UT alumnus and star of Moonlight discusses healthy masculinity, sexuality with UT students

Reagan Ritterbush

Trevante Rhodes once walked the streets of Austin as a student. Now, he’s returned as the star of an Oscar-nominated film.

Rhodes, a UT alumnus and actor in the 2016 movie “Moonlight,” visited UT on Thursday night after a screening of the film at Hoggs Auditorium to discuss his recent movie and to open up a space for students to talk about healthy masculinity.

“Moonlight” chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood while struggling with issues related to drugs, race and sexuality. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, the film has received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“It’s a story about all of us,” Rhodes said. “I know people in my life who have gone through moments like the ones in ‘Moonlight’ and knew I had to be a part of something
so beautiful.”

Rhodes said the film encourages people to discuss individuality, especially during a time when it is hard to be unique.

“On its best foot, the film allows us to be the individuals we strive to be without fear,” Rhodes said. “Everybody has to learn to love themselves. Love is the most important thing we have.”

Rhodes also spoke about the issues of masculinity and sexuality and how the film gave him an important opportunity to learn about problems he never dealt with as a child.

“I was gifted to have a mother who told me to be myself and never fear who I was,” Rhodes said. “But there are some people who don’t see themselves in a positive light because of the way other people view them. I believe conversations and films give us an opportunity to
explore how people deal with the labels placed on them.”

Undeclared freshman David Lunan said he enjoyed learning about the struggles involved with being a gay man of color in this current political climate.

“This film really touched on the social justice politics surrounding the U.S. right now,” Lunan said. “It was interesting to witness the portrayal of
minorities in a loving light.”

Management information systems junior Oby Umelloh said seeing how Rhodes’ character learned to cope with the world he grew up in and how he came to terms with being gay really impacted her.

“This movie was a learning experience for me,” Umelloh said. “It was astounding seeing how someone’s world shapes how they deal with situations and life in the future.”