Source: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty
The Gillums are in a good place. Nearly a year after Andrew Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee and gubernatorial candidate was found naked and heavily inebriated in a hotel room in South Beach with a male sex worker, they’ve worked their way back from the brink of divorce.
“I think that the pandemic probably saved our marriage,” his wife R. Jai told GQ in a new feature story. “In the sense that we couldn’t go anywhere,” he added.
They were forced to confront many issues that were brought about, really from his run for governor of Florida, including the depression and the heavy drinking that followed his loss. But one thing that they didn’t need to have a discussion about in the midst of everything was Andrew’s bisexuality. The couple, who married in 2009 and share three children, crossed that bridge long before they said, “I do.” It’s something that despite the scandal that changed everything, she has been fine with.
After growing up knowing that he was attracted to both women and men and getting over misconceptions about how bisexuality worked (“As I understood it, it was basically gay men who were trying to pass in a heterosexual relationship when that wasn’t really what they were attracted to,” he told the magazine of past thinking), he dated both as an adult before meeting and falling in love with R. Jai. Wanting to be open and honest with her, Gillum told her about his sexuality.
“I had a lot of questions, some of which he could answer, some of which he couldn’t,” she said. “But I guess maybe it was that confidence in me really believing what he had to say about me and us [that] made it better.… It made me want to at least say, ‘Okay, let’s see. Let’s figure this thing out.’ ”
But that doesn’t mean she was immediately all in. Still, once they sat down and discussed everything, R. Jai was open-minded.
“What mainly concerned me, it was for me: What does this mean for our relationship? How does this work?” she said. When he made it clear that it didn’t mean he wanted to be with anyone else, they moved on. “Once we got past all that, nothing has changed [from] the Andrew that I’ve dated on and off for about six years, Andrew that I’ve known as a friend for even longer,” she said of her thinking at the time. “So now I’m like, ‘We’re just a couple dealing with the same things that other people deal with.’ There is nothing different.”
The couple actually discussed, albeit briefly, the possibility of Andrew coming out before he ran for mayor of Tallahassee in 2014. They backed away from the idea mainly because of the attention that likely would have put on their private lives.
“I had a political adviser whom I’d spoken to who was not just ‘No,’ but like, ‘Hell no!’ And Jai said no too,” he recollected.
As for R. Jai, she admitted that she worried at the time that it would bring unwanted attention specifically to her husband.
“A political person has his share of admirers, whether he’s married or not,” she told the publication. “It’s like, well, in addition to having women who are sometimes disrespectful, you now also have men?”
Things would all obviously come out last March, whether the couple and their family were ready for it or not. And the stories are still different, with Andrew’s “friend,” sex worker Travis Dyson, telling the magazine that he and Andrew engaged in paid sexual trysts after meeting on Grindr. Despite considering being done with the marriage due to Andrew’s troubles with alcohol, the distance the scandal created, and the situation itself, the couple would eventually realize that they wanted to make it work. They sought therapy separately, and together, helping them to be open with each other in more profound ways.
“And it is, I think for us deep and intimate conversations that probably would have once been extremely painful and hard to do,” she said.
This isn’t the first time the Gillums have been forthcoming about the 2020 scandal and how it impacted their marriage for the worst — and inevitably the best. The couple appeared on The Tamron Hall Show last fall as a united front. At the time, R. Jai addressed people who criticized him for keeping his sexuality private when it comes to public life.
“He didn’t have to say it. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business,” she said at the time. “I don’t think it’s fair to people who are not heterosexual or assumed heterosexual that they should ever have to say or disclose what they are because of how judgmental people are. I also know and I think he mentioned it to you that so many people just don’t understand bisexuality. They think they can wrap their heads around gay, but bisexuality is just something different.”
“I just believe that love and sexuality sits on a spectrum,” she added. “All I care about is what’s between us.”