‘On paper, to the naked eye, we look like a boy and a girl,’ says Nico Tortorella of his primary partner with Bethany Meyers. ‘But in every way, we’re very much in a queer relationship.’
Nothing sums up Nico’s point – and plays on his ‘straight-passingness’, as he puts it – better than his recent wedding photos.
In them, the handsome actor rocks the beard, biceps, tats and quiff for which he’s known around the world. (A look he broadly shares with Ben, the ‘very cis, very straight dude’ he plays on Darren Starr’s hit US TV show Younger.)
However the 29-year-old, who has described himself as bisexual and sexually fluid, also dons a ‘gown-inclusive’ tux in the pictures. Meanwhile, 32-year-old Bethany (who has identified as gay, with whom Nico is polyamorous) wears a dress ‘consisting of trousers’.
‘The best part of the day was that it was ours,’ the newlywed told us afterwards. ‘Fully encompassed. Exactly how it was supposed to be. Nothing more, nothing less. And that sounds like every other day we spend together to me.’
‘I’m going to spend the rest of my life with my soul mate’
Elaborating on their almost 12-year relationship before the wedding, Nico added: ‘We taught each other how to love, how to break. We’ve been every iteration of a relationship. Boyfriend and girlfriend, best friends, been separated, not talking while dating other people. We stumbled on what it meant to be polyamorous over the years as we keep finding each other in almost a ritual form. I’m going to spend the rest of my life with my best friend, my soul mate, my twin flame.’
Needless to say, hearing Nico talk about his relationship is fascinating. And also pretty beautiful – in fact, I can’t help falling a little in love with him myself over the course of the conversation…
‘In no way do we own each other,’ says the Scream 4 star. ‘We’re so in love that we have the ability to share that love with other people who come into our lives. For me it’s sacred, special. But I don’t think that’s necessarily what everybody needs or should have. It’s something that works for us.’
That said, the couple want to share their story and normalize so-say ‘unconventional’ relationships, whether through social media, interviews or Nico’s new book of poetry ‘all of it is you‘.
‘There’s zero polyamorous visibility in the world outside of polygamy and Islam’
‘There’s zero polyamorous visibility anywhere in the world outside of polygamy and Islam,’ says Nico. ‘And there’s nothing super positive that comes out of those narratives. It’s about fuckin’ time someone started talking about it. We’ve been taught for so long that love and marriage and the perfect soulmate has to look one specific way. It doesn’t. We’re here to change that.’
Here, Nico talks love, sex and relationships, his desire to be a father, the writerly process and trying Ayahuasca in Peru. Oh, and naturally, RuPaul’s Drag Race…
Hi Nico. What’s the most common misconception about your relationship with Bethany?
That we’re having sex with a bunch of random people all the time! I means, that’s with any polyamorous relationship, right. We both have desires outside our primary relationship. I’ve very much said I’m demisexual – I can’t have sex [if] I’m not emotionally invested. It doesn’t make sense for my energy.
Or, it’s that we’re always out with big groups of people… That’s not the case. I spend most of my time alone, honestly, if I’m not with her. I think, for me, the idea of polyamory is about emotional space. It’s about room in my life, whether in the moment or the future, to create a truly intimate bond with people. That doesn’t necessarily imply sex. I think sex is a byproduct of love.
‘Historically, the straight, white man has always been the first person to get a message across’
You’ve discussed the idea ‘straight-passingness’ before. Could you elaborate?
First and foremost, a lot of my audience and the world knows me as a character I play on television who’s a very cis, very straight dude. So that immediately, whether we like it or not, gives me a platform that’s a little larger. It makes me seem a way that is, quote unquote, ‘normal’ on television that’s approachable and super commercial. I mean, historically, the straight, white man has always been the first person to get a message across.
There’s absolutely a privilege that comes with that. It’s in the way I conduct myself and hold myself, and even my primary relationship, which is with a biological female and in one way or another [emphasises a sense of] straight-passingness. In many ways we’re very much gender-queer and don’t believe in the binary at all. But for the rest of the world, yeah, of course there’s a privilege.
With that recognition – and I’m not speaking for other people – there’s a responsibility to use that platform to spread a message that’s much larger than who I am, the relationship I have and what I do. If I can be a conduit for positivity and celebrating marginalized communities and relationships that don’t usually get the microphone, then I’m gonna fuckin’ do that as loudly as possible.
You’ve spoken before of your desire to carry a child. I’ve had that desire!
