This Saturday is the second part of a powerful edition of OWN’s “Iyanla: Fix My Life” where Iyanla Vanzant talks with two pastors who have been leading secret lives as homosexual men.
But, as Vanzant told me recently during an interview held at the OWN offices in Los Angeles, she felt the story of both Pastor Derek and Pastor Mitchell warranted more than one episode and this Saturday we’ll get the second part of their story and journey.
Will Pastor Derek and Pastor Mitchell come through the public coming out and seeing how their respective congregations and families accept or not accept their truth?
Let’s see what Vanzant had to say about the men, how she approached preparing for them for coming out and what else she’ll be showing us on the new season of her popular OWN series.
Pastor Derek and Pastor Mitchell really opened up to you in what I've seen so far of their segments. Did it take a lot of coaxing? I'm guessing there has to be some trust there.
Iyanla: Not really. I think Pastor Derek was really open and willing. I think Pastor Mitchell still had some concerns about opening up because he was married and his parents are still ministers in the church. He had a larger family to be concerned about than Pastor Derek did. I think it was a little more challenging for Pastor Mitchell.
Do you think these guys wanted to get to that next step but just didn't know how to do it. That's why they came to you.
Iyanla: Absolutely. They wanted to, didn’t know how to do it, knew it was time to do it, knew they had to do it and just needed some support.
What do you think audience members will take from this whether they’re part of the black church or black community or just going through maybe a similar situation, because the message is universal I feel.
Iyanla: Yeah. But it all depends. Some people are going to get caught up in the fact that I always knew there were gay men in the black church. Some people are going to get caught up on in that. Some people are going to get caught up in they are an abomination to God. So some people are going to get caught up in there but the people who get this [know] it’s not just about them being gay.
I'm doing this in this place in my life. I'm doing this in this way. Those people I think will get what they need because that's how it's presented. It's not presented as 'you've got to say this or do that or do the other.' I think in the clip I said to him you're getting ready to come out to your community. Are you ready for the fact that some people are going to get up and walk out? I'm not telling him what to do about that. I'm just preparing him for it.
What is the singular obstacle that both of these men shared?
Iyanla: Self-acceptance. I’m not saying the church said this. Their experience with the church was ‘who I am as a gay man is not okay. It’s not okay.’ Both of them acknowledge that one of the reasons that it took them so long to look at [and] acknowledge that aspect of their life was because they had been taught in the church that it was not okay.
I thought it was interesting that Pastor Mitchell talked about the fact that he had preached against homosexuality when in fact that’s a part of his life.
Iyanla: But that happens every Sunday, which doesn’t make sense to me but rather than stand authentically and speak the truth of who they are they would lie in order to stay in the pulpit. Now, I don’t understand as a minister how it served God for you to lie about how you are, lie about what you feel.
In the show we have a demonstration where I talk to Pastor Derek about what were you feeling and we lay it out on the street. Imagine how you really could have served God had you not been filtering through this stuff.
Do you have a hope for what people will take from this story, the audience?
Iyanla: Well we look at it in three parts because we look at all aspects of it. Them revealing their story, their families receiving their story, and in Pastor Derek’s case, it was his family and then his congregation.
In Pastor Mitchell's case, it was his wife and he has children. What do they need to do to get to the place where they can handle this together? Then Pastor Derek came out to his congregation. So we wanted to slow-walk it.
These men were far too vulnerable for us to bulldoze through this story. There are way too many elements and aspects. We had to show the impact. Pastor Derek's father was a police officer, a man's man who didn't know that his son had been sexually violated. Pastor Derek's family wasn't there but they're still very active in the church. His mother is a minister. His father is a minister [and his] sister is a minister so the pressure was even greater on him not to be an embarrassment. Also, Pastor Mitchell was engaged in anonymous sex during his marriage.
And she had no idea.
Iyanla: No idea. So there’s no way that they’re going to be able to heal until he revealed that to her.
You mentioned [during the Q&A before our interview] there were two others that didn't go through the whole way. Why didn't they…?
Iyanla: Fear. It’s one thing to say I want to do this. It’s another thing when people say, ‘come on, do it.’
What are the other stories we’ll see this season?
Iyanla: We have a woman who was at one time a very highly paid model who began doing body enhancements and ended up doing them on the black market and is now having adverse effects to it. But why she started doing it I think is the part of the story.
We have a story of violence against women. And Debbie Thomas, The first African-American to medal in the winter Olympics and who left the Olympics and went on to become one of very few African-American orthopedic surgeons in the country who is now living in a trailer basically penniless. The Olympic fall from grace.
“Iyanla: Fix My Life” airs Saturdays at 9pm on OWN.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.