Words: Tim Heap
When It Chapter Two hits cinemas next month, it will open with a homophobic hate crime scene starring openly gay actors Taylor Frey and Xavier Dolan.
It’s the first time the scene, included by author Stephen King in the original 1986 novel, has been shown on screen.
Speaking to Attitude’s September Style issue - which is available to order globally or download to any device now - Taylor explained that being part of it means a lot to him, given his own religious upbringing as part of the Mormon church.
Born into a strictly religious family, Taylor attended college at Mormon-only Brigham Young University in Utah to study theatre.
Students at BYU have to adhere to an honour code that is in line with religious teachings. Among many other rules, alcohol and drug consumption are prohibited, as is sex outside of marriage, and, therefore, homosexuality.
Where heterosexual students are allowed to date and kiss, the same activities among gay students would be a breach of the code.
Despite having repressed his sexuality and any urges to explore it, Taylor found himself being falsely accused of homosexual activity with a male friend from outside of BYU.
He was called to the honour code office, where a counsellor explained the accusation but wouldn’t divulge where it had come from.
After a week of waiting to find out whether he would be kicked out of school, he was cleared due to a lack of evidence.
“It’s the most incredible tattle-tale society,” Taylor says. “It's damaging and it's hurtful because you can be kicked out of school based on lies and rumours.
“I feel this fire in my chest when I speak about it because it was such a scary time for me, as trivial as it sounds. I know that I live in a first-world country and I have food on my table, I'm healthy and I have many blessings [but] those experiences have really done a number on me. I'm still trying to let it go.
“It's happened to a lot of people, some people weren't allowed to have their credits transferred, some people were close to graduating and were kicked out l and their degrees were withheld.
“That's why it's scary, especially for someone like me who wasn't out of the closet yet. I was afraid that had these accusations gone forward I'd have had to to tell my parents what they were about. That was horrifying.
“It was almost like I was being dragged through the mud. It was a witch hunt.”
Taylor had previously confessed about his homosexual thoughts and feelings to his religious leader, who had just advised he tried to forget about them.
Once, he was sent to a Mormon counsellor, who told him that homosexuality would 'ultimately lead to eternal damnation'.
“Those are such heavy words for a young minf. Eternal damnation? Let me get through junior high, for fuck’s sake," he reflects.
Desperate to get away from BYU, Taylor moved to New York to pursue a career in musical theatre, and soon landed a lead role in Hairspray.
He says: “Not to be a total theatre nerd, but there's this line from Wicked where Elphaba says that for the first time, she feels like she belongs.
“That's how I felt after a few months and I realised there were so many other people like me, and I wanted to be a part of the community.”
After accepting his sexuality himself, Taylor came out to his Mormon family.
“It took a second for my parents — they’re allowed that. But they called me and told me how much they loved me, and my siblings were on board so quickly, mostly.”
His experiences at BYU have shifted his relationship with religion, but Taylor — now married to fellow musical theatre actor and Nashville star Kyle Dean Massey — says his relationship with God has never been stronger or more authentic.
Kyle was raised Catholic, which Taylor describes as “its own set of trouble”.
“He was much quicker to toss out all that religious dogma. For me, it was much more difficult," he continues.
“I mean, when I was two, I was colouring very specific colouring books that are all about an eternal family; a man and a woman at the temple getting married.”