Matthew (Matt) Davis is a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), as well as a customer service associate at White Rabbit located in Charlotte.

On one of his first days on campus during his freshman year, Davis said he attended an event where a crush he had on the president of an academic fraternity ultimately influenced his decision to major in finance with a concentration in risk management.

Davis was born and raised in Greensboro, N.C., and comes from a non-traditional family dynamic. He spent much of his adolescence having two places he called home. This arrangement began after his parents divorced when he was 14 years old, when he began spending half of the year with his dad in Greensboro and the other half with his mom in the neighboring town of Trinity, about 40 minutes from his high school.

Davis would sometimes have to take on the role of an adult. He said this fostered independence and self-sufficiency for him and feels that those times of heightened maturity have helped him be more able of handling certain situations he’s faced with today.

Can you describe your position at White Rabbit?

I am a part-time cashier at the White Rabbit; I have worked there for almost a year. It works well while I am in school because during the downtime I can do my homework at the register. The management is very understanding that my education and future career are my priority. They support me when I need them. I have even sharpened some soft skills, such as the ability to conform to different or uncomfortable situations. Being able to stay professional under unprofessional circumstances is a challenge, but it will transition nicely into any career. As you can imagine, an LGBTQ store attracts a variety of eclectic customers with interesting stories and needs that I need to respect and serve the best way I can. It helps to have a queer place to work because it’s a nice exposure to the community in Charlotte. I really enjoy my coworkers, and I have made some great friends that I have met as customers.

What has your experience been like as an openly-gay male living in Charlotte?

Charlotte has grown so fast that the public infrastructure is far behind where it needs to be. People are being pushed out further and further from the city. The essence of Charlotte has been paved over and culture has not adapted. It is very clear that Charlotte, more than other cities, tries hard to be new and improved. To someone who is not from here, it comes across as “boujee” and a white-washed. In the gay community, unfortunately, I think it translates to a very white gay male dominance that is pretty superficial. The other thing that I have noticed about Charlotte is that it is very conservative. I think both of these things come from the new money that has exploded here and the banking industries that bring a lot of white-collar professionals. I was on a date once at a restaurant’s outdoor patio and a car of teenagers drove by and yelled faggot. Charlotte is much larger than Greensboro so it has more gay people and more going on in general. However, I love how eclectic and liberal Greensboro is. I really enjoyed growing up in that modest-sized city.

What was your high school experience like?

I went to Page High School in Greensboro. It is an intercity school with a very diverse population. I was a member of 10 extracurricular programs and three honors societies. Being gay was not easy but growing up going to school with a lot of the same people helped being accepted. I developed a great sense of humor to challenge any homophobic discomfort from my peers. My high school also had a handful of gay teachers that made me feel secure. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the male population kept a distance from me. Thankfully, I was a stereotypical gay best friend (GBF) to several girls in high school. So if the guys wanted to have a chance with any of the girls, they had to be cool with the token gay boy.

Can you tell me about your experience of coming out?

I never officially came out to my family. They are very open-minded, and I was always pretty obviously gay, even at a young age. My oldest sister came out as gay when she was in college. Around the same time, I started realizing and accepting that I was also gay. Thankfully none of my relatives have any opposition to gay people; I also have a lesbian cousin who is married, and they have several foster children.

During our interview, you discussed your experience with substance abuse in your late teens. Tell us about that.

For me, I succumbed to two different things, the need to draw attention to myself and peer pressure. My story differs because I had a conversation with myself that having a “party” phase was acceptable as long as it was temporary, and I knew that I was responsible to acknowledge when it needed to end. There were definitely times that I was dependent on drugs. I found myself replacing meals with drugs, selling clothes for drugs, and worst of all, coercing my family to give me money. I had alcohol poisoning at 13, and I was arrested for underage drinking at 19. It was depressing to me how dependent I was becoming on this artificial high, and I realized that it was time to cut this “party” phase out of my life, and I quit. Being queer, I think, adds this additional need for acceptance that contributes to peer pressure. As you get older there is definitely a huge drug problem in the gay community that exposes you to the party scene even as an adult — hello, look at these circuit queens.

What’s your romantic/love life like?

I have been on Grindr since I was 16, yes you need to be 18 to be on the app. Growing up in suburbia, I wanted exposure to what gay life was. So for a year, I talked to several people just to understand what it was going to be like when I was an adult. I never was reported for being underage because I never really did anything sexual on there. However, I wish I had been banned from using the app at a young age. On a daily basis, I was told that I was not worthy of anything more than sex. All I wanted was to have a conversation, potentially a boyfriend, and shocking… maybe a real date. This bullying led me to have a lot of doubts, so I really only ever dated much older men because they gave me affection. I lost my virginity right around graduation, I was 17. He was in his 30s. I had sex before I had a real first kiss. It wasn’t until I came to college that I saw a possibility with men closer to my age. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until I turned 21 that I stopped having trolls tell me that I wasn’t good enough for a relationship. If you see someone underage, please guide them and answer their questions about the world, no strings attached!I am a bottom that has only recently owned my sexuality and my body. I partly attribute the online bullying to accepting behavior from men that is not okay. I reluctantly consented to have sex on many occasions. Then there were times when I did not consent: laying there like a dead fish or even regaining consciousness after being drugged. Getting over that was hard, all I can tell people is if you’re changing your behavior because of any other person, you are still allowing them to have power over you. I am not letting anyone have negative control over my voice and definitely not my future.

Can you describe the slang words “shade” and “read?”

Shade is a cleverly disguised insult. Reading is pretending to analyze someone and humorously nitpick on their features, “reading for filth” is when you do a good job at it.

What are some of your career aspirations?

I would love to work in philanthropy. After I graduate in December, I will probably go corporate for 5-10 years, at a company that has a Master’s degree reimbursement. Then move to the private sector where I can reduce my workload and do something meaningful like work along with non-profits and fund management. Maybe even own a business such as a coffee shop or a restaurant. Maybe become an adjunct professor. Maybe spend the extra time with my future husband and kids!

How do you juggle being a full-time student with work and other obligations?

I try to live in the moment and just do as much as I am willing and able to do for each day.

What’s the best thing about living in Charlotte?

Trying all the new restaurants.

What are some of your favorite hobbies or pastimes?

My maternal grandmother lives in central Illinois amongst miles of farmland. I really enjoy spending time in small towns and eating home-cooked meals. Then juxtaposing that same trip by spending time in Chicago — makes you really appreciate the differences. During the quarantine, I have really enjoyed walking around my neighborhood, Plaza Midwood. There are so many individual characters and such a variety of designs along the streets.

How do you cope with adversity or times of high stress or anxiety?

I try my best to stay calm. I think it’s easiest to analyze the situation and each piece before proceeding. Sometimes you need the time to just breathe and then move forward.

Granted you play, if you won the lottery how would you spend the money?

I would give a reasonable amount to family and friends. Then set aside the rest in moderately risky investments for the next 5-10 years and decide what to do after spending more time on it. I would probably arrange the wealth in a diverse portfolio such as a new business venture, a mature REIT, convertible bonds and small-cap stocks. The new business venture could be to open a franchise of some sort. If there were a Krispy Kreme by UNCC it would make a killing.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would go to Prague because of all the art galleries. I would also go anywhere in the Tuscany region of Italy to go for the wine tasting. Recently I have enjoyed the wine from Willamette Valley in Oregon, so maybe there. I would go anywhere and do anything once.