MY NAME IS DARRIN
When I was a little boy, one of the first tabloid tv shows on television flashed a headline on my parent’s TV screen.
“TV Anchor exposed as gay commits suicide.”
It was the 1980’s.
Then, I was known by everyone as Darrin.
Darrin Reed Cowan.
Since I can remember, Darrin wanted to be a TV journalist.
And, ever since I can remember, Darrin was gay.
So, in my parent’s living room, you can imagine what Darrin felt as a child in that moment, decades before the Instagram culture of out LGBTQ journalists, who, without fear, share their truths and their private lives.
At that time, I believed that to be what you want to be, you have to not be who you are or you will lose everything.
You have to cover.
And that’s what I did.
After serving a two year mission for the church of my early life, (years where I gave up my name for the title of Elder Cowan) I returned home knowing I would complete my education and enter the world of TV news where people would know me; a lot of people.
And what I feared those people would know, is that before my mission, and before religious leaders leveled a terrifying edict to repent for who I was, I had been involved in an innocent summer relationship with Gregory Abplanalp; a boy from back home.
I was the mayor’s son.
Gregory was the son of the superintendent of schools.
And I didn’t want anyone of the viewers (who I knew would welcome me into their homes) to find out about Gregory and Darrin.
I would lose everything.
So, I changed my name.
I dropped Darrin and the truth he represented. I put Darrin in a box and buried him.
I was Reed Cowan.
I took my first job in TV.
Quickly, someone wrote the TV station to “get that fa**ot off the air.”
The letter triggered all of what I feared would happen when I was a little boy, watching tv.
“I’ll lose everything.”
So, for a time, I even changed my last name.
Must bury the Darrin.
Must bury the Cowan.
That broke my dad’s heart.
Someday, people will read the full measure of my story in a memoir I’m writing and learn how one cover led to another and another and tragedy that I’ll now live with for the rest of my life in the death of my biological son, Wesley.
I’ve felt more pain in one lifetime than most will ever have to. I’ve caused pain, too, out of lying.
And, I know that pain began to grow when I began to believe the wrong things about the value of my truth as a little boy in the 1980’s watching TV.
I didn’t believe I could be me and have my dreams too.
I fed the seed with my fear and my choices; including the changing of my name.
Eventually, the universe brought Gregory back into my life, and together we have survived Wesley’s death and have adopted a sibling set of three; raising these amazing children together.
Still though, until only a couple of years ago, I mostly hid Gregory.
I let people figure it out, but I rarely disclosed Gregory’s presence in my life; not even when we lived in Miami.
I never posted a photo of him on social media.
I never took him to work events, or Emmy awards shows.
When I won those awards, I never thanked him on stage.
When I gave my TED TALK, I referred to Gregory as my "best friend."
I never acknowledge him in public situations and circumstances.
I would lose everything.
Or, at least, I thought I would.
Yes, people knew about us.
But not you, the viewer.
Not all of you. Not entirely.
A couple of years ago, I was admitted into the broadcaster’s hall of fame and decided I would take Gregory with me for the first time to a public and professional event.
And, later I told my boss, that when we got home, I cried.
Reed knew people would welcome Gregory.
But Darrin didn’t.
And on that night, Darrin came to life inside me and cried.
Darrin cried tears of relief. He hadn’t lost everything.
As I’ve written my memoir in conjunction with Harvard’s Creative Writing and Literature MLA program, I’ve come to realize Darrin had a right to live his truth without fear and Darrin deserves to come out of the shadows.
Like I say, you’ll read more one day about the entire, epic saga.
But today, fresh from a vacation where I’ve posted photos of Gregory on my social media, I know photos aren’t enough.
I have to tell you my truth.
My name is Darrin.
Darrin is alive and healing and coming to a knowing that he is a child of God and didn’t deserve to be buried.
I entered Harvard’s program thinking I would get a graduate degree in memory of my Wesley.
I’ve tagged my Harvard posts with #FinishBy50 and #LetsDoThisWesley for more than a year.
But writing my memoir has given me the beautiful knowing that I’m not going to claim my degree for Wesley.
I’m going to claim it for another little boy who died, and is now coming back to life.
I'm going to claim it for Darrin.
I’ve filed paperwork to change my name back to the name my parents gave me.
I’ll be changing my social media and web handles to include Darrin in the sunlight of my truth.
I’ll likely not upset the apple cart on television in Las Vegas asking to go by Darrin here on TV.
I wish I could. Sorely, I wish.
What’s done is done in that regard.
But, when you see me on social media, and when you read my book one day, you’ll see the name Darrin.
Darrin deserves to surface into the sunshine of all the accomplishments and blessings I denied him all these years.
I hope you’ll welcome him with love. He deserves to know he won’t lose everything for living his truth.
My name is Darrin.