Ross Victory: the Bi Renaissance Man

By Jennie Roberson

June 19, 2024



Ross Victory stands as a shining example that you don’t have to choose between your artistic passions — and that, in fact, you can blend them. As an author as well as a singer-songwriter, Victory has led a sprawling and international life, all of which plays a part in the art he creates. From collecting library cards as a kid with his father, to getting Ne-Yo to lay down a track for him on a dare, to teaching in South Korea, every aspect of his fascinating life has played a part. 

Intrigued? I certainly was. I sat down with Ross to discuss various topics including his writing process, music, relationship with his father, coming out, activism, and sense of duty and service.

Jennie Roberson: How did you come to realize you were bi or queer?

ROSS VICTORY: I first knew that I was bi when I was 12 or 13. I didn't have the language for it; it was just a feeling. It’s as if one day I went to bed attracted to girls, and the next day I woke up and I was attracted to boys too. It sounds odd, but that's how I remember it. I grew up in a very religious home. We went to church multiple times per day. I never heard the word bisexual or bi, or knew that was a thing, until I was about 16 or 17.

What has it been like for you to be out as a bi artist?

Exhilarating. Freeing. Scary. I often double-take interactions with decision-makers, wondering if I’m being left on seen/read because I'm so loud and out and proud. It sometimes plays with my mind. But I feel it was the right decision because being out has provided me so much more content, lyrics, and opportunities in general as an artist.

How do you see yourself as an artist and how does being bi fold into that?

As an artist, I feel that my job is to make people feel something — be it joy, sadness, or laughter. The bi part is built in because when I think of bisexuality, for me it means imagination, freedom, and possibility. I also feel empowered to take people there. It's like human emotion: it's dynamic, fluid, forever changing. So that comes with me in everything I do — audiences get that built in.

Is there anything about yourself you’d like to share that might surprise people?

I grew up in a missionary family. So from a very young age, my parents were traveling the world, telling people about Jesus Christ and that type of thing. In many of the places I went, I saw a lot of suffering. A lot of poverty. It instilled in me a sense of public service. I’m always asking [myself:] “Why is this happening? Is there more to the story? How can I be compassionate? How can I try to understand someone else's story who doesn't necessarily connect with mine?” Some people might be surprised, I think, to learn that.

You worked as an English teacher before becoming an artist full-time. Do elements of that call echo in your work now? Do you feel like you’re still teaching through your art?

Yeah. I worked as an English teacher for a very long time. That was my first job after college. The economy had tanked and I was looking for a job. I was in a career center, and one of the counselors said, ”Have you ever thought about working abroad?” I looked into it. Within months I was on a plane to Seoul, South Korea.

There are moments in life where we do something and think, “Oh, this is not gonna matter,” or “I'm just doing this for the time being.” But when I look back as an artist and as an openly bi person now, a lot of what was happening in that time period informs directly who I am today. I did it for about five or six years. I've always loved language and writing, but teaching gave me the actual technical components of grammar, structure, and clauses. It provided the tools to help me on the journeys I’ve been on since. It's interesting when things come full circle like that. I'm currently at UCLA in custom programs management.

You were recently interviewed for a profile for LA Weekly. Growing up all over LA County, was that a touchstone periodical for you? How did it feel to get to open those pages and see yourself there?

Oh my goodness. That was huge for me.

When I interviewed for LA Weekly during the height of the pandemic, that was, again, one of those moments whose impact you don't realize until later. You think you're just sitting down and having a conversation, but you think, “Hey, this is my city. This is where I’m from." I'm from Inglewood. I've lived in Pasadena, I live in Westwood now. I was born and raised here. So to be featured with my full “who I am today” was amazing for me, on a local level.

Your love for the written word started in your youth with reading and collecting library cards alongside your father. Tell me about that.

We drove across the country and part of that was stopping at local libraries. So nerdy, right? We’d pick up the cards and see who had the best design. Arizona’s was on point at the time. We often went to the Los Angeles Library downtown.

We used to have an album [of the cards]. Stacks of them. We would ask people, “Hey, could you give us a library card? We don't want the actual working one. We just want your card to prove that we are here.”

[My father] sowed the seeds of language into me — a love of language. He was also an author, writer, and speaker. He's no longer here — he passed six years ago — but he's still with me in those ways. When I think about those library cards traveling across the country, traveling the world, I feel like those are gifts from my father.

How did you get into writing novels? Were books always banging around in your brain, or were you inspired to write them after certain life events?

Writing never used to be a part of my story. It's been six years since I've become this sort of new person. Sometimes when I reflect on how I got here, I think to myself ”Grief and loss turned me into this person.”

