Queer Eye star Karamo Brown, 38, says he was taken aback by the mixed feelings he experienced when his son, Jason ‘Rachel’ Brown, 22, recently came out to him as pansexual.
Karamo and Jason gave a joint interview to The Advocate. Father and son have collaborated on a soon-to-be-published children’s book, I Am Perfectly Designed.
Brown Snr has previously admitted his first, brief experience of fame – appearing in 2004’s The Real World: Philadelphia – led to him throwing himself into partying and drug-taking.
It was only in 2007 that he learned he was the father of a 10-year-old boy, Jason. Before Karamo came out as gay aged 16, his last girlfriend at high school had become pregnant but not told him at the time.
Learning of the boy’s existence encouraged Karamo to clean up his act and dedicate himself to working as a social worker for ten years.
He took on full custody of Jason and then, in 2010, adopted his son’s younger half-brother, Christian. The family is completed by Karamo’s fiancé, Ian Jordan. The two men have been together for the past decade and got engaged last year.
Earlier this year, Jason, came out to his father as pansexual. The younger man says despite his father being known for Queer Eye, coming out to him proved surprisingly hard.
“We have such a good connection of communication and I never hide anything from my dad, so when he heard this — and he was not the first person to hear this — I could sense that it kind of hurt him, and that’s why it transferred to a little bit of frustration,” recalls Jason.
Fortunately, after taking a few hours to process his feelings. Karamo called his son back and assured him he loved him and all was fine.
The older man admits Jason’s revelation provoked a mixture of emotions. In part, he was hurt his son hadn’t said anything sooner.
“I believe that the term ‘coming out’ is a bit antiquated and outdated in the sense [that] it gives the power to someone else to accept or deny you when, in actuality, what the process is, is that we’re letting people into our lives,’ says Karamo.
“So when Jason let me into his life regarding him identifying as pansexual there was a myriad of feelings that I had. First, he didn’t let me into his life regarding being pansexual until he was 21.
“This is a young man who grew up in a household where his father is a career gay … yet there was still a fear in his mind of sharing with me. When he shared with me that he identified as pan, I was, first of all, disappointed … I was a little hurt.”
Karamo says that not everyone in his extended family is accepting of LGBTQ people, and he worried over how they might react to Jason’s news.
He was also conscious some bigots believe the myth that allowing gay people to raise kids will increase the chances of them being gay as adults.
“When I got custody of Jason, people said, ‘Don’t have your son be raised with a gay man, because it’s going to turn him gay. And obviously, I know that’s ignorant, I know that’s not true. Someone’s sexuality cannot be determined by their environment, it’s who they are.
“But when he let me into his life [about his pansexuality], I immediately thought, Oh, here we go. Now I’m going to have to defend this. Here’s another fight. It was hard … I understood to some small degree what parents go through from a different lens — because my initial reaction for the first hour was not as positive as you’d think.”
Fortunately, after some time to think about his son’s words, Karamo was able to put his feelings of hurt aside. He says he wasn’t very educated around what pansexuality means and set about learning.
The two men now say their conversations around sexuality have only brought them closer and strengthened their bond.
“I felt betrayed by him lying to me and I had to go on this journey quickly, really quickly, to educate myself and then to remember this is his journey,” says Karamo.
This closer bond helped them when working together on their children’s book, I Am Perfectly Designed, which is published in November. Publisher Macmillan describes the book, which features illustrations by Anoosha Syed, as, “An empowering ode to modern families.”
Karamo – currently also to be seen on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars – and Jason will be embarking on a US tour of bookstores together in early November.