Karamo Brown opens up about being a single gay father: 'No one gave me a manual'

·7-min read
Karamo Brown shares the important lesson he's learned as a parent to two boys. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Karamo Brown shares the important lesson he's learned as a parent to two boys. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.

Karamo Brown is best known for his role as the cultural guru on the Netflix hit Queer Eye, where he's often diving into deep conversations, breaking down people's walls and giving life advice that it seems only a true expert could provide. But the 40-year-old Texas native says that despite the authority that he seems to have on television, he's learned throughout his own personal experiences that being comfortable to admit what he doesn't know is the best approach to his many roles — including that of parenthood.

"I think what people need to understand is that it's OK to be honest and vulnerable about what you don't know and be willing to learn and get support," Brown tells Yahoo Life. "And I think that's true for every part of your life."

The father to two boys — Jason, who Brown discovered he shared with an ex-girlfriend when the boy was 10 years old, and Christian, Jason's younger step-brother who Brown adopted in 2011 — explains that a lot of what he applies to parenting now comes from what he experienced in his own childhood.

Here, the reality star, who recently partnered up with Aimovig for its Know Migraine Mission campaign and is a migraine sufferer himself, talks about social media, his son coming out as pansexual, Tan France's fatherhood journey and more.

How would you explain your approach to parenting?

When it comes to my kids or when it comes to talking to other parents, I'm like, you've got to allow people to tell you what they're experiencing. Create the stage for people to let people in and to allow them to, say, 'Hey, this is what I'm feeling.' And then the second thing is to believe them.

Why is believing kids such an important message to share right now?

I talk to the youth all the time through my social media or on the streets and right now, the kids are going through so much. The pressures, anxiety, the feelings they must be experiencing because you're grieving the loss of so much normalcy, you're grieving all the things. I think about my junior and senior year and I think back about joy. I can't imagine being told everything socially is being stripped away, now we're gonna put on this mental health toll that's going to come along with it. Then you're gonna have to be self-sufficient before you even actually had an opportunity on top of now, maybe not support your family in a new way. There's so much pressure that happened.

Your eldest son, Jason, came out as pansexual back in 2019. What did that moment teach you about communication and support as a parent?

When he called me and he told me, I thought he was joking. And then I was like, 'No, no, no, no, you're tripping right now.' I hung up the phone and I called him back within a minute and a half and was like, 'Hold on. I just realized that because of my ignorance, my lack of education, I didn't understand what your experiences was as someone who was pan.' I don't even think I truly understood that word at that moment.

We always talk about the experience of being lesbian, gay and now recently that of trans people. But now we're starting to open up by talking more about the bi experience, the pan experience. And at that time, I didn't know. And I think what people need to understand is that it's OK to be honest and vulnerable about what you don't know and be willing to learn and get support. And I think that's true for every part of your life. Go educate yourself, go learn more, see how you can help people.

And I think that what I've learned as a parent is that what I'm going to always be truthful about is that no one gave me a manual. And even if they did, it was going to change all the time. But what I can do is continuously learn.

Do you feel that there's a specific pressure placed on you as a single gay father raising two boys?

I think the first thing I would say is that any expectations that are put on me as a man are literally nothing compared to what I see when I look at the expectations or pressures that are put on all of my girlfriends. I always sit back and I'm always like, 'I bow down.' This pressure, I can handle and let me support you. Because real talk, yes, being a single parent and yes, the expectations of being in the public eye are real. But the thing for me is that I'm human.

I'm sure your sons have learned so much from you. What's something you've learned from them?

Never stop dreaming. I think as adults we get to a place in our career and we think, 'OK, this is it.' I remember when I was 20, I didn't mind quitting a job and going to the next one. I just did not care. It was like, 'Oh, I'm not happy here. I'm going to the next one.' And it wasn't that I was irresponsible. I just didn't settle and I allowed myself to dream. And then as we get older, we have more responsibilities. We start to say, I guess I got to deal with it because I have these bills, I guess I got to deal with this because I've already put in this amount of time.

With my kids, I look at things differently now where I'm like, it doesn't matter how much time I've put in. Is it fulfilling me? Am I happy? Am I dreaming bigger? Am I thinking bigger for my life? Because I look at kids and they dream. They dream every night of what they could be. They're a fireman one day and then an astronaut the next day. And why can't I allow myself to dream? It's part of the reason why I've been doing a lot of the things I want to do because I'm just allowing myself to constantly dream and not be stagnant.

Your co-star Tan France announced in April that he and his husband are expecting a baby via surrogacy. Have you given him any parenting advice?

I haven't given Tan any advice yet because I'm a big believer that even though professionally we give advice, I believe someone needs to ask me for advice. Sometimes you can't be unsolicited. So, we've talked many times about Tan's baby and all the things he's going through, which is such an amazing process of learning what it is for surrogacy because even though my kids are older, I do want more kids. And now that I'm single, I'm thinking maybe I'll have one by myself.

I think the advice that I would give Tan would be comparison is the thief of joy. I say this all the time. And I say this really to parents because you end up seeing what other parents are doing or how their child behaves and you start saying, 'well, what am I doing wrong?' You start to compare yourself as a parent, you start to compare your children and then you stop focusing on how beautiful the experience and growth of your own family is. And so don't look at what anyone else is doing, whatever anyone else has, don't look at how their kid is acting or what programs their kids do or what school their kids get into and yours don't. Focus on what your child is doing and focus on what you are doing as the parent and know it's enough and just be comfortable in that because it's very easy, especially in our world we get caught up. And that would be the advice that I would give him.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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