I lost my dad in 2017 after a long battle with cancer. And we were best friends. I had to fill that loss with something else. I was his son, but there's a gap there. So that kind of ushered in a newfound author identity. I wrote my first book, Views From the Cockpit, in 2019. That memoir was very well received, and I emotionally felt freed. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I like this feeling. I have to keep going.”

So then I wrote a short story, and then Grandpa's Cabin (2021) came. Really, I turned my sense of loss into a sense of action, filling the void inside me left by my father. That's how I got here today.

Transmuting despair into action is a very healing and cathartic thing to do.

Yes. And I think sometimes we discount it. And the power of writing is something I'm glued to now. Even if it's writing for yourself — it doesn't always have to be shared. But it definitely helped me.

Some persistent themes in your works are generational trauma, mental health, and often supernatural or horror elements. I'm going to guess that's not by accident.

[Laughs] I think using horror as a lens can really bring a lot of interesting things to light. Take “dark secrets” and hidden things that are left in the closet. I sprinkle bisexuality and becoming and other revelations into my stories. These are topics I feel comfortable with, but also topics that can be the source of a lot of friction: family, discovery, identity, and fear. So I feel my job is to package that in a digestible way that’s also interesting, entertaining, and educational. Those themes are my comfort zone.

Do you feel like it's important to bring the themes of bisexuality and queerness into your written works?

Part of my writing process is figuring out what the character is trying to show me and what the story is trying to tell me. Sometimes I’ll have this idea, “Oh, I wanna make everyone bi. It's just out in the open,” right? But that doesn’t always serve the story, so I try to lead with that while fighting the temptation to just make everyone bi.

You also write for Medium. Do you enjoy the immediacy of the publication form and interacting with your followers, without a middleman or delays that can often happen with the length of time it takes to write and publish novels?

Yes. Writing for Medium is a completely different experience, because it is immediate. You put it up, it's from the heart. It can be your true feelings without any kind of need to sell. That gives me an opportunity to interact with people directly.

When I started [writing there] during the pandemic, a lot of men were reaching out with messages like, “Hey, I want to come out but I don't know how,” or "Thank you for writing that. I felt seen in that.” That took a moment to get used to because I was writing stuff that's happening in my life, to make myself feel free. But it's a whole different ball game when someone else is touched or affected by something you've written and they reach out to you. One lady posted one of my articles and said, “Ross Victory is one of my favorite Medium authors.” I thought to myself, “Is this what I'm out here doing?”

You wrote one of your first dives back into music, “Savor the View”, to accompany your audiobook for Views From the Cockpit. Did you plan that, or have any idea it would renew your singer-songwriter career?

I had no idea that I would go back into music. That was pure inspiration — me healing and grieving the loss of my dad. That whole project was me exploring.

During the audiobook production, I was in the studio and the engineer was like, “Can you sing something you just said? It kind of gave me a vibe that maybe you used to sing.” And I said that I used to do music production and sing in school 10 years ago. He was like, “Let me make a song for you.” It was just a very simple song to test the waters, and I didn’t know what to make of it.

And then, all of a sudden, this song, “Savor the View” came up, and it was literally about my dad. “Savor the view; cherish the moments.” That's how I was feeling emotionally. I said, “Wow, maybe there's something here with books and music. It feels right, and I should lean into it.”

With your song “Bisexual Daze”, you outlined the common experience of bi panic as well as a very bi ménage à trois. What was the thought process behind this?

When I create something, I always think about what’s happening in the world around me. So in real life I was in a bi men's group. We’re talking about relationships, dating, all the common issues. And I was like, “This summer I wanna do something fun.” Bi panic — when you walk into a room sometimes and everyone's hot — that can be overwhelming. But it can also be exciting and exhilarating. So what does joy look like in that moment? How does that sound? What does it feel like? And then as men, what would we actually say and give permission to say [in that moment]?

So I found a beat — I’m always scouring the internet for music. And I had a conversation with my engineer, who's very open-minded. I told him, “Hey, I'm gonna do something different. I just need you to bear with me as we get through this song.” And he was like, “Oh, that's a bop.” I shared it with the [bi men’s group] as a sort of, “Hey guys, I made this for us” type of thing. And so we all got to enjoy that moment. Some of these guys were like, “I really enjoyed how you just went for it,” (there were some explicit lyrics and some imaginative language). But [let’s] celebrate that too — not cleanse or wash it down. It was fun.

So I understand you met one of your musical heroes, Ne-Yo, on a dare.

