There was something about her that just struck me. I fell in love and never looked back.
We spent sixteen years together being best friends and building a life. I gave up singing, became a teacher, and got my principal’s license. We got married. I thought all the boxes were checked, and I would live “the American Dream” with the white picket fence, the dog, and the 2.5 children. But as time went on, our marriage started to deteriorate. Long soap opera short, we separated, eventually getting a divorce.
This was not in the plan. I was so lost, scared, and confused. I had no idea what I was going to do next. After much counseling and support, I realized that music/acting is where my heart lived so I jumped back into it feet first. I stayed single for about three years, lost a lot of weight, and got my mind and life together.
That said, I knew there was one more piece of business I needed to finish: my personal life. What would my future look like? Part of me thought I would be alone forever. I was too afraid to confront what I would find if I went digging. I was in the midst of a production of the musical Rent when those words “No Day But Today” just kept haunting me. It was time to face my sexuality head on.
I decided to tell my parents, family, and friends something that I had been struggling with. I was a member of the LGBT community. For the most part, I received a ton of love. There are a few people who chose to see their way out and that too is okay. It was the scariest and most liberating experience of my life. Since then, I have had the privilege to hear students, fellow friends, and others on their own coming out journey, and ask for my advice. It’s a job that I don’t take lightly, but one that I am incredibly honored to take.
Now, not only did I get to sing about the experience of coming out and dealing with sexuality with family in my new single “I Think He Knew”—by Matt Gould & Griffin Matthews on my upcoming album release Unfinished Business—but I’ve also been able to have a healthy relationship with a wonderful partner, find support and love with my friends and family. I even get to have my ex-wife as the best friend she has always been. I guess you can have it all. There is so much love out there that sometimes you just need to show it. Life goes on and gets better.
I implore you to think of something that you want to do but the fear is holding you back. Sit and think of the people in your life that you look up to. Use their example to propel you to the most authentic you that you can be. Tackle those dreams, quiet the fears, and finish that work.
Robert Bannon has been dazzling audiences on the stage and screen for years, his emotive and powerful vocals and knack for comedy bringing people by turns to tears of emotion, laughter and elation, and always to their feet. Now, the accomplished and lauded cabaret singer and Saturday Night Live actor is about to release “Unfinished Business,” his debut album set for release July 2, 2021 on all streaming platforms.