Jamiel Terry: A Rising Son

12.2.2011

By Jamiel Terry

When your father is famous for fighting abortion and same-sex marriage, how can you possibly come out?

After my summer off I decided that I would come out when I enrolled at a new school, John & Wales University in Providence, R.I. (I have received an AA in pastry arts and expect to graduate with a BA in marketing communications next year.) No one knew me, and more important, no one knew who my father was; and I wanted to keep it that way. At this point I was not interested in hurting his career. I just wanted to live my own life, meet other gay people, and have a social life. However, I still clung to my faith and was the president of the Catholic club on campus. (I was baptized Catholic and raised Protestant, and I later returned to the Roman Catholic Church.) During orientation week I went to the Pride Alliance meeting. I walked around the building five times before entering. I knew that once I went in there, there was no going back. People would look at me as a gay man. It scared me to death. I didn’t tell any friends or my sisters I was gay. My older sister noticed that I had a lot of gay friends and often went out to clubs. She asked me several times if I was gay, but I always denied it.

I decided I wouldn’t come out to my parents until I had a boyfriend, not so much because I felt they would accept him but because they would be forced to see normal, functioning gay people. Unfortunately, my plan went awry. I had created a new America Online screen name (RINYboi), and when my father noticed this strange screen name on the family’s computer, he called AOL, got the password, and looked at the mailbox. He told me he didn’t read my mail but that he could tell by my screen name and the other screen names in my mailbox that the account was being used for “homosexual activity.” I was very upset about this invasion of privacy. Around the same time, my mother put two and two together from talking to the same sister who had asked me if I was gay. My parents reacted in the way that I thought they would. They are loving parents, and I never thought they would disown me. I knew, however, that our relationship would never be the same.

My father seems to believe that the fact that I’m an adopted child may help explain why I’m gay – not because of the adoption process itself but perhaps because of things that may have occurred before I was adopted at the age of 5. (When I was 4 my father talked my natural mother out of aborting my little sister, later, my parents adopted my older and younger sister and me into their family.) Although my adoptive parents are Caucasian and I’m mixed-race (black Cuban and Caucasian-American), I always felt 100% part of my family. Of course, who can account for the influences of nature and nurture? My father’s mother and two aunts were outspoken feminists; my aunts worked with Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women. (In fact, they’re thrilled that I’m gay!) While my father dropped out of high school at 16 and went to Texas to try to become a rock star, he eventually developed in a very different way than his family background would have suggested.

I’d like to think my family is coming along. My father’s first question was, “Are your sisters and cousins safe around you?” I told him I couldn’t believe he asked me that question and that I didn’t want to talk to him for a while. My mother felt that I was acting out in anger against my father because of the divorce. I realized that my parents’ idea of what being gay is was so confused it bordered on stupidity. Also, my being gay put them in a quandary. All of the ideas that they had about gays had to be reexamined to some degree, because I was not any of the negative things they thought gay people are.

We are still on a long journey together. My mother and father are in different positions. Because my father is an activist, he feels that he cannot change or modify his position. Our relationship won’t be quite the same as if I were straight because he won’t be involved in a very important aspect of my life. My mother, on the other hand, is not in the same position, and she has told me that even if she doesn’t agree with my decision to live as an openly gay man, she will support me in every way she can.

Since my coming-out, I have had arguments and differences, mostly with my father. But my mother still desires very strongly for me to “Get out of this life” as well. I haven’t been able to introduce anyone to them yet, but I hope to soon. I recently moved to Charlotte, N.C., to attend school at my university’s new campus here. I met a wonderful guy who is everything I have ever desired. I’d love to have him meet my family, whom I love deeply. I hope the day will come when we can gather together, despite our differences, and enjoy some time with one another – as all families were meant to do.

 

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