John Gidding of “Trading Spaces” on growing up gay in Turkey and coming out to his parents
John Gidding did an interview with Metro Weekly that I want to share some with you.
The 42-year-old is one of three new faces rotating with a half-dozen “legacy” designers featured on Trading Spaces, whose next season will air on TLC in “early 2019” — likely in April. You’ve likely seen Gidding if you’ve watched a home-design or how-to reality TV show in the past dozen years or so, from HGTV’s Curb Appeal to Logo’s Secret Guide to Fabulous to Fox’s Home Free. He’s also a regular design guest on Rachael Ray’s syndicated talk show.
He grew up in Turkey until he was 15, and then I went to Switzerland for boarding school. He then came to the states for college and earned degrees from both Yale and Harvard.
On when he realized he was gay: I knew probably early childhood, but I didn’t have words for it per se, especially in Turkey, which does not have the most progressive outlook on this. In middle school it became clear to me, and then in high school even clearer. But I didn’t actually come out of the closet until graduate school. I was a late bloomer in that regard partially because of my cultural background and my family being more conservative, and [me] wanting to play a certain role specifically for them more than myself. I think that a lot of growing up gay in Turkey has to do with trying to reconcile how you’re gonna fit your life in with how your family wants you to live your life. But eventually I was able to break out of that. It took five years of being in the states for me to do it, but I got there.
On coming out: Grad school is when I came out to the world. I think the whole concept of pride had finally sunk in. When it dawned on me that I was gonna come out, I did it to everyone very quickly — within a few weeks everybody knew. We didn’t talk, my mom and I, for about a year afterwards. And then 9/11 happened. Nothing like a traumatic event to make you realize what’s important in life. My mom and I actually started talking on 9/11 because one of the planes had taken off from Boston, and that’s where I had been at the time. “Okay, let’s put this petty stuff aside and reconnect.” I wouldn’t say that my mom has fully come around, but she’s gotten much better…. My dad took it very well. He had already written out a little piece of paper in his pocket. It was waiting. So when I told him I was gay he pulled it out of his pocket and quietly handed it over to me. This was at a time when The Lion King was very popular. And it just said, “Hakuna matata.”