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How long have you been driving for Uber? Just for a little while. I’m actually a musician. But my tour got cancelled. Why’s that? ... I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this... **** The first time I spoke with Trey Pearson was through a rearview mirror. I’ve made it a habit—a pretty natural [...]
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How long have you been driving for Uber?

Just for a little while. I’m actually a musician. But my tour got cancelled.

Why’s that?

… I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this…

****

The first time I spoke with Trey Pearson was through a rearview mirror.

I’ve made it a habit—a pretty natural one as a storyteller—of chatting up my drivers since Uber took over the city’s social bus driver role, and there’s been plenty to dig into. The retired Air Force officer who smelled like Drakkar Noir. The catering chef who let me sing Lauryn Hill songs with her on my birthday. The out-of-town cop making weekend money to stash away for his daughter’s college fund. None stuck with me the way Trey did.
Just a few minutes before I departed for some assorted happy hour, Trey, arching his neck and speaking once more into the rearview, said something that bounced around in my head for the rest of the night, and to be honest, for several months after:
“I’m gay, and one of the only people who knows is my wife.”
On the balance, a story of a man coming to terms with his sexuality and coming out of the closet is no bombshell, especially not in a progressive city such as Columbus—but Trey wasn’t just a musician—he was a bona fide rock star.

Since 1997, he’s been the core of Everyday Sunday, a highly successful alternative outfit who’s sold hundreds of thousands of records, scored multiple #1 singles on the national radio charts, toured all 50 states and 20 countries, and signed to a reputable label in Nashville.

A Christian label.

We’ve taken pride in the carefully curated stories that appear in (614) Magazine every month, but in some cases, the story chooses you. Over the next five months, Trey and I maintained contact, sometimes just to play arcade games or have a beer and watch the Cavs, both aware that we had been placed in each other’s path for a reason.

With me, Trey is not a rock star; he’s an articulate man in his early 30s, not only confronting his own sexuality and how it will affect his family, but also shedding part of a persona he’s been maintaining for almost two decades, on stage and off.

This is not a normal story. Trey and I decided to tell this story together, for him to come out not just to his family and a handful of friends, but to the masses—where he could become a model and mentor for thousands in his musical flock still searching for acceptance and clarity within their faith.
Days before this article was printed, he walked into my office, and through tears, read me a copy of the letter he carefully penned for those closest to him, his words fragile and bold at the same time; a declaration of freedom for a man trapped in a life that wasn’t fully his to lead.

Here in these pages are passages from that letter, backed with Trey’s own perspective on coming to terms with it all.

“Most of us reach at least one pivotal moment in our lives that better defines who we are. These last several months have been the hardest—but also have ended up being the most freeing months—of my life. To make an extremely long story short, I have come to be able to admit to myself, and to my family, that I am gay.”

TP: There is a weight that has been lifted, and I have never felt so free. I cannot even believe the joy and lightness I feel from being able to accept myself, and love myself, for who I truly am … but I have also lost some of the closest people in my life. I have felt betrayal by people I loved a lot, and cared so much about. I have had some church people act like the worst people I have ever experienced in my life. I have some people in my life who I have felt a shift in the way they love me, and the way they see me. I want to be loved for who I am, not in spite of who I am. I’m starting over in so many ways. It is freeing, but it’s also starting out lonely.

Trey Edits-7

Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

“I grew up in a very conservative Christian home where I was taught that my sexual orientation was a matter of choice, and had put all my faith into that. I had never before admitted to myself that I was gay, let alone to anyone else. I never wanted to be gay. I was scared of what God would think and what all of these people I loved would think about me; so it never was an option for me. I have been suppressing these attractions and feelings since adolescence.  I’ve tried my whole life to be straight. I married a girl, and I even have two beautiful little kids. My daughter, Liv, is six and my son, Beckham, is two.”

Part of me feels guilty about it. But I wouldn’t change it. So much of me has so much heartache that I couldn’t grow up loving myself for who I am. I could not accept myself. I was so scared that God would hate me. That all of the people I loved wouldn’t see me the same way. I couldn’t allow being gay to be an option. I just hoped and prayed, with everything in me, that I could just be straight—that I could be attracted to women, and that it would all work. I tried. I have two kids. I wouldn’t trade everything in the world for them. They are a huge part of how I have made it through all of this. They are everything to me.

