Growing Up In The Closet, A 'Slave To The Rhythm'

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"Slaves to the Rhythm" is a story about love, death and personal discovery. It's a memoir by Terry Connell, an acupuncturist and yoga teacher who lives in Boston.

The book is actually two stories: one, a set of journal entries about the slow death from AIDS of Connell’s partner, Stefan, in the 1990s. The other, a series of vignettes from Connell’s childhood and coming of age in a Philadelphia suburb.

"Slaves to the Rhythm"

Connell was one of 11 children from an Irish Catholic family in which, he writes, “faith trumped family” and religion was “the favored 12th sibling.”

"Slaves to the Rhythm" is Connell’s first book. He told Radio Boston’s Anthony Brooks that it remained unpublished for years until the Spring of 2009 gave him new urgency to finish it. That’s when Connell’s father sent him a draft of a family tree that he had put together.

“Everyone in my family had a page,” Connell said. “What was missing from my page was my partner, our relationship and his death.”

Connell says he was loved and provided for as a kid, but for a young man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, it wasn’t easy to free himself from the tight grip of that faith. When Connell finally came out to his family, his father told him his partner, Stefan, who was dying of AIDS, would never be welcome in the family home.

“He offered to pay for therapy,” Connell said. “He offered to have me talk to a priest. He did everything the way he knew he was supposed to.”

Even though Connell’s parents refused to acknowledge his partner and his long, slow death, Connell is ultimately forgiving.

“My parents were afraid of this,” he said. “And I sat down and wrote them a letter that said, ‘I forgive you for not being who I wanted [you] to be.’”

Connell even found a way to be grateful to his parents — for teaching him how to love and care for his partner.

“They were my role model,” he said. They never met Stefan or saw their son love him. “But their relationship and their commitment to each other and to love each other through amazingly difficult times was a huge gift to me and my relationship with Stefan,” he said. “It made me who I am.”


Excerpts (PDF):

This segment aired on March 30, 2011.


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