When Raciel Castillo first heard about Tracy Morgan’s notorious recent stand-up routine in Nashville — where Morgan said that being gay was a choice and that he would stab his son if he came home with another man — the 19-year-old was taken aback. “I was disgusted,” Castillo told us. “What he said was really insensitive, especially now, with a lot of young teens committing suicide or that don’t have a home. It’s because of things like this, little slurs like this.” Castillo knows about that firsthand: After he came out at age 12, he was bounced from his house, shuttled between family members, and was bullied so badly that when he arrived at New York’s Covenant House, a safe shelter for homeless or runaway youth, “I actually had to lie and say I was a trans woman because I was afraid of being bullied on the boys’ floor,” he recalls. So when Morgan spoke with Castillo today at a meeting facilitated by GLAAD at the Ali Forney center, the teenager had to take a deep breath to prepare. “Before I met him, I had to center myself, because this is not about me, it’s not about Tracy,” Castillo says. “It’s a bigger issue, and I had to keep that in mind.”
Morgan has apologized for his routine, and he continued to during the hour-long meeting today — it’s part of an amends tour that will continue this Tuesday, when Morgan returns to Nashville to apologize to the people whom he offended with his act. In addition to Castillo, Morgan met with 20-year-old Jayden Love, who was thrown out of her strict Jehovah’s Witness family when they learned about her sexuality, and Elke Kennedy, whose son Sean was killed by anti-gay violence four years ago.
“He was visibly very moved by that,” says Sharda Sekaran, director of news and field media for GLAAD. “I think he was relating to her experience as a parent. He was putting himself in her shoes, getting that late-night call that no parent wants to get.”
Castillo says that Morgan mainly listened and apologized. “He manned up and took full responsibility for what he did, which I really, really appreciate,” he says. “I’m just waiting to see what he’s going to do with it now that he’s been a little more educated.”
While acknowledging that “this matter is so big that an apology will never be enough,” Love says that she still has some compassion for what Morgan has been through, even if Morgan is just starting to understand her own plight. “I think about the whole Anthony Weiner scandal and then this … they’re humans,” she said. “Celebrities and people in politics, they’re humans. A lot of times we forget that, and it’s really sad that we do.”