Yeah. [Laughs] This was during the pandemic. We were in the studio, and Ne-Yo had posted something about his music. Someone said, “Hey, you should just message him and see what he says about getting on a song or collaborating." So I messaged him and he responded. I kind of flipped out when he responded.

We ended up getting on camera on Instagram live. He sent me his vocals to put on one of my songs called "My Fault”. I was blown away. Ne-Yo is someone I've looked up to since the beginning of his career, so it was really exciting to be able to talk to him as a songwriter. So step out in faith. Step out in fear. Send the email. Do it.

So what you're saying is, sometimes sliding into DMs works out?

[Laughs] Sliding into DMs always works out. I feel like they're always watching; they’re always checking. Slide!

My Fault” carries a lot of potent imagery and asks some heavy questions. Do you feel a responsibility as a songwriter to both reflect your experiences as well as challenge your listeners to affect change?

Definitely. At the time “My Fault” was written, George Floyd had just been murdered on camera. Much of the song has that energy. I think sometimes we feel every transgression in the world is somehow our fault. “It’s something I did: everything's my fault.” For me, watching George Floyd and, as a man, being able to express that and maybe not feeling empowered to express the sexuality part, feeling that you are carrying the weight of the world for this whole community and like everyone's looking down on you. In that sense, it can seem like your fault. So yeah, I think it's important to challenge listeners to think about where they sit with certain topics, and also empower and educate them as well.

Where would you like to go in the next phase of your musical career?

Musically, I've always envisioned myself supporting other artists. At the end of the day, creative writing and songwriting are my go-to's, right? So I see myself writing songs for artists, opening doors, helping artists promote themselves, that sort of thing. Really just want to help people feel on fire about their own art before they expect other people to do so. So that's kind of mentorship type of role [I want to embody].

But of course, I would love to have a music video that is very well-known, or a song or anthem that is everyone’s favorite. Of course I want that, but I also want to create opportunities for other artists to feel lifted up and seen. I want people to feel like “if he could do it, I definitely can.”

You've noted in the past that activism is important to your work as well as your art. I'd love to hear more about the why of that, and what organizations you've been working with.

Activism and advocacy weren’t originally part of my story. Just like becoming an author was never a part of the story. But it's important now because I realized all the experiences I went through — from that 12-year-old person who didn't know what he was feeling, to finding the word, to having a therapist tell me, “Hey, it sounds like you're bisexual. Have you thought about that?” All of the experimenting with disclosure, and coming out, and how to date, and being ghosted, and what it all means. All of that life. I could have saved a lot of time [by knowing I was bi earlier]. I feel a kind of duty to reach out to people who are going through that, especially if their parents or environment isn't supportive.

I became involved with the local organization called L.A. Bi Task Force, which is an educational advocacy group. When that opportunity popped up, it got me thinking, “Wow, what if people like me had been out when I was a little kid? Like, there's this man out there, he likes who he likes, and he's talented and creative and educated and all these things.” I want to be that for someone else — I have to be that for someone else.

I also got involved with organizations like Covenant House in Hollywood, which is a youth shelter for 18-to-24-year-olds. There’s a high LGBT population there of kids being kicked out. I also got involved with Shower of Hope, which gives showers to people who don’t have homes who maybe got an interview or just want to clean up.

Is there anything I didn't cover in my questions you would like to talk about?

I've been thinking about what I can do to help further lift up bi men. We need a moment. I've been working on this creative writing course that uses different types of creative writing topics to provide a conduit to express our sexuality. That's really important to me, because I feel that writing has been a key part of my story, a key source of empowerment. I have to share the power of writing with other people. So that’s something I'm really looking forward to, which I hope will drop this year. The name of the project is “Embracing All of Me”.

Is there anything upcoming you would like to promote in the coming months?

I'm always working on music and writing. I think I'm gonna drop a hip-hop R&B banger for the summer. So I have a song called "I'mma Look", which is about this guy at the beach commenting on all the hot people passing by. That's gonna drop in the summertime.

I'm also working on a short story political thriller. We have an election coming up, so that's timely.

I'm always doing something, so definitely keep in touch with me on I'm also on Instagram @rossvictorious.

Do you have any advice for bi people who are newly out, or any advice you wish you could have given your younger self before you came out?

First, take your time. You don't have to prove anything to anyone. And also consider, when we think about coming out, there's a societal component that makes us want to take a stand, but maybe that's not your version of coming out. Maybe your version is a selective coming-out to a trusted aunt or cousin. There are different ways to broach the conversation, and not everyone's coming-out or letting-in story looks the same. So keep that in mind. Get a few good people. Put 'em in your back pocket and never let 'em go.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.