Tyler Marcil grew up in a town nestled between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The oldest of five siblings in a working-class family, they lived within a colorful community of church-going gossips and neighborly get-togethers.
Tyler knew he was different from the age of 6, when he developed a crush on a married man in his community and shamelessly carried out flirtatious prank phone calls. In this same year, he was accosted – classmates violently acted out their dominance and anger over his differences, especially his preference for feminine playthings and the cadence of his speech.
He grew up picking out outfits for his mother to wear to work, and doing her hair and makeup. He moved to LA, where he danced ballet, jazz, and hip-hop. He worked as a hair stylist and makeup artist, and he dreamed of becoming an actor, but he gave up that dream in the 1990s when he was diagnosed with HIV.
Tyler didn’t start writing until much later, when an idea for an elaborate story came to him – he wrote this story on and off for years with a dear friend, but after their falling out, he became deeply depressed. He sought help at Seattle Counseling Services, and his therapist recommended Path with Art.
He soon began attending Teaching Artist Scott Driscoll’s writing class. At first, he had terrible writer’s block – he couldn’t respond to the prompt, got stressed out, and doubted himself and his abilities. He emailed Scott after the first writing session, saying he didn’t want to take up space in the class if he couldn’t write anything. But Scott reassured Tyler, encouraging him to listen to his own voice, to hear the power and beauty of his own words, and to continue. From that day forward, he was an hour early every Wednesday for class.
“This must be what God was doing – all these things that happened to me have happened to a lot of other people. And some other people can’t deal with it, they take their own lives, they don’t know how to seek help. But I deal with it. If I didn’t, then no one would get to read my stories… I hope my stories can help other people.”
At the 2017 Spring Voices showcase, Tyler told a story of his interactions with those experiencing homelessness in Seattle, and how it brought him back to a time in his early 20s when he was living in New Orleans. He lost his housing, and a friend invited him to stay in a home that was being renovated – half of the walls and floors were missing. He had basic plumbing and a place to sleep, but not much else. He stayed there for six months while working at a department store and saving up enough to find a more suitable place to live.
He had all these stories stored up inside of him around his trauma – about his physical and sexual abuse, becoming infected and living with HIV, living in poverty, and walking through life facing both overt and subtle acts of racism, even in the most ‘progressive’ places.
When speaking to family members now, they ask if he’s moved past the things that have happened to him, if he’s gotten over his depression. He says the question should really be, “Are you still consumed by this?” Tyler’s answer is both yes and no. He still has his bad days, but things are becoming less consuming than they used to be.
Tyler is currently working on two books – one memoir and one novel – translating and transcribing the challenges of his experiences into work he can share with those who are also struggling.