Jamiel Terry told his coming-out story in the pages of the May issue of Out magazine. As the 24-year-old son of one of the most vocal and prominent antiabortion leaders who has now taken to crusading against homosexuality, it was not your typical story.
Randall Terry, the father, fired back in a column in the conservative Washington Times, on April 13. And both Terrys had their say in separate interviews with the news editor of the religious/spiritual Web site www.beliefnet.com .
Jamiel knew he was different from an early age and began fooling around with male friends when he was a teenager. But being the son of the man who had founded Operation Rescue—to shut down abortion clinics—was hardly conducive to admitting to or discussing being gay. Dad was not exactly prime material to start a P-FLAG chapter.
Still, Jamiel loved and adored his father, describing him in the article as 'probably one of the most engaging men I have ever met.' He worked with him trying to stop the enactment of civil unions in Vermont and protected Randall's reputation when the parents sought a divorce. The bond remains strong, even after coming out they still speak regularly on the phone.
Randall glowered with the righteous indignation of an Old Testament prophet when he wrote in the Washington Times, 'Most painful to me as a dad is that my son prostituted my name for $5,000; he sold out our family's privacy for cold cash.'
The son told beliefnet the payment was less—certainly credible for those who have written for the gay press. Originally his story was to have been in the form of an interview and there was would have been no payment, but it evolved into a freelance assignment to tell his tale in his own voice, for Out's standard fee.
Jamiel said he wrote it, not for the cash but 'for my own journey, I felt I needed to come out. 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.'
'My son is their latest homosexual 'trophy,'' Randall wrote. 'What they aren't telling—and this grieves me to the core—is that his life is in shambles. He was ... arrested for DWI; he's writing bad checks ... ; he dropped out of school a year ago; he doesn't have a job; he bounces from house to house ... .' A bumpy ride indeed.
Jamiel acknowledge having had some problems but minimized their extent. He passed up the opportunity to strike back at his father in the beliefnet interview, calling him 'A phenomenal father. I could not have asked for a better father.'
He explained his father's written vitriol as '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.'
Randall confirmed that in his interview. 'If I love my son, I can't say to him, 'Hey, you're committing suicide on the installment plan. This is a great lifestyle.'' He trotted out long debunked rhetoric of the religious right, 'The average death age of a male homosexual is 42 years old because of disease, because of suicide, because of alcoholism, because of drugs, because of violence.'
The love between the two was apparent in the details of their words. Equally clear was the fact that Jamiel largely has come to terms with being gay and with being an adult, and is taking charge of his life; while Randall remains a dyspeptic patriarch who seems comfortable only when he is seen to be right and is obeyed.