2016-06-30
Longtime anti-abortion activist Randall Terry in recent years has campaigned against gay marriage and "homosexual perversions." So it was of some embarrassment to him when his son Jamiel wrote an article in the current issue of Out magazine revealing that he is gay. Terry responded by writing an op-ed, sharply criticizing his son and saying, "He is no longer welcome in my home."

Jamiel TerryOn Thursday, both Jamiel and Randall Terry gave extraordinary interviews to Beliefnet editor Paul O'Donnell. Below, Jamiel explains that he wrote the article because "I wanted my father to see I'm not going to hell," but says that he still loves his father. Randall says that Jamiel is "bringing great sadness to our home and embarrassment to our family."


Did Out come to you?
I made contact with them.

Why did you feel you had to write it?
I felt it would be freeing for me. Most of our family friends had no idea that I was gay, and most of my mother's side of the family didn't know. For my own journey, I felt I needed to come out. My dad talks about the money. Originally, I was going to do an interview, which I would not have been paid for. When it changed to a freelance situation, they paid the normal fee.

Is it the figure [$5,000] that your father's claiming?
No, it's lower than that.

Are you in financial difficulty [as your father said in his op-ed]?
Not anymore than any normal 24-year-old college student.

"If I could choose my life, I definitely would not choose to be gay, especially in the family that I live in."

You must have known that this would embarrass your father.
Well, sure, I knew it would embarrass him, but the fact is those are his own issues. If he would be embarrassed by my being gay, then he has issues. So that's not my problem. I wouldn't say he is embarrassed by my being gay. One thing that really, really hurts me is that the things he says about me [in his op-ed] probably took place during a seven month period, the darkest time of my life, when I was literally on the verge of suicide, and constantly talking to him about the fact that I was on the verge of suicide.

When was that?
September 2002 to probably May 2003.

Was that when he says you asked him to pay for you to go for treatment [for homosexuality]?
Well, that's not true. I think it was right after the DWI charge. He said, "I want you to go to this thing Love in Action and I'll pay for you to go." I was a manager where I was working and it was Christmas season. I said, "I can't leave right now."

My father has to understand the intense, almost idolatry we kids have for him. When he's talking, he just convinces you to do something, even when you don't want to do it. If I could choose my life, I definitely would not choose to be gay, especially in the family that I live in.

Why?
Because it's easier. That doesn't mean that I'm bitter about it. But it's the same thing as someone who is very very poor saying, if I could choose my life, I would choose to be rich. It's not that I don't wish this. I'm past that point. But certainly, if I could go to a three month rehab clinic and have them wave a magic wand over me and come out straight. Then on top of that, my dad is saying, "Things will be like they were before. I'll pay for your college and I'll pay for your expenses," and blah blah blah.

Predicated on your going straight?
On my going to this rehab thing. He's my dad. I love him. I still want to be a part of his life. Every time [my partner] Matthew and I would have some sort of an argument, where I felt like it was causing too much of a strain, I would [say to my father], "Okay, send me the information." Matthew is the only reason that I didn't go. I didn't believe I would go and be straight. I really don't believe that. But I was like, "What the heck. I probably need therapy in other areas." But it wasn't some kind of crying out to my father, like "Dad save me. Please send me to Love in Action." That's just ridiculous.

"I could not have asked for a better father. He's doing it because he feels that that's what he has to do
to 'save me.'"

In his letter, your father quibbles about when you were adopted. Were you adopted at age 5?
Legally we were adopted at age 14. He stresses so much that this is an adopted child. But we did not feel like adopted children. We felt like we were 100 percent a part of that family. We officially moved into their house when I was eight, with no interruptions. We were living with them on and off from the age of 4. I was calling them Mom and Dad at the age of 4 and 5. He's trying to stress that nothing in his home made me gay. And no one would accuse him of that. No one is pointing at him saying, "You made your son gay."

