JAY-Z’s Comments About His Mother Coming Out Say So Much About LGBTQ Progress

by Mathew Jedeikin
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Although the most discussed part of JAY-Z's new interview with the New York Times has been his comments about cheating on his wife Beyoncé Knowles Carter, the full interview was full of other powerful quotes. For one, the part where JAY-Z spoke about his relationship with his mother, Gloria Carter, who came out as gay in a track on his album 4:44. And the way he talks about the evolution of their relationship, and how his mother went from having to hide part of her life, to being able to be open about her relationship, is a welcome reminder about how much progress the LGBTQ community has made in recent years. Especially for many of us who, only until a few years ago, were denied the right of being able to marry the person we love.

During his conversation with NYT executive editor Dean Baquet, JAY-Z explained that although he shares a lot of details about his life with his fans though his music, when it comes to the lives of others he often holds back. For example, "Smile," the song in which Carter comes out, came about because of a "beautiful conversation" he had with his mother.

When asked by the Times how old he was when he realized his mother was gay, JAY-Z noted that he was a teenager, but that he never spoke to his mother about it. "We — it just exist. It was there. Everyone knew," he recalled.

JAY-Z went on to explain how his relationship with his mother changed, but that it wasn't until recently. He told the Times,

"We never spoke about it. Until, like, recently, now we start having these beautiful conversations, and just really getting to know each other. We were always good friends but now we're really great friends. You know. And we were just talking as friends. And then she was sharing that she was in love. She can be herself [now]. She doesn't have to hide for her kids or feel like she's embarrassing her kids. It was a much different time then. [Now] she can just live her full life, her whole life, and be her."

Isn't it awesome the way JAY-Z talks about his mother? And how great is it that Carter can be honest and open, not just with her son, but with the public. Setting an example that love is love, and that you shouldn't have to hide who you love from anyone.

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But if there's one thing about JAY-Z's quote that really resonated — at least with me personally as a fellow member of the LGBTQ community — it's his mention of how times were different not that long ago in this country. When I met my now-husband marriage equality wasn't law of the land in the U.S., and it really is amazing when you consider how much progress has been made in this country only relatively recently.

As JAY-Z explained, he didn't have permission to release it at first. Carter said something along the same lines during an episode of the D'USSE Friday podcast in September, where she noted that she didn't initially want her son to release the track.

"When it first happened," she said of her coming out, "I was sharing myself with [JAY-Z], not to share myself with the world." However she changed her mind after writing the poem that would wind up being featured on the track. "Life is short," she said during the podcast, "and it's time to be free... it's time for me to live my life, be happy, be free." Crazy to think that for the majority of JAY-Z's career Carter had to hide her truth, as attitudes towards LGBTQ rights slowly evolved, but that it culminated with her eventually being featured on his now Grammy nominated album.

Although there is still work to be done, with laws and executive orders that challenge the rights of LGBTQ citizens, remembering the progress that has been made certainly helps inspire inspire hope. And JAY-Z and his mother are certainly an example of that progress. For so long they never spoke about her love life, but now she and her son have been able to inspire countless others with her honesty.