Focus welcomes our new food+beverage columnist, Chef Jay Kill. He will be answering your most burning questions. Before he begins, we thought it would be nice for our readers to learn about him.
Do you remember when you realized you were gay?
Interesting question… I knew I was attracted to males when I was very young. As for knowing the “gay” part, that was not until my freshman year in college. One of my humanities classes had a guest speaker. He was a gay man and I was very impressed that he was a professional in the agricultural industry. I did not think it was even possible to love a man and own/work on a farm. This was in 1985. He put his phone number on the chalkboard and extended an offer to join a weekly support group for anyone who was interested. I sat for 30 minutes repeating that phone number in my head so none of my classmates would see me write it down. Later in the week, I called that number twice but hung up both times when he answered. I was so scared.
Who did you come out to first?
I really was never in the closest. I had boyfriends, friends with benefits, and a person that I did not know I was “in love with” until he moved away for college. As for putting a label on myself, it was not until I moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1986 to continue my education. There I met a guy my age named Scott who introduced me to the gay community via bars. After that, I never looked backed, I am proud to say. Scott and I are still friends today. I told my parents in 1988 at 3am in the morning. My college female friend rode with me for 2 hours from Columbus to the family farm. I just had to get it off my chest. It was killing me inside.
I got my parents up out of bed and sat them at the dinner table.
After sharing who I was, I finished the conversation with, I will never “flaunt it or throw it in your face, BUT, if you have questions and just want to know how I am doing, I will always answer honestly.” This was the best thing I could ever say. Over a very short time they started asking me who I was dating, and since it was the late ’80s and early ’90s, questions about AIDS.
How did it affect professional, family and/or personal relationships?
I felt that I could not be a farmer and be an open gay man. I attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. This allowed me be close enough to family for visiting while allowing me to “find myself.” I found food service a “safe and accepting” industry for which I could use my work ethic and personality. This was the beginning of my professional career. I promised myself that I would not let my sexuality control my future. I feel I have had a “normal” life. I never flaunted it or hid it. I have always been proud of myself. Trust me, it has been hard but no one has the right to say I am a bad person due to the fact I love a man.
If you could go back to your younger self, what’s one piece of advice ‘future you’ would give?
Wow, this is a hard question. Hell, I would love to have advice now since I will be 51 in July. I am more worried about the future than changing my past. I had a great gay life. I got to do everything I ever dreamed. Being gay did not stop me.
What do you see for the future of our state? Our country?
I have lived in Nashville, Tennessee, now for over 17 years. I never thought this would be a city where I would have deep roots. The current state of our economy and equal rights within Nashville is great for me and my career. I feel
I can be myself here and not judged to the point I am being suppressed or overlooked for opportunities. As for the State of Tennessee and the Country, what confusing times we live in. Every day I read that we are doing great things for ALL the people of Tennessee and then, SMACK, someone or some group is working hard to suppress humans that do not fit into their comfort zone. Back in the day, gays moved to San Francisco or large city to find a community that was accepting and loving. Today, you can be married and live most anywhere. I have a wonderful husband, who is from Mexico, for close to one year now. We are both learning how to have a healthy marriage in the straight and gay community. We never thought we could be this happy. Even Mexico recognizes our marriage now and we are working on legal status for me in Mexico. FYI, I LOVE LATIN FOODS.
What’s one thing you would tell someone who wants to come out but is afraid to?
Coming out is a personal experience. Do it when you feel you need to, but do not let it define you. I see many people who are not true to themselves and miss out a lot on experiences. Good or bad, live life to the fullest.
Have questions about anything and everything Food+Drink related? Email them to QAChefJay@focusmidtenn.com