My commentary via CentricTV.com…
Is R. Kelly ashamed of his transgender teen?
That’s what inquiring minds wanted to know when the megastar singer remained radio silent after news broke that his child, Jay Kelly, 13, had publicly identified as transgender.
“R. Kelly’s Daughter Turns Male” read one of the many eye-catching headlines that dominated the news cycle for weeks. So when word got out that R. Kelly had publicly commented on his personal family matter, many were eager to learn the singer’s thoughts.
But rather than using his public, wide-reaching platform to unequivocably declare his support of his child’s decision to stand in his truth and exercise self-love, R. Kelly went on a disjointed rant that suggested quite the opposite.
“Well, you don’t really want to open this up with saying my daughter is becoming my son,” R. Kelly said during a radio interview.
The radio host who asked the question explained that she was simply quoting the blogs and media outlets that covered the story.
“I know, but don’t even give the blogs that kind of credit. But as far as that’s concerned, always believe what you see—with your own eyes that is. That’s the best way to go about this business. I’ve heard a lot of things about a lot of people, and it was never true.”
The singer went on to say that “there’s a backstory” on his child’s newfound attention, however, he chooses not to go into detail, citing privacy to his longevity in the music industry.
“I don’t address that though,” he said. “That’s the thing. Why do you think I’ve been here for 27 years, and still relevant? Because I don’t address dumb ***. I just don’t do it.”
At some point he did manage to say that “no matter what they are, who they are they’re still your kids, you love them. You support them,” after going on a tangent about his need to downsize his home after his divorce – making it unclear if he was referring to his child’s gender identity or was simply making a generalized statement.
R. Kelly’s interview is problematic for a couple of reasons. For one, what exactly is the “dumb***” he’s referring to? His child’s courageous move to proclaim his selfhood? The fact that he chose to do it in such a honest, public way?
Additionally, what exactly is the public seeing that is not true or not as it seems, as he claims? His child, who was assigned a female sex, took to social media to announce that he is male and chooses to identify as Jay and not Jaya. It doesn’t get more concrete than that. Either R. Kelly refuses to accept this reality or he’s not completely privy to his own child’s Internet usage.
To be quite honest, R. Kelly simply skated around the entire issue, which is really a shame when you consider that it was a perfect opportunity to make a very loud and proud statement; not just as a father, but particularly to other parents of color with children who identify within the LGBT spectrum.
With society’s homophobic, transphobic problem, it can be increasingly difficult (and dangerous) for teens and young adults who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender. People are literally losing their lives because of the hatred others project on one’s sexual or gender expression. Because of this, young people are yearning to see examples of parents who accept their children for exactly who they are. But more importantly, it was a failed opportunity to let his son know that no matter what sex he was born with or chooses to reject, he is loved and embraced just the same.
It’s unfortunate that R. Kelly couldn’t be as brave as his son, Jay. Much like Magic Johnson did when his son, EJ, came out as fabulously gay, R. Kelly could’ve used his interview to shift the conversation to one of reception and to teach other parents on how to not only love their kids in spite of what others may see as different, but to respect their individuality and not allow his own personal workings to get in the way.
But unfortunately, like the Grammy award winner, many parents come off ashamed of their children in experiences like Jay’s – a social trend that is damaging to families and drives many young people to runaway, in which they end up homeless, or worse turning to sex work or drugs because they failed to to get the acceptance they so longed for at home. Instead, Kelly came off defensive and rattled on the topic of his child’s identity. The only thing made clear is that he’s not yet comfortable, in whatever capacity that may be. But rather than giving a haphazard response, maybe he shouldn’t have said anything at all. Sometimes a “no comment” is the best option when you don’t have the right thing to say.
No one should tell R. Kelly how to be a father, and he certainly didn’t ask for this kind of scrutiny. But when you do decide to speak publicly on such a serious and personal matter, it’s crucial that you do it with care for the sake of the one you claim to love. Otherwise, you’re doing a disservice to all parties involved.