“I had always romanticized the idea of falling in love with a woman; and having a family had always been my dream. In many ways, that dream has come true. But I have also come to realize a lot of time has passed in my life pushing away, blocking out and not dealing with real feelings going on inside of me. I have tried not to be gay for more than 20 years of my life. I found so much comfort as a teen in 1 Samuel 18-20 and the intimacy of Jonathan and David. I thought and hoped that such male intimacy could fulfill that void I felt in my desire for male companionship. I always thought if I could find these intimate friendships, then that would be enough.Then I thought everything would come naturally on my wedding night. I honestly had never even made out with a girl before I got married. Of course, it felt anything but natural for me. Trying not to be gay, has only led to a desire for intimacy in friendships, which pushed friends away, and it has resulted in a marriage where I couldn’t love or satisfy my wife in a way that she needed. When Lauren and I got married, I committed to loving her to the best of my ability, and I had the full intention of spending the rest of my life with her. Despite our best efforts, however, I have come to accept that there is nothing that is going to change who I am.”

Lauren… Lauren is a beautiful soul. I love her so much, and I am so grateful to have been able to see her grow the way she has. We were on a journey together, and she was always willing to follow me, in my journey of faith, questions and exploring. I think we have both grown so much in the last 10 years together, and being married for 7 and a half of those. And when I needed her in this, she was able to hug me, and cry, and tell me how proud of me she was for being able to be honest with myself. I knew then it didn’t matter what anyone else thought, or did to me. I knew then that I had been set free.

I am never going to be able to change how I am, and no matter how healthy our relationship becomes, it’s never going to change what I know deep down: that I am gay. Lauren has been the most supportive, understanding, loving and gracious person I could ever ask for, as I have come to face this. And now I am trying to figure out how to co-parent while being her friend, and how to raise our children.

I have progressed so much in my faith over these last several years. I think I needed to be able to affirm other gay people before I could ever accept it for myself. Likewise, I couldn’t expect others to accept me how I am until I could come to terms with it first.

I know I have a long way to go. But if this honesty with myself about who I am, and who I was made by God to be, doesn’t constitute as the peace that passes all understanding, then I don’t know what does. It is like this weight I have been carrying my whole life has been lifted from me, and I have never felt such freedom.

So many of us live in fear. Most of the time it is fear of what we don’t know or understand. As much as I love Jesus, it is hard to see white, male pastors instill this fear of ignorance—who won’t even have the humility to have the conversation, to try and understand, when they don’t realize how damaging what they are doing is for so many people. It’s so easy when you have never had to be the minority, or the oppressed, or haven’t had to know what it’s like to not be able to be who you are. Maybe it is your church, your family, or your culture where you live that keeps you living in fear. But it’s not honest. That’s what creates the bubble so many people hate about church: the lack of honesty when it comes to questions about faith. The vast majority of people are tired of that. Faith can be a beautiful thing. But it has to start with honesty.

Trey Edits-22

Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Part II – Looking Forward

How would you like to characterize what brought you to this moment? 

Being gay was never an option for me. I knew I had attractions. I knew how difficult it was for Lauren and me. But I never allowed myself to dwell on it. I knew I had a family, including my unbelievable kids. So I just had decided it was good enough, the way things were. I thought I could continue to find a way to make it work. I kept hoping it would get better, even though it had been seven and half years. Apparently, friends that I have been close to over the years have thought that I was gay, but no one ever talked to me about it. Think about that. No one has, lovingly, ever said, “Trey, do you think you might be gay”? That is part of what I mean by the lack of honesty so much of the church creates. It’s so taboo to talk about it. And we just think we were told it wasn’t natural, so we hope it just goes away.

I found one of your old tweets expressing sympathy over a gay teen telling her Christian parents they were gay. Years before your coming out, that part of your heart, does that play into why you feel a willingness to come out in such a public way? As a follow-up, do you think despite more overall acceptance and love toward the LGBTQ community within the Christian community there is still a dangerous level of rejection that can lead to self-harm, alcohol or drug abuse, etc.?

Part of it may stem from my own realization of how difficult my journey was going to be once I got married, but I honestly think it comes to deeper parts of my faith journey, my understanding of God and Jesus, that had allowed me to accept and affirm gay people as loved, children of God, made in God’s image, years ago. I know this is how God made me, and I am proud of who I am. I know there is nothing I can do to change it. Because I have worked through so many of these questions before accepting this for myself, I feel like it has made it that much easier for me to get through this, know that I am loved by God, and want to be a voice to tell others that they are as well. It feels like a calling. And it is the thing in our culture that must change, just like so many things have had to change before in culture, and in the church, from slavery to women’s rights … this is the pressing issue of our time. People commit suicide over this. People lose family and friends because of the ignorance, and lack of acceptance. I am a part of this, I have been a victim of this, and I will speak out for the equal rights of all people.

