I’m Jason Daniel Fair, I’m from Baltimore, Maryland.
My mom’s a white Jewish woman and my father is African American and his family is Christian. And we grew up at a time when that was a really big deal. That was not heard of too much and I came of age in a predominantly African American community. But for my parents, none of this stuff seemed to be an obstacle for them. I think they put a lot of emphasis making sure that we were really confident young people, and knew about our background and our history.
I remember my dad once, I was coming out of Hebrew school, I was 5 or 6, sort of excited I was getting picked up and I ran to the car, I flung the door open, I tossed the bag on the seat and said, “Okay, Dad, give me one second, give me one second, I gotta go back in.”
And he looked at me and said, “Why?”
“Well, I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Why didn’t you go in school?”
“Because the teacher wouldn’t let me. She said I had to wait until the bell rang.”
I remember he looked right at me and said, “Don’t you ever let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do with your body. If you need to go to the bathroom, you just get up and go. And if anybody has a problem with that, just tell them to talk to me.”
By the time I’d gotten to college, I was still very active in the Jewish world and the black world and not only did I know or feel that something was not being explored within myself but I also knew I had a sense that there could be possibilities because at that time, both my younger brother and my older brother had come out.
I was having dinner at my friend’s house and his father was coming to visit, and it was his first time meeting me, he didn’t really know me. He said, “Oh, where’s your family from?”
“Oh, I grew up in Baltimore, my dad is black, my mom is Jewish, from New York.”
And he goes, “Oh. Well your parents didn’t do you any favors.”
That moment when we were at dinner and I heard those words, it just set in motion a whole change of existence within myself, like, “Okay. We’re going to do this. You’re gonna come out because of this man and I don’t know what he’d say if I told him, ‘Yeah, you know, yep you’re right, I’m black, Jewish, but guess what, I’m also gay.’”
So I started the process of coming out.
I knew it was important to tell my dad and I just didn’t know how to do it. My father at this point, because at this point many years had passed, my father had gotten very sick. It just felt wrong and selfish to burden him. He had kidney failure. So I started writing him letters. I thought, okay, I’ll write him letters and just updating him with my life and that one day he may just ask, “So are you dating anyone?” And then I might have a little segue to open up. The plan worked a little bit but he passed away before I got a chance to really talk to him about it.
The morning of the funeral, I walked into the funeral home with my boyfriend, who had come to support me, and both of my brothers did too. We found our seats at the front. One side of the funeral home was mostly my Jewish side of the family and the other side was mostly the African American side and there were gay people on both. And I got up to deliver the eulogy and looked out and I just remember thinking that this is everything that my father would have wanted for us. He and my mother didn’t just bring two communities of people together. They brought many, many more. They brought understanding and tolerance, of being gay, being bisexual, being yourself, and he didn’t even know it.
But I think back on all the lessons he and my mother taught us about who we were in our culture and our background, about overcoming adversity, about the time my dad told me, “You just go to the bathroom if you have to.” And I know that he, even though he may have never given it much thought to people being gay, even with two other out gay sons, he probably would have fiercely defended me saying, “I am who I am and if you don’t like it, tough.”