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How would you react if your mom asked you if you’d been barebacking?

This Texan man also felt forced to tell his dad that he was HIV positive: his reaction may surprise you

I'm From Driftwood
I’m From Driftwood – Jamie Brickhouse

A writer from Texas, now based in New York, has given an honest, at times funny, and heartwarming account of his relationship with his parents.

More specifically, he talks about coming out to them, talking sex with his mom, and telling his dad he was HIV positive. He recounted his story to the LGBT voices archive, I’m From Driftwood.

Jamie Brickhouse is originally from Beaumont, Texas. He came out to his parents after writing his first, five-minute play for a school show. The piece included a gay character, prompting a call from his mom – who he calls Mama Jean.

‘She said, “Oh! We just loved the piece that you wrote! I think it’s just wonderful! I’m telling you, you’re a writer. That’s what you need to be!” And then there was this uncharacteristic hesitancy in her voice.

‘And then she asks, “But you don’t have tendencies like that do you?”

‘And I said “Yeah, I do.”

‘And then she just screamed away from the phone, “Earl! Earl!” – my father’s name – “Pick up the phone! Jamie has something to tell us.”

His parents largely took the news in their stride, even if his dad – who he calls Daddy Poo – warned him, ‘Just don’t march those parades.’

‘New York? Have you heard of AIDS?’

Later, he told his mom about being in a relationship with a ballet dancer, but she was alarmed when he told her that the dancer had performed with the New York City Ballet.

‘“New York? Have you heard of AIDS?”

‘“Have you heard of safe sex?” I said to her.

‘Several years later, after I had, you know, been in New York for many years, and she was up here visiting, she almost said out of the blue, “Have you been barebacking lately?”

‘I just turned to her and looked incredulous and I said, “Do you know what barebacking is?”

‘She said, “Yeah. I learned it on Oprah.” Apparently, there was a gay guy who was being interviewed on Oprah and he had a crystal meth addiction. And he lost his fabulous life and started barebacking and became HIV positive.

‘He’s threatening to tell Daddy Poo my dirty little secret’

‘So flash forward to 2012 and that morning where I need to call Daddy Poo. And the reason I need to get him is that my brother is angry with me because I have refused to let him and his very large dog move into my New York apartment that I share with my partner in a very small cat.

‘He’s threatening to tell Daddy Poo my dirty little secret. And my dirty little secret is that, like that gay guy on Oprah, during my alcohol and drug addiction, I had been barebacking and had become HIV positive. And Mama Jean’s not around to have these come-to-Jesus talks anymore.

Brickhouse says he felt almost paralyzed with fear, but then anger at the threat at being outed took over.

‘So I pick up the phone and I call Daddy Poo.

‘“Hey, is this Jamie Poo?”

‘“Yep.”

‘“How’s that book coming?”

‘“Oh, it’s coming along.”

‘“Well, hurry up and finish. I want it to come out before I die. I see on Regis and Kelly y’all are having some bad weather up there.” I cut off this small talk and I asked him if he’d heard from my brother. He hadn’t.

‘And I said, “Um, I need to tell you something.” And I kinda hemmed and hawed.

‘And then, I just opened my mouth. “I never wanted to tell you and mom and look, all right, I’ll just say it. I’m HIV positive. I have been for 10 years. And I never told y’all because I didn’t want you to worry and you don’t have to worry. I’ve never been sick and I take one pill a day and I never had any side effects.”

‘You’re gonna be OK, right? You’re going to be OK?’

‘And there was just dead silence on the other end of the line.

‘And then he said, “But you’re gonna be OK, right? You’re going to be OK?”

‘I said, “Yeah. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I mean, I’ll die someday, but it won’t be from this.”

‘“Yeah, that’s what I’ve been hearing. They got some good medications these days.”

‘And I said, “Yeah.” I said, “You know, it’s like a chronic condition like diabetes but it’s better than diabetes. I mean, diabetes is a pain in the ass.” And then he started to tell me which celebrities were on Regis and Kelly that morning. Done.

‘Every now and then he would send me a clipping. He was always sending me clippings in the mail and, you know, there was a clipping in there about some HIV meds. And there was this yellow Post-It note with his old man spookhouse writing in there and it said, “Is this the drugs you’re taking?”

‘And then one time, I was down in Beaumont visiting and he just casually mentioned that he was going to the annual Paint the Town Red gala fundraiser. And his unsaid words spoke louder because the fundraiser is for the local AIDS support organization in Beaumont.’

‘Now, I don’t give a damn who knows. Yeah, I’m HIV positive’

Brickhouse says his dad did pass away before his memoir was published, but that he sent him a manuscript of the book a year before it hit the shelves. The older man read it and gave him his blessing. He says telling his dad he was HIV positive was incredibly liberating.

‘He died knowing just about everything about me.

‘Before I told Daddy Poo that I am HIV positive, I was in the closet about it. I had only told my partner and a handful of friends. But telling him liberated me. Now, I don’t give a damn who knows.

‘Yeah, I’m HIV positive. I have red hair. I’m 49 years old. I’m from Beaumont, Texas and I live in New York City. That’s who I am. And I like floral print blazers.’

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