I CAME OUT ON NATIONAL TELEVISION! It was November 2001 and I’d published my first book, “Will I Go To Heaven? The Black Gay Spiritual Dilemma.” A week after I’d launched my first website, I got a phone call from T. Faye Griffin of BET’s talk show, “Oh Drama!” I was SHOCKED. She told me they were doing a show on homosexuality and the Bible and she’d heard of my book and wanted to me to be “the gay guest” on the show.
She informed me that there were three hosts, Kym Whitley, Mari Marrow and Vanessa Bell Calloway. There would be other guests on the show (Patrik Ian Polk and Rockmond Dunbar) promoting a new movie called “Punks” and there would be an actor on the show (Chaz Lamar Shepard) who believed homosexuality is a sin. We would both have the opportunity to present our views, and that’s how the show would work. I was EXCITED!
I asked her how did BET hear about my book as it had only been out a week. She said they’d asked a local pastor in Los Angeles to do the show (let’s call him “L.A. Pastor), but he was already booked elsewhere the day of the taping. He told her, “I can’t do it, but there’s a young man who just released an exciting new book called ‘Will I Go To Heaven?’, I think he’d be an asset to the show and would do the subject justice.” So she researched and found me.
To this day, I don’t know who the pastor was, but I’d like to say, “Thank You!” I don’t know how you even knew about me or the book, but you changed my life. I thank GOD for you. I wish I knew your name because I’d try to find you, take you to dinner… SOMETHING to express my gratitude. I wonder where I would be had you referred someone else to the show. Eleven years later, I wonder if I’d be who I am had things been different? Would Operation: REBIRTH be the movement it is? Would I be seen in some circles as a leader and activist? Would I have had the opportunities that have been afforded me?
The most memorable thing about the show was after we finished taping, Kym Whitley came to me and said, “Thank you for humanizing the gay community for us today. You weren’t the stereotype we see all the time. People will see black gay men differently because of you. You taught us a great deal. Good luck with your book.” I’ll never forget that moment or how it made me feel. I realized not only did I just come out, but I opened a few eyes by doing so. I walked away from that experience feeling like I really could make a difference in people’s lives.
In the past I’ve said had i known what the show was about, I wouldn’t have done it. But today, I realize that experience was a part of the plan for my life. In hindsight, after all the backlash, including losing dear friends, after family members choosing to have “nothing to do with me because of my sin,” my coming out the way I did freed me in the most profound way. It laid the foundation for the work I do today. I’m able to be “Tuan N’Gai” because GOD used Mr. L.A. Pastor to create the platform for me.
So once again, on National Coming Out Day, 2012 I’d like to say to the “L.A Pastor” who wasn’t able to appear on “Oh, Drama!” that day, I’d like to say “Thank you so much!” I hope one day I can say it in person. You changed my life and I’m forever grateful. You made it possible for me to come out. Because of you I have been able to say or do something to make a difference. I pray to be used to open the door for someone much like you did for me.