I don't mean to pat myself on the back, but I was a model child. Every woman in the church wanted their daughters to marry me, every single parent wanted their sons to be like me and be my friend. And my parents were overjoyed and proud of me, constantly telling me how proud they were of me. In every circle that I have been in, I have been the leader and I have been the person who people admired and my father knows that. Why would my father ask me to come and work with him in Vermont and work on his campaigns and everything else that I've done if I was this person that he is trying to paint me as?

Was he a good dad?
Yes. A phenomenal father. I could not have asked for a better father. He was my best friend. I know that my dad, even in that letter, he's doing it out of love. He's doing it because he feels that that's what he has to do to "save me." So I don't even hate him for that but it just hurts me.

Has he met Matthew?
No.

You wouldn't introduce him or did he refuse?
No. Matthew doesn't want to meet him.

But he welcomed you into his home until now.
My dad welcomed me into his home because in his mind I was still struggling with this. It was like a struggling with this sin thing-I was hating myself.

I've had them read the article. I had friends who know my dad read the article before I printed it. All of them were like, "You said nothing bad about your father." He feels I revealed all of this family information. I revealed information about myself.

When was the last time you talked to him?
Yesterday. We've been emailing back and forth several times a day and every e-mail is, "I'm grieved. I'm sick in my heart. I can't work. I can't eat." Yesterday we actually had a three way call with my older sister, myself and my father. He's just like, "Jamiel I love you and I hope that this passes over. I just hope that it passes quickly. And I miss you. And I'm just sick, I'm sick, I'm sick."

Have you told him you're sorry?
I didn't do anything wrong. I'm very good at putting myself in someone else's shoes and I have re-read the article just countless number of times trying to figure out where he is coming from, why he feels betrayed. I am basically responsible for my dad's reputation being what it is right now.

How do you mean that?
By talking to reporters that he asked me to talk to [during his divorce]. Talking to different Christian leaders to keep the story quiet. The story didn't break for eight months because I kept it at bay. All I have done since he separated from my mother is protect him and defend him and do everything in my power to make sure that he maintains his reputation. So I did not want to do anything to harm Dad. I wanted my father to see that it was okay, that I'm not going to hell. That I'm not destroying my life. That I have not chosen a path of self-destruction.

"There's no way I would have
come out if my parents
had stayed married."

If some of what motivated you is to offer solace for people who grew up like you, what would you say to a gay kid in a Christian home?
If they decide to come out to their parents, they have to respect their parents and their wishes while they're in their home. That means they don't go on gay.com or go to gay events or have gay friends. If they decide to live in that home I think that they need to abide by those rules.

If they know their parents love them, they should be comfortable with telling them. But if they're still in their home, they need to abide by what their parents are telling them. I knew as a child that if I told my parents, I would be off to rehab. I knew that. Or that I wouldn't be able to have friends over, or I wouldn't be able to go to people's houses. So if you feel that is going to be the case, it's a burden you have to bear. It makes you strong, it makes you able to conquer things, and to not allow the daily failures of life to affect you in the way they might affect somebody else, and to not despair. Time heals all things, and time goes quicker than you'd ever believe. You're 16 years old struggling with this, but then you're 18 and you're off to college and you can be who you are.

Do you believe your homosexuality is part of your genetic makeup?
I believe sexuality can be tampered with. I do believe there are people who are genetically predisposed to be attracted to the same sex. But sexuality can depend on environment. There's no way I would have come out if my parents had stayed married. Because I wouldn't have gone down the questioning of my identity, I wouldn't have gone down that path if they had stayed married. That was the trigger for me to come out, not the trigger that I was gay.

How did that affect that decision?
It made me question everything I had been raised with. It made me question truth, it made me question morality. Before that, I would have said indefinitely that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Now I'm like, it's kind of good sayings and I'm sure that God had something to do with it, but it was written by men, so it can be fallible. As for the divorce, in my eyes, he was doing something wrong. So I was like, if he's doing something wrong and it's making him happy, and God knows his heart, then God knows my heart, and I want to be happy too.