“Mom, I’m Gay.” My Janet Jackson Inspired Coming Out Story.
Throughout my life experience there has always been a constant: the music of Janet Jackson. I became a Janet Jackson fan when I was eleven years old. It started in 1988, with the release of the first music single, “Miss You Much” from the album, “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.”
Along with the release of the album, Janet also create a long-form music video for the Rhythm Nation 1814 project. I remember buying the VHS cassette tape and watching over and over again. I was especially inspired by the “making of” segment after the film entitled “Project 1814.” In the making of video, Janet said something that has inspired me ever since:
Inspiration from Janet Jackson’s 6th Album, “The Velvet Rope.”
In 1997, Janet Jackson released her sixth studio album, “The Velvet Rope.” In that album, she covered challenging topics in her own life, including overcoming depression, insecurities, and self-confidence issues. The album opens with an interlude called “Twisted Elegance.” In the interlude, she declares, “We all have a need to feel special. And it’s this need that can bring out the best in us, yet the worst in us. This need created the Velvet Rope.”
Also on the same album, Janet addressed other topics important to me. For instance, she wrote the song “Together Again” to honor friends who had died from the AIDS epidemic. Furthermore, she sang about having the courage to be free, open and honest, and believing in yourself.
The Day Janet Jackson’s Music Gave Me Courage to Come Out to My Mom
The same year, I was back home living with my mom and going to community college to study elementary education. I’d bought the Velvet Rope compact disc earlier that fall and had it on repeat every single days. I’d play it all the way through, from beginning to end.
That Christmas Eve, I think around four in the morning, I had been up all night listening to the Velvet Rope. I was trying to find the courage to go downstairs to tell my mom I was gay. Finally, after listening to the album about three or four times, I was finally inspired enough to head downstairs and face my mom.
Mom, I said, I have something to tell you. She looked up at me and smiled. Took the magazine she was reading and put it aside. As I remember, the conversation went a little something like this:
Mom: Okay, what is it? Did you rob a bank?
Mom: Did you kill someone?
Mom: Did you get a girl pregnant?
Me: [laughing] Uhh, definitely not.
Mom: [smiling] Then, I’m sure whatever it is it’ll be okay.
I paused, for what I thought was forever, and I said, “I’m gay.”
Mom: [still smiling] Duh, everybody knows.
I started crying and gave my mom a big hug. And then my mom started crying. Suddenly, at that moment, our relationship changed. Because I found the courage to be vulnerable and open up to her, I was suddenly closer to my mom in a way that I had never been before.
Then she told me my grandmother had known since you were 11 years old. Then, she said, “we have to call your grandmother and share the news.” So there it was, Christmas morning. We wait about an hour, and then we called her. And just like my mom, “Nana” laughed and said, “Oh my god, finally! We’ve been waiting for you to come out.”
I said to both of them, “why didn’t you guys just say something?” I thought it would have made the whole thing much easier. And my mom said, “well, we didn’t want to be wrong.” We all laughed again and said, “I don’t think this is one of those things you get wrong.” They both agreed but said I just had to figure it out on my own.
“Twisted Elegance.” Lessons Inspired by the Music of Janet Jackson.
Each of us has challenges throughout our life. Times in our lives when things get difficult, and in a split second, we make a choice. I like to call them the “choice point” moments in our life. We can decide to go left, or right. I do not believe in luck or coincidence. Everything happens for a reason and the choices we make today, define the path we’ll walk tomorrow.
Regardless of how challenging life might seem, never give up. Never be afraid to speak your truth, never stop believing in yourself, and never give up on your dreams. Commit to the work it takes to succeed, and dreams will come true.
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