I would be pregnant all the time if I could. Honestly, and I don’t know if you believe in this, but it’s probably something stemming from some past life. If it’s coming in that strongly, you probably have been pregnant before.
How many kids would you like?
I don’t know why, but the number three has always stuck in my head. There’s something so special about that number. Nine is my favorite number but that’s way too many! But who knows. I can absolutely see us raising our own biological children, I could see us adopting at some point. Is the possibility of us having children with other people real? Yeah. There really are no specific restrictions on the future.
We’re playing it by ear. Whatever God wants to grant us and gift us, with any sort of life, we’re here to take care of it and nurture it.
‘So many people think being a bisexual is a pitstop to being gay’
You’ve spoken of prejudice you’ve experienced from within the LGBTI community. Could you elaborate?
Firstly, bi-phobia and bi-erasure’s one of the biggest problems in the community. There’s little to no positive visibility of any sort of bisexual character in TV or film.
Even inside of the communities, it’s the first to be lost out of the story. So many people think being a bisexual is a pitstop to being gay. That’s absolutely not the case for me and so many other bisexuals that I know. Pansexuals, fluid folk, whatever the term people choose to use.
I’ve dated other bisexuals and I’ve dated straight women and gay men. The most flack I get – and not necessarily flack but just confusion of acceptance – is from, specifically, cis gay men that can’t fathom that I can play in the spectrum of both gender and sexuality.
But I think the message of this conversation, the way I use the word ‘fluid’, transcends any gender behaviour or gender expression. To really shape-shift and to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be all the time – that changes who you’re surrounded by, the environment you’re in and where you are in your life. You can’t break something that bends.
What was the most important lesson you learned from writing your new book of poetry?
Well, I’ve never written a book before. I only had a couple of months to put it together. I wrote 300 pieces in 42 days. It was kind of me journalling. How it came out is pretty much how it looks in the book.
In that time, I was also in Peru doing Ayahuasca [a spiritual medicine] for a couple weeks. I’d never worked on something I had to be so dedicated to every day. For me the lesson is: anything’s possible, really. If you do the work. Not work in the sense of what our jobs are. It’s work on the self, self-awareness and channelling that to create art.
When you were in Peru, were you writing through that experience?
Oh yes. It’s funny actually. The way it worked was pretty serendipitous. I’d mapped out the entire book, every chapter. I had titles. It just so happened when I got to Peru I was writing a lot of the ‘Earth’ section. Everything from land to forest to medicine. It was exactly the time I working with this plant medicine.
Ayahuasca opens up parts of your brain you didn’t know existed. It shows you a world that’s so much more vast than the dimension we’re familiar with.
The way that I write, a lot of it’s very channeled – this might sound ridiculous, but I sort of black out. The words just come out. When I’m working with a plant medicine like that, it throws in a completely different frequency. It’s so special. I was in Peru the year prior doing the same thing but I wasn’t writing a book at that time. But I was familiar with the process.
The integration of working with plant medicine is specific but also confusing. It’s hard to go travel through all these other dimensions and come back to real life and have conversations with people about what happened. I think in poetry, specifically, there’s a way I can paint the experience in a way that’s more relatable.
I’d be up for trying it one day…
Honestly, I think about my life as before Ayahuasca and after Ayahuasca. It changed every relationship I have, with everyone and everything. It’s so beautiful.
‘It’s been a dream of mine to judge on Drag Race’
You’re a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race tomorrow [Thursday 5 April]. Who are you co-judging with?
Courtney Love! We did a movie last year [Menendez: Blood Brothers] and got close doing that so it made sense we guest-judged together.
What was it like?
Oh my god… incredible, it’s been my dream for so long. Just to, like, see the work room… I love that show so it was so special for me. It’s broken down so many barriers of the worlds of gender and expression. To be part of it in a small way is a dream.
What was your response to RuPaul’s comments about not let letting trans women compete on the show post-transition? Did you follow that debate?
Yeah, of course. I mean, I’m super attracted to queer news and queer politics. What’s my response? I think we all are human at our core. And we make mistakes. The most powerful act in the entire world is forgiveness. I think that has to come from first forgiving yourself, and then forgiving other people for their wrongdoings.
For me, the positivity that Ru has spread in the world far surpasses one comment. Even more so, it’s opening the conversation of what it means to be a drag queen, what it means to play on the gender spectrum. I forgive, and hopefully we can all move forward more educated.
What else are you up to this year?
I’m starting my second book right now. I’m shooting Younger season five right now, producing a bunch. I’ve co-created a few shows that are in pre-production. There’s an idea for a talk show in the works. There’s never a dull moment!