In Tête-à-Tête, L'Officiel USA gets into the celebrity psyche by asking stars to tell us what's on their minds right now.
If you’re a fan of Selena Gomez, Troye Sivan, and RuPaul’s Drag Race Rusicals, then you are a fan of Brett Leland McLaughlin, aka Leland. He does it all: songwriting, singing, producing, lecturing, composing and more, a virtuoso in every sense of the word. He’s lent his expertise to the two aforementioned legends for years, while also focusing on other ventures like executive producing the soundtrack to the buzzy Netflix film Sierra Burgess Is a Loser and releasing his debut single “Mattress.”
There are, however, many more facets to the Mississippi-born music man. He identifies proudly as gay, though navigating the path towards that self-discovery didn’t come so easy. Now, he’s making sure he does his homework so to speak, educating himself on America’s queer history, which he says is the least he can do, given the progress in society’s acceptance of queer people. Leland also co-wrote a song for the upcoming film Boy Erased, which deals with conversion therapy in America (also based on a true story). We caught up with Leland for our second Tête-à-Tête, wherein he chose to talk about queer History and conversion therapy.
On queer history:
I didn’t know who Harvey Milk was until the movie came out. Milk came out at a time when I was still coming to terms with my sexuality. Not so much acknowledging that I was gay, but to have a confidence in it, and understanding that it is okay and challenging family dynamics. I grew up in South Mississippi and I—still, to this day—as a 31-year-old, face interesting family dynamics and am hesitant to hold hands with whoever I’m dating in southern Mississippi. But so much work has been made. Living in West Hollywood, there is a whole wall acknowledging the LGBTQ+ history and the brave leaders who made all these sacrifices. I live next door to a place called French Market; I want to learn about the history there and the LGBTQ+ meetings and rallies that took place there because [that’s] not taught.
I moved to college and it never even crossed my mind who was gay before me because it wasn’t something that was pushed. I was only thinking about, How am I gonna come out to my parents? How am I going to come out to my grandparents? How are my friends from high school going to react? I’m on a personal mission, right now, to just inform myself about who came before me. I want to understand the privilege. I recognize completely as a white man, even though I’m gay, I still recognize the privilege—that I have [it], so I want to proactively educate myself on people that came before me, the sacrifices that they made, and [appreciate] the rights that I probably would not have right now if it hadn’t been for those sacrifices.
On conversion therapy:
I've co-written a new song for the movie Boy Erased with Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges called “Revelation.” [The movie] is about a [conversion] camp called Love And Action. I've seen materials for that camp twice in my life. Once, when I came out and it was given to me as a solution to being gay. When I came out, I was in a place where I was like, Fuck that! I am gay, I am proud, I know who I am, I have no doubt that I am in my sexuality. But I still received those materials as a “solution” from someone in my family to..."cure" being gay. Then, I saw those materials again when we were given the materials by the movie studio to write this song. It really fucked me up.
It came full circle. Instead of having to knock out arguments and screaming matches with my family saying "Why don't you see that I'm okay the way that I am?" I am glad that I have this movie and this song as a vehicle to hopefully have my parents sit down one day and see this movie, or have my aunt sit down one day and see this movie, and have that say everything that I've ever wanted to say. Gay conversion therapy is still legal in much of the United States.
On where he is now:
I have found more confidence in exploring aesthetics and being creative in my songs. It really comes down to just using male pronouns and not having insecurity about that—those insecurities simply don't exist anymore. I am very grateful to be making music [that] is getting a positive response. When we made Bloom with Troye, it never even crossed my mind to think "Don't use a male pronoun" or "Should I maybe not be too explicit with the lyrics?" Those thoughts never even crossed my mind because we were being true to Troye, we were being true to the story and...who gives a fuck! We're not making music for anyone else.
I want it to just be me. To express the feminine side of myself and to show that it's just instinctively there. I just want to feel fabulous and I want to feel confident. That true form of confidence that comes when I am authentically myself. It's taken me a long time to figure out how to channel that, or where that is, but now I feel like I'm at a place where I'm ready to just fucking go for it.