Queer Eye’s Tan France Opens Up For The First Time About Coming Out To His Family
19 June 2018, 15:42
Tan France opens up about his family history in an interview with Queer Eye co-star Jonathan Van Ness.
The second season has just dropped on Netflix and it follows Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski and Tan France driving round Georgia and helping people from all different backgrounds to overcome difficulties in their lives and present the best versions of themselves to the world. It's the ultimate feel good TV and we'll fight anyone that says a bad word against it.
Now, thanks to the success of the show, we're starting to learn more about these gay angels and in an interview on Jonathan's podcast, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, the fashion expert Tan France has opened up about coming out as a British-Pakistani gay man and how the show has helped him find acceptance from his family.
In an often emotional interview, Tan revealed that he first came out to his sister when he was 17-years-old, then his brother a year later and his mother a few years after that. Tan was born in the UK but his parents were born in Pakistan, and the mix of cultures lead to a compromise when he first came out to his family.
"It was always the agreement that 'yes, we understand that you can't control this, and you've always been a bit different. We didn't know what it was, but now we understand. However, you can live the life you want but never ever bring it home you can never talk about it.'
Tan was going through a difficult patch in his relationship with his father before he died and he imagines that his coming out would have been very different if he were still alive
"My dad passed away when I was 13 and he didn't know... When I came out I did feel somewhat relieved thinking 'I'm so glad I don't have to have this conversation with my dad. If my dad was still around, I definitely wouldn't be living the life I do now. Or, if I were to, it wouldn't be as peaceful as it is now. I probably wouldn't have any contact with my family. They would have disowned me, I'm almost positive, so it makes it a lot easier that I didn't have to come out to my Dad, my mum is a lot easier going than my dad was."
It took ten years and Tan's role in Queer Eye before his family opened up and were willing to learn more about Tan's life as a gay man. Until last December, they never used to mention Tan's husband - Rob - by name, even though they have been married for 10 years.
"So, I told them that I was gay, and I wasn't allowed to talk about it and I had got married in that time. I had been with my husband for ten years. Up until literally four months ago - in December - I've never talked about my marriage or my relationship. He was never mentioned in the home. They all knew, I had told them I was getting married, but they said 'that's all we need to hear'. They didn't want to know his name. They didn't come [to the ceremony]."
"Only when the show was about to come out, I told them something is about to come out and for the first time you're going to get to see what my life is. I said I'm not going to stop doing this, this is the life I've chosen and you either accept me for who I am, finally, or I can no longer be part of your lives."
Initially they didn't quite understand what Queer Eye was - they thought it was a show encouraging people to be gay (lol) but once they saw the show they told Tan how proud they were of him and have started to embrace his personal life.
"[At first] they didn't want to watch the show. With it being called 'Queer Eye', they thought it was a gay conversation programme, so I was going around the country trying to encourage people to be homosexual, which is a great idea for a TV show! [laughs] But when they finally watched the show and they said, 'it was so much better than we expected, you've done us so proud, you're just who you are'. I think their worry was that I was going to be somebody else in my personal life. That I was going to be, I don't know, super sexualised or flamboyant? I think that they were so concerned that I wasn't going to be who they knew and who they loved, so I think watching the show gave them an opportunity to see me doing what I do but being exactly the same person they've known their whole lives."
"Our relationship has changed so much the last few months. Now they ask about Rob every time we Skype, and they'd literally never said his name before. For ten years they've never used his name. So now, it's a very strange feeling with them over Skype. They've actually seen him on FaceTime and that's a very strange process."
Tan is one of the only openly gay muslim men on TV and learning about his story is incredibly moving and insightful. Make sure you check out the rest of the interview here.