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Bigotry is thicker than blood.

Jerry Falwell's homophobic rants push his gay cousin out of the closet

Televangelist Jerry Falwell's outing in February of Teletubby Tinky Winky was ridiculed by the mainstream and gay press, but one person not amused is Falwell's cousin Brett Beasley.

Instead, Beasley, a 37-year-old computer sales executive who lives in Raleigh, N.C., is rummaging through his own magic bag for some Southern (gay) pride to shove in his infamous cousin's face.

"He's had how many years to stand at his bully pulpit?" asks the riled Beasley. "I'm certainly entitled to the same thing, and that's what I'm doing [by coming out publicly]."

Though Beasley has no personal relationship with Falwell--"It's not like we've sat down and had lunch together and talked about world peace or whatever"--the two have a close family tie. Falwell's mother, Helen Beasley Falwell, was Beasley's great-aunt, making Falwell and Beasley second, but by no means kissing, cousins.

The Beasleys and the Falwells share a colorful Southern history, the highlights of which are outlined in Falwells autobiography, Strength for the Journey, but there is one big difference between the modern-day clans. While one might think otherwise about relatives of the gay-bashing conservative Baptist, Beasley, along with his five brothers and sisters, was raised in a more progressive, Lutheran household.

"I've had complete and total acceptance all my life," Beasley says, even when he bared his chiseled and hirsute physique in the pages of the March issue of the erotic magazine Men. "They were like, `Uh, OK,'" he says, mimicking his parents' guarded response to his posing in the nude. "I just told them I did it because I wanted to and it was good money."

Beasley readily admits that his connection to Falwell is "remote," limited to exchanged pleasantries at family gatherings and restaurants in the Beasley-Falwell family nexus of Lynchburg, Va. "It wasn't like I avoided him, though I always somewhat disliked him" because of his views on gays, Beasley says.

But his father, Linton Beasley, communicates semiregularly with Falwell about religious fund-raisers and family matters--Falwell presided over Linton's mother's funeral, for example. The topic of his son's sexuality, however, is never discussed. "I know [Falwell] believes what he preaches; he's honest in that regard," Linton Beasley says. "But I don't agree with his ideas on many things."

Linton Beasley is skeptical about his son's decision to make his sexuality public to exert pressure on Falwell and bring attention to himself. "I don't know if that's the wisest thing in the world. Jerry has so much power in the press," the elder Beasley says. "I wouldn't want to go head-to-head with Jerry and debate."

But after the Tinky Winky episode, Brett Beasley says he cannot hold back any longer. "This whole thing set me off," he says. "It's like, hello, Jerry, the same blood that runs through your veins runs through mine. There is a connection. So what do you have to say to that?"

Not much, it turns out. In fact, Falwell issued a statement to The Advocate disclaiming the tiniest bit of knowledge about Brett Beasley whatsoever.

"The name Brett Beasley is not familiar to me, though my mother was a Beasley," says Falwell, founder of Liberty University and TV's Old Time Gospel Hour. "I have no knowledge of either Brett Beasley or his claim to be a homosexual. Not only do I not recall talking with him at family gatherings, I would not recognize him if I saw him today." Falwell adds that he offers Brett Beasley his prayers.

"That's utterly ridiculous," a dejected Beasley replies after hearing the statement. "He's the patriarch of the family. It blows my mind. A real slap in the face."

Ghent is a reporter for Legi-Slate, an online service of the Washington Post Company.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Liberation Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Jerry Falwell's gay cousin
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 30, 1999
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Next Article:They won't stop asking.

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