The Beautiful, Messy World of My Sex, Sexuality and Gender

The 'Younger' actor and poet explains why gender nonconformity is not a fad

My mom bought me my first Playboy in 2000. I was 12 years old, and it was the December Gala Christmas issue with pink neon-lit Carmen Electra lettering, the bombshell brunette perched in a silver ornament wearing nothing but sequined pumps. The sex oozed. I remember jokingly picking it up at the convenience store (not so ironically named The Family Pantry) just blocks from my house when my mom asked me if I wanted it. Without question, as a curiously libidinous adolescent, I said yes. Apparently, this really was The Family Pantry.

My name is Nico Tortorella and I am a gender non-conforming, happily married, polyamorous pansexual. In other words, I have always been a mouthful. My sexual freedom has always been a work in progress. Isn’t everything? Let’s unpack that. What is sexual? Is it in the physiological processes or does it relate to gender? Is it simply bodily or straightforwardly cultural? Is there a world in which it can be all of it plus more?Sexual starts with sex. And anything that starts with sex is going to be messy.
While the language we may use to describe ourselves is ever-changing, gender non-conforming people are not “new” nor are we a “trend.”
Through my own public education of sexuality and the queer community, I have begun to break down the binary construct of gender, male and female, and its emphasis on “division.” It is no secret that we are markedly divided here in the United States and abroad. Binary pronouns “he” and “she” tend to be divisive, which is one of the many reasons I have started using they/them pronouns for myself.

And when asked if my pronouns are plural I say yes: I am a multidimensional dynamic human being. We all are.

While the language we may use to describe ourselves is ever-changing, gender non-conforming people are not “new” nor are we a “trend.” Historically, in every corner of the world, multiples genders have been recognized, celebrated and worshipped by indigenous peoples. Because of colonialism and coercive religious indoctrination, alternative understandings of gender and sexuality have been demonized and erased.

Today, 71 gender options are available on Facebook. Everyday younger generations are rewriting terminology for identity and expression, and I can’t help but beam with pride. This isn’t a new fad; this is the reawakening of what has always been through the social media revolution.

ALL OF IT IS YOU, ALL OF IT IS YOU, ALL OF IT IS YOU.
This past December I wrote a book of poetry titled ALL OF IT IS YOU. In the transformational process of compiling a body of creative work, I unearthed the keenly intimate mantra: ALL OF IT IS YOU. It celebrates this oneness I speak of. It’s about the collapsing of binaries and divisions, the recognition of the simultaneity of everyone and everything. They won’t ever be able to silence me because they are me. No matter how magical. No matter how maniacal. Nothing exists without you. Everything that you are, sexual to asexual, everything that you feel, everything that you see, everything that you believe, everything that you don’t.

Okay, if at this point in reading y’all are wondering what the shit are they going on about? I got you. This is my freedom—freedom beyond the sexual. The ability to live queerly and unapologetically without fear of getting bashed or killed. The ability to recognize the privilege I have based on my appearance, my straight and cis passing-ness, where I was born, where I live, the color of my skin, the money I make, the marriage I have, the job, the celebrity, the everything. The oneness.
As much as I believe I live my life in verse, a lover of all tongue, it too can tend to be divisive. Words are as much the medicine as they are the weapon. I’m afraid that we, as human beings in the fields of social justice, have the tendency of getting caught up in the language of a movement rather than the cause or the effect. We are inherently afraid of what is unfamiliar and deemed “different.” It is important for all of us to submit to the unknowing of everything. My own freedom has come from a place of release, the power of letting go. All day, everyday, the mantra rolls through my mind.

ALL OF IT IS YOU. ALL OF IT IS YOU ALL OF IT IS YOU.ALL OF IT IS YOU IS THE YOU THAT IS IN EVERYTHING.

This is an offering from the universe. It has allotted me the recognition of my own entirety and the world's complexity at large. It has granted me the gift of reconciliation of just how complex sex, sexuality and gender will always be. No matter what. I love you all. No matter what.I still am not 100 percent sure why my mom felt so inclined to buy me that first Playboy except that she’s the coolest mom ever (and that she wanted me to be straight, but that’s another piece entirely). Fuck, I’m not 100 percent sure of anything. But I have an idea it was, is, and will forever be a step in the right direction. Thanks, mommy. And thank you, Carmen Electra.

Nico Tortorella currently stars on Younger, which just premiered its fifth season on TV Land. His book of poetry, all of it is you.: poetry, was published by Crown Archetype in April 2018 and is available now.

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