I also saw one of your quotes in another interview, where you reference a “system in place to sell albums [that] has a very narrow view of belief that they want to promote to their consumers.” Does this story and moving forward in your music give you a chance to change or affect that?

I don’t know. I never liked the formula of what record labels were looking for in the Christian music industry to sell albums. I feel like we always tried to be true to who we wanted to be. And I still want to do that. Be true to who I am, and what kind of music I want to do. I never wanted to just make music for Christians, or Christian radio, but I have always wanted to be honest in my music. A lot of being honest in my music is talking about my faith, but it’s also talking about all kinds of other things. I plan to continue to do all of that. I realize a lot of gate holders in that industry may want to never play my songs again, due to fear—but I also think the world is changing—and I think there are a lot of people out there that want to be a part of this conversation. So, wherever people are willing to listen to my music and my story, I will go.

Did any of these things ever find their way into your lyrics? Is that something you can reflect on now, whether you were trying to find some meaning between art, self, and church?

In these last several months, it is very interesting for me to go back and listen to my own lyrics on a lot of my songs. I can recognize my own pain and searching in many of the songs that very much have to do with what I am coming to accept in my own life now.

Do you worry about what the fans will say? How many among them do you think may be grappling with the same crisis of self and faith, whether to do with sexuality or not?

No. I think anyone who wants to get honest with themselves will be willing to listen and will try to understand. I think most people are grappling with the same crisis of self and faith. Most young people leave the church out of high school; a lot of these people you talk to will tell you about the god they were handed, that they can’t believe in. And when you hear the stories of the way they were taught to believe in God, you realize that’s not a god you could believe in either.

It’s been an intense six months for Trey Pearson. He is making room for “normal” life priorities—like finding time to see the new Captain America movie at the renovated Grandview Theatre down the street from his new place. Now, faced with a new life—in addition to being a single dad, facing a new romantic world—he’s working on a new album, and this month he’ll play one of the most meaningful shows of his life, headlining Columbus Pride. In the meantime, his faith continues to evolve, not unlike the letter he’s been writing and re-writing since coming to accept himself as a gay Christian man. The last few lines from his letter tell us that he, is beyond anything, hopeful

In sharing this publicly I’m taking another step into health and wholeness by accepting myself, and every part of me. It’s not only an idea for me that I’m gay; It’s my life. This is me being authentic and real with myself and other people. This is a part of who I am.

I hope people will hear my heart, and that I will still be loved. I’m still the same guy, with the same heart, who wants to love God and love people with everything I have. This is a part of me I have come to be able to accept, and now it is a part of me that you know as well. I trust God to help love do the rest.

I’m not worried. I’m free. I feel like there is nothing to hide, and there is nothing left to fear. No one can do anything to me, because I have experienced this freedom, and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I hope more and more people can find the freedom to be honest with me as I continue to tell my story.

Everyday Sunday will be headlining the 35th annual Columbus Pride Festival on Friday, June 17 at 8:45 p.m. in Goodale Park. For more info, visit columbuspride.org. For more of Pearson’s music, visit treypearson.com and follow @treypearson on Twitter.

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Food & Drink

You’d be whack to miss the Mac & Cheese Fest this weekend

Regina Fox

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I've had the pleasure of trying loads of different foods in my life—some even from different continents—but I have to admit, mac and cheese is still one of my top picks. And so, it might sound cheesy, but the Columbus Mac and Cheese Festival has become one of my favorite events to attend.

The Columbus Mac and Cheese Festival at Easton Town Center features creative mac and cheese creations from some of the best restaurants in Columbus. Your ticket grants you entry to the festival and full access to samplings courtesy of the following restaurant partners:

The fest also features live entertainment, family-friendly activities, and beverages for purchase. Tickets are on sale now and start at just $25 for adults.

Proceeds from the event benefit the adolescent and young adult cancer program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. More than $210,000 has been raised through the Mac and Cheese Festival to date.

The Mac and Cheese Festival is going on this Friday, September 27 from 4pm- 8pm at Easton Town Center. Click here for more information.

