by Ruby Comer
Hip-hop singer Trent Park was raised in Syracuse, New York, comes from a Mexican mother and a Black father and both are ministers. Amen! He’s gay, went to an all-white private Christian school, and has a family member who is living with HIV. How did all that play out for my friend?
Well, his past has strengthened and inspired him, thank you very much. Trent learned early on to hide his feelings and become a chameleon. As he says, “I played the part, switching constantly to appeal to the crowd I was hanging around.” Not fun, kids. He played the straight man until after he graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles in his mid-twenties.
The highly educated man, thirty-two, has an undergraduate degree from Le Moyne College in British Literature with a minor in Philosophy, and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Holy Names University in Oakland, California.
In Los Angeles, Trent not only blossomed as an individual but his music did as well. He came out to his parents in his early thirties, just a little over a year ago, and there was only a slight twinge of conflict. They’re still in the stage of orchestrating the full picture, but Trent is certain that the love between them will endure, which is what he was taught.
The positive family member’s HIV-positive serostatus was not talked about during Trent’s youth, though Trent knew this relative was gay. (He prefers not to divulge their identity.) It wasn’t until Trent opened up with his parents that they revealed this person’s HIV status. Trent was thunderstruck. Since then, Trent has reached out to them and they are currently having conversations.
How does Trent remain sane? Simply put, his music. Trent’s latest hit, “Scare Me Most” is available on Apple Music, Spotify, and all digital platforms. His video is available on YouTube. Trent attributes many artists for inspiration, but Frank Ocean, in particular. His diva choice is Prince. Whitney runs a close second.
Since the singer enjoys long walks or drives during sunset hour, we have a late afternoon outing at an abandoned Hollywood Bowl. Yep, empty for months, due to COVID, it’s rather creepy sitting in the vast (over 17,000 seats) audience. The sky is a show-off blue with streaks of crimson on the horizon.
Ruby Comer: Peaceful, huh? I only hear a bit of swooshing traffic on Highland, interspersed with some bird tweets. Let’s hit the deck running, Brother. Where did you first hear about the epidemic?
Trent Park: It was in sex education classes when I was a teen.
Ah, ha. That’s excellent.…and you are now talking to your relation who’s living with HIV….
Yes I am. We casually talk and check in with each other. I want to reconnect with him and hear his story. [He states in a breezy tone, with a buzz.]
It’ll be fascinating to learn about the epidemic from his perspective! [He nods ardently.] You came of age after HIV meds were discovered, but even so, having unprotected sex could lead to HIV infection. So here you are a teen, with raging hormones. How did you handle that?
I didn’t have sex as a teenager. I wasn’t out in my sexual identity until my mid-twenties.
Cool, daddie-O. I don’t hear that often. [Trent continues.]
It wasn’t until after college when I moved to the West Coast that I finally met people that looked like me. I saw black gay music industry professionals, fully open with their sexualities and living the life I wanted to live. [He takes a few seconds, recalling the stimulating freedom he felt. He then shouts out calmly…] It was the coolest thing, Ruby, and it really helped my confidence to grow so that I could walk boldly in my truth.
You’ve learned a lot along the way. When you came out to your parents, did they express concern that you might acquire HIV?
I’d like to keep that private, Ruby.
Of course, Trent. [He offers a wistful smile with a nod.] I wanna know what do you do when you get down?!
Depression for me takes many colors, Ruby. There are times when I want to be around people and dance the pain away. There are times when I want to walk alone sipping a cuppa coffee. There are times where I am in bed, order pizza, and watch Netflix.
Bravo, to your last choice! I relate. When’s the last time you cried?
I had a deep cry the weekend of the George Floyd killing. I never felt such evil energy in my entire life. There was such darkness over this nation. Being a black empathetic person I soaked up all those vibes and I woke up with this gut cry that I haven’t ever experienced before.
Ah, yes, that primitive shriek. [A moment of silence passes.] I know it well, releasing that kind of angst during memorials I attended from friends who died from AIDS-related causes. [I take a hard breath.] The George Floyd situation is beyond tragedy, Trent. It reminds me of the civil rights movement during the sixties revolution. I get very impatient with people’s bigotry and hypocrisy.
It felt like I was crying for my ancestors: for my dad who had terrible racist things happen to him, to my grandparents, to my future kids, for myself. I just felt all of that emotion in a minute. It was overwhelming, but there was a healing that came after. It allowed me to bring a new perspective to my music. I went protesting that same week and recorded a chant on my phone that I ended up using on my latest track,“Don’t Take My Life Away,” singing on the Black Lives Matter movement. To this day of releasing the song and music video I get comments on social media saying that it has helped people cope with the insanity that’s happening. I hope it can be the light forever.
Send more light, Trent—please! Say, tell me about your first time testing for HIV.
Oh, Ruby, I remember so well getting tested for the first time. I always had been a paranoid teenager diagnosing myself with fake ailments that I thought were oh so real. I tested first at a doctor’s office and I remember being so scared to ask [for the test]. The doctor responded so nice and normal that I didn’t feel weird. That situation made it so much easier from then on. I wish doctors would just [automatically] provide HIV testing without being asked during routine checkups.
Tell me about your dating life….
[He chuckles and then becomes serious.] My dating life is non-existent. [He pauses.] Not long ago I did give my number to a great guy who divulged his positive undetectable status, but he never called me.
That’s a bummer. What’s your opinion on PrEP?
I think PREP is amazing and I support it. 2020 was the year of no contact so I’m only on multivitamins and fish oils.
2020 has indeed been a catastrophic zero! When you do date, how do you bring up the topic of HIV?
I am lucky that it’s never planned, as it always comes up within the first initial convos. I think I gravitate to a self-assured type person so we both always have an element of transparency.
That’s healthy. You do have wonderful energy.
I find that the L.A. dating pool is shallow and is a smog of uncommitted guys. I like to develop relationships that will become ride or die type. [He radiates positivity.] If anyone reads this and it resonates, I’m single. Hit me up! [He chuckles.]
C’mon now, Trent! Give me one word to describe you.
[He ponders, raises his tight fist, then yells] Next Up!
Okay then. Nice. Who’s your role model?
[Trent hesitates.] Honestly, I hope this doesn’t come off weird…but I’m the person I look up to. I’ve had a crazy journey and to operate in sanity and kindness after my past is an amazing thing. I hope to continue to push myself to be my own hero and hopefully inspire others along the way.
You already have, Trent. Talk a bit more about your “crazy journey.”
Growing up, I had identity issues to deal with—ethnic and sexual. Being called out for them created confusion, which leaked into my confidence and esteem. I am proud to be mentally and emotionally peaceful.
How grand, Trent. That’s quite an accomplishment.
What I know today is that being a cocktail of minorities makes me special——and it’s that unique perspective that I look forward to serving.
With an attitude like that, you serve others, as well. How was it growing up in a Christian home?
[He takes a calm inhale, and beams.] Ruby, honestly I am so glad I did. The one ethic I learned was to love yourself, and to love others as yourself. Developing this at a young age was a staple of identity that allowed me to really become empathetic. [He flashes those inquisitive brown eyes that pierce directly into mine, and closes on a serious note.] My parents are the hardest working people ever and to see them give everything to help others really changed my life for the better. I…love…them——and they love me.
Trek over to Trent at www.TrentParkMusic.com.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].