Richie Jackson and his message to his gay son and the other LGBTQ people!
Gay TV and Broadway producer Richie Jackson came out when he was 17. And now his son with his ex-husband actor B.D. Wong, Jackson Foo Wong, 18 announced to the world that he is gay when he was 15. Richie is accepting but wants to share his experiences with his son Jackson and the newer LGBTQ generation. Hence, he has penned a book called Gay Like Me: A father writes to his son.
Richie Jackson – his generation and now
The TV producer Richie Jackson was studying at New York University when he came out as gay. It was 1983 and the height of the HIV epidemic. There was a lot of stigma attached to this term gay but Richie discovered then that there were people like him at the campus.
“It was as if I’d joined a secret society, bound together by oppression, and we reveled in our clandestinity even as we fought to assimilate.”
There was a grade school gym teacher who on learning that Richie had joined the chorus told the other students to jump the faggot. Richie was confused and failed to understand what was negative in it. The bullying continued into his junior high, but Richie says:
“I am the most alive when I am reveling in my gayness. Every gay person has to keep a double vision of themselves: how America sees them, but they [also] have to keep secure so that America’s negativity doesn’t seep into their beautiful, clear vision of their gayness. That is what makes them special. And you have to hold both.”
And now 36 years down the lane, his son Jackson whose biological father is Richie’s ex, actor B.D Wong also is at NYU and is gay. But Jackson feels that it is not a big deal. Things have changed over the years. HIV is manageable and there are safer sex practices. Besides, same-sex marriages are a reality. Besides, there is a wider representation of the queer community in the entertainment industry and outside. And social media has helped United these isolated individuals. But Richie wants his son and other gay people to be cautious. Hence he wrote the book to explain, educate, and also warn them to be not complacent.
Message for Jackson Foo Wong
Richie tries to explain to his son about how it is to be gay in the American society. He writes:
“It is critical that I tell you everything I know — of everything that I have learned, of every rise and of every depression, of so much that I have kept to myself so that you would feel safe. All of that I have to tell you now.”
His language is paternal and of the nurturing type. He talks about what lessons he learned about relationships, sex, love, friendships, and resistance against the backdrops of the AIDS crisis, gay parenting, and marriage equality.
Message for the queer community
Though written for his son, the book is a useful guide for all those queer people who lack support from their family and friends. Richie told Advocate about the book and problems plaguing the queer people:
“Think about this: for centuries we have been stigmatized by religion. We have fought back battle after battle with our government. We’ve survived the plague. We disappoint our parents. We survive bullying from our childhood friends. And all of that lines up against us, not because we are a defect, [and] not because we are worthless. The government and those religions, they all know our power is our gayness. That’s what they’re trying to stop.”
“It cannot be that we have fought back centuries…all just to get our liberation so that we can say being gay isn’t a big deal.… I don’t want to celebrate being gay just one day at the end of June every year. I want to be able, every day, to say this is why I am as successful as I am, why I have a beautiful family.”
He wants to let the new gay people know:
“Part of the reason I wrote Gay Like Me is because of the generational divide. Guys my age don’t recognize the community we were born into. I do think speaking to each other, sharing what the older generation went through and know and learned is useful. And then, we have a lot to learn from young people. My son is the one who helped me understand the positiveness of the word ‘queer,’ which I really struggle with.”
Source: The Advocate