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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 269 > Coming out in the Deep South

Coming out in the Deep South

Singer Parson James has a white mother and a black father. He talks about the racial divide in his family, dealing with a drug-addict parent and coming out as gay in deeply conservative South Carolina, USA
PHOTOGRAPHY: FRANCISCO GOMEZ DE VILLABOA

American singer Parson James is the man whose smooth vocals made Stole The Show one of the standout summer anthems of last year. Born in South Carolina, USA, early life for him was challenging from the outset, having a white mum of German/Irish and Native American descent and a father who was African American. In such an oppressive community where “there is only black and white,” his mother was kicked out by her father because “it was not okay to mix races,” he tells me when we meet in London ahead of a small intimate gig to promote his debut EP, The Temple.

The prejudice was just as bad from his father’s side. The stereotypical racial divisions of the Deep South are still very much a sad reality. Being gay on top of that made for an isolating experience for James who sought escape in the bright lights of New York City, which is where he fled — with a fierce determination to make a name for himself in the music business.

“My mum was so epic at raising me that I didn’t need my father. She filled lots of roles and had such power and strength. I learned everything about survival from her”

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About Attitude

Out gay NFL player Michael Sam leads our All American issue. Inside, there’s an exclusive extract from the book everyone’s talking about What Belongs To You, gay singer Parson James on growing up in the homophobic and racist Deep South, and an interview with the guys behind the excellent new Robert Mapplethorpe documentary. Elsewhere, there’s our Gay Guide to America, we look at Hollywood’s history of closeted movie stars, and celebrating the icons that made queer USA great. Plus, FREE with this issue our guide to best of Thailand.