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Food & Drink

Review: Matt & Tony’s dishes out classic comfort food in downtown

Regina Fox

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I've gotten to try a lot of interesting cuisine with this job, but it's rare that I get the opportunity to sample a mother's spaghetti recipe outside of my childhood home. This is the type of experience that Matt & Tony's Wood Fired Kitchen, which recently opened inside the former CBC Restaurant space, offers its guests.

At Matt & Tony's, you don't have to sneak off to the bathroom to Google what a menu item is so you don't look ignorant in front of your date, and that's what makes it so great.

The menu bodes familiar comforts like fried chicken, fish & chips, veal parmesan, and burgers. There's no proprietary flare or fancy sauce smears around your plate—it's all just damn good food.

I sampled Madeline's Spaghetti & Meatballs, which is straight from the cookbook of co-owner Matt Rootes' mother. The sauce was sweet and plentiful while the meatballs were hearty and succulent. I didn't want to gorge myself on the first entree, but I couldn't seem to stop twirling those perfectly-boiled noodles around my fork...

Next up was a Wood Grilled Steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli. I heard once that butter wasn't a carb, so I spread it on thick and cut myself a piece with a crispy fat edge—juicy, tender, and lean. I didn't eat all 12 oz., but I very easily could have.

The Fork N' Knife BBQ Ribs at Matt & Tony's are straight out of a BBQ fairy tale. This healthy helping of slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone meat is smothered in sauce and almost impossible to put down. You may not be excusing yourself to Google what you just nervously and unknowingly ordered, but you'll probably require a bathroom mirror to make sure you've wiped all the sauce off your mug after devouring these racks.

Feeling like Thanksgiving? Have a little alternative celebration for yourself with Matt & Tony's Half Roasted Chicken with crushed herbs and lemon butter. Slip into a food coma with the sides of potatoes and seasonal vegetable. Dream a little dream of country gravy (which can be found drowning the fried chicken dinner entree).

Rootes says he and his partner Tony Wildman chose to open Matt & Tony's to give the people of downtown an option for high-quality steaks and seafood at a reasonable price without all the "frou-frou." I, for one, think that's exactly what downtown needs.

While so many other restaurants are reaching for globally-inspired dishes made with ingredients you can pronounce, Matt & Tony's is executing classic comfort dishes you grew up on in a warm, inviting atmosphere—it's like a little slice of home on Short St.

Matt & Tony's is located at 525 Short Street and is open 11am- 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am- 11pm Friday and Saturday. Visit mattandtonys.com for more information.

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Sports

5 predictions for the 2019 Ohio State Football season from Eleven Warriors

Chris Lauderback

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In the upcoming September issue of (614) Magazine, Eleven Warriors provided us with Chris Lauderback's five predictions for the upcoming season. While this article was lightly edited for length, the full version can be found here. This article was originally published on Aug. 15, 2019 on Eleven Warriors website.

Just a few days away from Ohio State's season opener against Florida Atlantic, it's prime time for everyone to make your predictions for how things will unfold – mostly so you can be shamed at the end of the year for your wrongness. 

I've certainly endured my fair sure of not-so-hot predictions over the last couple years, but I always come back for more because, man, does it feel good when you get that one or two right, especially if you go out on a bit of a limb. 

But let's get to it. Drop your predictions in the comments after taking a look at my five prognostications for Ohio State's 2019 football season. 

1.) J.K. DOBBINS WILL RUSH FOR AT LEAST 100 YARDS IN 10 OR MORE GAMES THIS FALL

I feel like this is a pretty risky one right off the bat. 

All the preseason logic says Dobbins is ready to bounce back in a big way after a subpar 2017 season in which he ran for 1,053 yards but did so on just 4.6 yards per carry. 

He should benefit from the return of a dual-threat quarterback and the accompanying read options, the general vibe that running the ball will be of greater focus this season and of course the reality Ryan Day doesn't yet have a reliable second-string tailback to spell Dobbins. 

Dobbins will also be motivated to put on a show for NFL scouts in what could very likely be his last season in Columbus. 

So why is this prediction a stretch? 

Well, first of all, even in Dobbins's freshman season in which he ran for 1,403 yards on 7.2 yards per carry, he still only ran for over 100 yards in six of 14 games. Last year, he ran for over 100 yards in only three of 14 outings.   

In fact, if Dobbins can eclipse the century mark in 10 games, that would tie him with Archie Griffin for the fifth-most in a single-season in school history. If you're curious, Zeke (2015) and Eddie (1995) own the single-season school record with 12 each and Archie owns third-place with 11 in both 1973 and 1974. 

