I’m Joey Suarez and I’m from San Antonio, Texas.
In Miami, Florida, when I was 8 years old, I was in 1st grade. And I was in Ms. Baker’s class. And we just had the DARE program come into our school, which were always middle school and high schoolers who were introducing things like drug abuse and all these subjects that were really important including sexual abuse. At the end of the DARE program, this was the last subject they actually said, because it was relevant to what they were about to pass out, which is an envelope. And the envelope is addressed to each and every one of us, by address, and it was addressed to our parents. After we got these letters, I knew I didn’t want to open it. I took it with me to find my brother and when I found my brother, this kid walked up to us and he asked us, with the letter in hand obviously out of the envelope, “Is this your dad?”
And before I had a chance to see what he was talking about, my brother grabbed me and pulled me away and we went home. I got alone into my room, I grabbed the letter, I open it and as I read it, it’s titled, “Sex Offenders List.”
And I’m going through these pages of people and I find my dad’s name under Alejandro Suarez. And it’s undoubtedly my dad because my father looks like me. I didn’t know it but he did. My sisters sat us down and individually told us what happened. They explained how they forgave him, how they got him out of jail for spending long amounts of time behind bars because they were taught, my family, to forgive.
So when my father went–my father who’s inside this Sex Offenders List–originally went to jail, my mother was left alone with seven kids. My grandparents from Argentina moved in with us on our beautiful piece of property that my mother lived on and worked for very hard. But my relationship with my grandfather was anything but normal compared to most people with grandparents. My grandfather’s relationship is what I was taught in DARE and in school as abusive, as wrong, and how I coped with all those questions in my head was music. I did that for years and even through all the abuse that lasted daily, hours, middle of the night, there wasn’t really a time I was safe except when I went to music, except when I was at school, except when I had a show, except when I was in rehearsal. That was my safety.
When I was 12 years old, my grandfather and I were walking home from school and I told him, I was like, “I think…I think what we’re doing is wrong. I think what we’re doing is just as wrong as what my dad did to my sisters and the same way he’s not here, you shouldn’t be either. And this, what we’re doing, is wrong. And I’m asking you to leave.”
One day, I woke up, and he just wasn’t there anymore. I didn’t know what happened. And for the first time in my life, my home was my sanctuary. And I, for the year and a half it lasted, figured out who I was.
When I was about 14 in 9th grade in San Antonio, Texas, I was picked up by my mom and my two sisters in our van. And they started railing me with those really hard questions of, “What’s wrong? Something seems to be bothering you.”
And I was silent. I wasn’t willing to confess. They took me home, sat me in our office, brought in my 5 brothers, sat them all beside me. My sisters left the room and my mom sat down, turned on the computer and said, “This is pornography.”
And it was gay porn. Obviously my mom knew it was me. I said it was me, and I started crying and they left the room, all my brothers. I took the opportunity to kind of let loose on everything else I had been thinking about. And I told my mom that I had been abused. And when she asked me who, I told her it was my grandfather. And I took myself to my piano that I had up in my room, this cheap little piano that was my life, and I began to play and I began to sing. And I felt relieved and I felt empowered and I began to cry myself.
Music is responsible for saving my life, as dramatic as that sounds. Because it was there every step of the way, through the envelope I got in class, through the times I went home, every morning I went to school, every time I went to rehearsal, every show I had to look forward to, to the day I came out of the closet, to the day my sisters told me that my father had abused them, and to this very day when we still talk about those things, it has triumphed every moment. It gives me pride. It gives me purpose. It serves as my distraction. It’s my home away from home. That’s–it’s everything to me.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can hear Joey’s music on his website: www.joeysuarez.com/music