Metro Weekly

Andrew Gillum, former mayor of Tallahassee and Democratic rising star, comes out as bisexual

Former Florida gubernatorial candidate tells talk show host Tamron Hall about his struggle with alcoholism and the state of his marriage

andrew gillum, bisexual, democrat

Andrew Gillum (left) speaks with Tamron Hall – Photo: Tamron Hall Show.

Andrew Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee and one-time rising star in the Democratic Party who ran for governor of Florida in 2018, has come out as bisexual in an interview with journalist Tamron Hall as part of her self-titled talk show.

Gillum agreed to sit down for a pre-recorded hour-long exclusive interview with Hall, whose second season of her talk show kicked off on Monday, marking the first time she has returned to her New York set since the show was forced to stop production due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In the interview, the 41-year-old Gillum addressed rumors swirling around him after he was found intoxicated in a hotel room at the Mondrian South Beach Hotel in March, accompanied by two Florida men, one of whom was a well-known escort who allegedly overdosed on what is believed to be methamphetamine.

Read moreFormer Florida governor candidate Andrew Gillum found in hotel room with gay escort

Police eventually decided not to bring any charges against Gillum related to the incident. Meanwhile, Gillum entered rehabilitation for alcohol addiction and withdrew from public life, asking for privacy for himself and his family.

His decision to enter rehab also  also resulted in his stepping away from his positions as a guest commentator on CNN and as head of Forward Florida, a progressive organization focused on registering and engaging Floridians — particularly low-income individuals, voters of color, and infrequent voters — on various political issues.

Speaking with Hall in his home city of Tallahassee, Gillum — accompanied by his wife of 11 years, R. Jai, at various points throughout the interview — talked about his struggles with alcohol, and how that addiction spiraled after losing a potentially history-making 2018 campaign that would have made him Florida’s first Black governor. He added that he attempted to hide his dependence on alcohol from his wife.

“I had an aid to help me sort of numb that,” Gillum said in part of the interview teased by the Tamron Hall Show. “And that is, I took to, you know, to drinking at a level that I had never done before. In the morning when I would have my coffee cup, somebody might think coffee was in it, but it was really whiskey.”

When discussing the details of the night when he was caught in the South Beach hotel room, Gillum said he identifies as bisexual.

“The truth is, is that, Tamron, everyone believes the absolute worst about that day. At this stage, I don’t have anything else to have to conceal,” he said. “I literally got broken down to my most bare place, to the place where I wasn’t sure that I wanted to live. Not because of what I had done. But because of everything that was being said about me.

See also: “Love, Simon” author Becky Albertalli comes out as bisexual after criticism of books

He continued: “What was most hurtful was this belief that I was somehow living a lie in my marriage and in my family. That was the most hurtful to me because I believe we’re all entitled to mistakes. And I believe we’re entitled to those mistakes without having every other respectable and redeeming part of our lives invalidated. And I felt like the love that I have between my wife and I, my family, but most important, the authenticity that I tried to lead with was all in question at this point.

“And to be very honest with you, when you didn’t ask the question, you put it out there, is whether or not I identify as gay.  And the answer is, I don’t identify as gay, but I do identify as bisexual. And that is something that  I have never shared publicly before.”

R. Jai Gillum, fighting through tears, told Hall that it was difficult to see naked photos of her husband from the night in question, because she had always thought of him as “the strongest man I know” and had to reconcile that with his feelings of helplessness. 

“Honestly, I got angry,” she said. “I thought he was being taken advantage of in a way that was unfair. I thought that the whole situation, if it had happened to a woman, it would be a very different narrative. If anyone had a tabloid with a woman lying naked on the floor, would the pictures have even made it out? It would have been criminal.”

R. Jai and Andrew Gillum with Tamron Hall – Photo: Tamron Hall Show.

R. Jai Gillum also claimed that her husband had revealed his sexual orientation before they married and said she had accepted it.

“I just believe that love and sexuality exist on a spectrum,” she said. “All I care about is what’s between us and what agreement do we make to be in a relationship with each other?

“I mean, there are couples that have open marriages, there are couples who have all different kinds of covenants with one another that everybody else doesn’t know,” she continued. “And at the point where you have to reveal your covenant to the world, to then be criticized or questioned with good intentions or bad, that’s a lot of pressure. And so I’ve told him before, saying that ‘yes’ was solely about me and you. It wasn’t about me, you and the world.

“So, I don’t know, you know someone has asked me before, ‘Would you have made a different decision?’ and I had to say, ‘I don’t know.’ I think perhaps, being as young as we were — you know I wasn’t even 30 yet, I may have said no because at that age, I know I wouldn’t have had the maturity to say, while I am privately okay with this, I don’t know that I have the strength to continually defend my relationship or my marriage to anyone who doesn’t understand.”

See also: Anti-LGBTQ Jerry Falwell, Jr. resigns from Liberty University amid sex scandal with younger man

Gillum did say he could see returning to politics in the future, “if I put my mind to that.” He said he had originally thought he would play a role as an elected leader, but has opened himself up to the possibility that any involvement may have to take a “different form.”

“There is not a thing that has happened in my life, scandalous or not, to cause me to believe that if I have service to give in elected office as a means in order to render that, that I couldn’t do that,” he said. “Now, would it be hard? Absolutely. But Donald Trump is President. You’ve got elected officials who are on tape not inebriated and passed out and taken advantage of, but folks who are literally voluntarily terrorizing people’s lives. And it’s captured on video.  And they wear it as a symbol of pride.”

He added: “I firmly believe that in the years to come, whatever the second or third act will look like, that it’s going to move me closer to what my destiny, what my contribution is supposed to be. Should have, could have, would have, you know, meeting everybody else’s expectations, that’s Andrew of March 11. It’s not Andrew of today.”

Read more:

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Pastor threatens school with lawsuit after daughter sent home for homophobic T-shirt

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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