2.) JORDAN FULLER BECOMES SECOND SAFETY SINCE AT LEAST 1970 TO LEAD TEAM IN TACKLES IN BACK-TO-BACK SEASONS

Fuller tied outside linebacker Malik Harrison for the team lead in tackles last season with 81 total stops despite missing one game and getting ejected in another (Nebraska) after just 28 snaps played. 

Typically, it's not great news to have a safety lead the team in tackles, but even with Ohio State's defense expected to show some level of improvement from last year's tire fire, I still think Fuller has a solid chance to again lead the squad in stops. 

One chief reason for this logic is the fact Day has made no secret about his desire to feel comfortable rotating linebackers similar to how Larry Johnson maximizes his depth across the defensive line. Of course, the threat to Fuller here is assuredly Harrison because even with a rotational strategy, it's hard to envision him coming off the field too often. 

Another reason I like Fuller to repeat is because, like Dobbins, he's looking for a bounce back season of his own before heading off the the NFL. Dude will be hungry and if Ohio State's defensive alignment does feature more single-high safety looks than we've seen in the past, Fuller will be roaming center field looking to make things happen. 

So who is the safety to have already turned the trick of leading Ohio State in tackles in back-to-back seasons? Mike Doss accomplished the feat registering 94 stops in 2000 before backing that up with another 87 in 2001. 

Other safeties to lead the Buckeyes in tackles for at least one season include C.J. Barnett in 2011 and Damon Moore in both 1998 and 1996.

3.) WHILE THE GROUP WILL BE MUCH IMPROVED, THE BUCKEYES WILL STILL FAIL TO BE A TOP-25 TOTAL DEFENSE

After setting dubious records for most points and yards per game allowed last season, the general consensus is that an infusion of new defensive coaches, an altered scheme, and the return of just about every defender from last year will help the 2019 edition of the Silver Bullets get back on track. 

I subscribe to that logic for a few reasons, most notably because if we're being real, a group that gave up over 500 yards of offense three times and over 400 yards of offense nine times while surrendering an average of 403 yards per Saturday to rank No. 71 in total defense really can't do anything but improve.

I don't mean that sarcastically, just matter-of-factly. 

Looking at the last seven seasons, on average, for Ohio State to rank in the Top-25 for Total Defense it'll have to give up no more than 340 yards. 

That's certainly doable and I won't be shocked if the defense does shave over 60 yards from it's per game average, but I'll roll with the over and happily hope the group proves me wrong come season's end.

4.) OHIO STATE'S OFFENSE WILL FEATURE FIVE RECEIVERS WITH OVER 450 YARDS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SCHOOL HISTORY

Now this one really feels like a gamble. 

I should probably just go with 400 yards here instead of 450 since that's never been done by an Ohio State offense either, but go big or go home, right? 

Scanning the history books, only twice has Ohio State featured even four receivers in a single season with over 400 yards, doing so in both 2017 and 2018. And last year, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin became the only for receivers in school annals to all log at least 450 receiving yards in a single season. 

This year, I'm making a case that for the first time ever, Ohio State will feature five receivers with at least 450 yards. 

Since this feels like such a stretch, I'll even tell you the ranked order I expect for receiving yards, again with all going for at least 450: K.J. Hill, Chris Olave, Austin Mack, Garrett Wilson, and Binjimen Victor. 

(If Justin Fields gets hurt and misses more than one game, never mind.)

5.) OHIO STATE WILL WIN THE BIG TEN AND MAKE THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF, FINISHING 12-2 ON THE SEASON

If Ohio State did all of this in Ryan Day's first full season with a first-year starter at quarterback and a defense that gave up 25.5 points per game a season ago, I'd consider that a rousing success. 

Then again, I know everyone has different expectations for their favorite team. 

I wouldn't be surprised if Day was able to do even better than 12-2 with a CFP berth. I would, however, be surprised if the Buckeyes did lose more than two games. 

So where are those two losses? Like the last few years, it feels impossible to predict, but I do think at Northwestern on a Friday night could be problematic. I'm not really on the Nebraska train, but I will say it's not optimal to play the first roadie of the season in Lincoln in what could potentially be an 11:00 AM local start time. 

Either way, my gut says the Buckeyes drop a regular season conference game against a team not named Michigan and then pick up another in the CFP semifinal.

For more Buckeye coverage, check out Eleven Warriors at elevenwarriors.com.

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