Today’s Video Story was collected on the 50-state Story Tour. We met Dwayne in Nashville; he does amazing work with many organizations, one in particular being Nashvile CARES, which promotes HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, and helps those living with either.
We haven’t posted about Tennessee yet, but check out the blog where you can follow us on the rest of our adventure. If you haven’t submitted a story yet to IFD, or if you want to submit another one, I’d love to read and publish it. Write one up and send it in.
Hi, I’m Dwayne Jenkins, originally from New York but now residing in Nashville, Tennessee.
As a young person who had a child at a very young age, not biological, but sort of a surrogate parent let’s say, took the responsibility as a parent. You know at first, “Well I don’t know, cause I’m just learning too,” I mean I was young I was seventeen and he was really, really young, so here I am at seventeen trying to tell him how to do different things. He had a hard time in school, didn’t want to finish. So we had to go through all of those things, and studying, and doing all of that. And I actually hadn’t had a mentor, in that way, of course I was taught in school and different things but it was a 101 for me as well.
Junior year, I knew that he was old enough to travel now and he would probably come and stay with me for an extended time, whether it be summer time or just a break during his high school days. So I said, “Okay, here we go…” I need to explain some things to him about my lifestyle, so that when he comes to visit that he would be comfortable. I sat him down. I was trying to prepare, how am I going to tell him, you know, that I was gay. I was just looking at him, I said, “I need to explain a couple of things.” And he was like, “Well, okay, what?” And I tried to explain all these ways, and different things, but I finally just said, “I’m a gay male.” And he just looked, and he was like, “Really?” And I was like, “Yes.” And I said, “Well let me explain certain things.” At the time I was dating someone, so I told him about that. “I know it’s a big shock to you. And I hope that you’ll be okay. And hopefully you’ll still what to visit me. And I’m still your pops.” You know, and he was just looking, and he had a look like “Ahh” and goes through his own little trunk and he pulls out these articles, things he’s clipped of guys, that he thought were cute. And so here is doing, “Hey Pop, I’m gay too.” And I’m thinking “Oh my god! Get out of here!” And so we’re sitting there, and all that time I was that scared to tell him, and he didn’t know how to tell me, and I didn’t know how to tell him. But me telling him first was one of the greatest experiences because then after that he was like, “I’m so glad you told me because I didn’t know how you would react and then here you are telling me that story.”
To any other people who are parents and or mentors, or big brothers, it’s such an important thing for you to come out and tell your story because you never know what can happen in that instance. And I know for our relationship, although we were already close, the bond got even tighter at that point. So I was really, really excited about that.