She's no homophobe

Exclusive: How Stella Got Her Groove Back author Terry McMillan tells her side of the story on discovering her husband is gay, going through a tabloid divorce, and using the word “fag”

BY Michael Rowe

November 07 2005 1:00 AM ET

Author Terry
McMillan embodies the American dream. She’s rich and
successful, a best-selling novelist whose devoted fans have
made her books and movies commercial blockbusters.
When the film version of her 1996 novel How Stella
Got Her Groove Back
was released in 1998
starring Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs, everyone in the
world seemed to know that it was based on her romance with
Jonathan Plummer, a handsome Jamaican hotel employee
23 years her junior she met while on vacation in
Negril in 1995, when he was 20 years old. Her readers
vicariously celebrated this apparent fulfillment of their
own romantic hopes and dreams when McMillan married
Plummer in Maui in September 1998.

“I saw him
as being free of baggage,” McMillan says with
unintentional irony. “He was good to have
around. I wasn’t trying to mold him. I saw
goodness in the young man I met. He was young, but he knew
what he was doing. No one was twisting his
arms.”

It all seemed too
good to be true. And of course, it was.

On October 4,
McMillan and Plummer’s seven-year
marriage—which had effectively ended, McMillan
asserts, on the night in December 2004 when Plummer
told her he was gay—was declared officially over. The
announcement ended nine months of ugly legal wrangling over
the couple’s ironclad prenuptial agreement.
More painful to McMillan, however, was the fact that
Plummer chose to take their divorce to the media, granting
interviews and going on Good Morning America
telling the world that he hadn’t known he was gay
when he married McMillan and that his wife had
attacked him in a “homophobic” rage when
he announced he was gay. [Repeated requests by The
Advocate
for an interview with Jonathan Plummer,
made through his attorney, received no response by press
time.] He released transcripts of angry letters and
phone messages his wife had allegedly sent him, some
of which contained cruel language. McMillan claims
many of the messages were doctored, stating that Plummer and
his attorneys failed to produce the originals in
court.

Now, in an
exclusive gay-press interview, McMillan says, yes, she
called Plummer a “fag” in a heated
moment but that it doesn’t make her homophobic.
“Jonathan knows how many gay and lesbian friends I
have had, both personally and professionally,”
she says. “In all the years we were together,
he never heard me use the word ‘fag’ or
‘faggot’ in referring to anybody. The
first time he heard me use that word was when I used it
to him. A lot of black women who read my books
couldn’t even understand why I was offended by
being referred to as a homophobe. Their attitude was
‘Who gives a shit what gay people think?’
Well, I do care. I have a lot of gay and lesbian
friends, and they knew I was offended. They knew that
the [generalizations] Jonathan said I’d made about
gay people were not true.”

The charge of
homophobia has outraged McMillan’s gay
friends—notably, prolific best-selling author
E. Lynn Harris.

“Knowing,
full well, homophobic people, I would say that Terry is
absolutely not homophobic,” declares Harris, who has
been close friends with McMillan for years.
“She’s like my sister. I’m really
saddened that she’s had to go through this. And
then to be called homophobic as
well—it’s disgusting. If any of the statements
attributed to her are true, they were made in a moment
of rage.”

McMillan
indicates she would have missed early signs of her
husband’s burgeoning homosexuality in the first
years of their relationship. “He was
young,” she says. “So there were things I took
to be lack of experience. In some ways, he was shy.
Sexually, he was pretty keen for a long time, but
after a while it got boring, and he seemed happy with the
way things were.”

Just prior to
their 1998 wedding, McMillan says, she became pregnant by
Plummer, though she miscarried shortly thereafter.
“Jonathan acted as though he was excited [by
the pregnancy], but I could tell he wasn’t,”
she says. “He was just scared about the whole
idea.”

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