Thom Filicia is an interior designer, most famous for his role as an interior design expert on the television program "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" on the Bravo network. Filicia established his own design firm in 1998 and since then has completed residential and commercial work around the country, as well as designing the U.S. Pavilion at the 2005 World's Fair in Japan. In 2006 he was chosen as one of House Beautiful magazine's Top 100 American Designers and House & Garden magazine's Top 50 "Tastemakers."
Question: What’s your coming out story?
Thom Filicia: You know, I will tell you I think as a young boy I definitely knew that... even before it was a sexual attraction, I just knew that I was being trained to... I was being raised as boy so I was doing all the things that little boys are supposed to do. And, you know, when you challenge that with another idea you know—I mean, I did, I knew—that other idea was intriguing to me. I didn’t understand it and I wondered if everyone thought that but it just wasn’t sort of talked about.
So I remember as growing up I definitely... I recognized that there was that layer, but I also wasn’t 100 percent, I didn’t understand it. So I just... I kind of kept it in a place that felt comfortable for me and tried to sort of look at it at all different sides and then kind of evaluate it and figure it out so that I could decide if I was comfortable with it or I was not.
And so I think that was a process, you know, growing up. I don’t think it was one day I was like, “Oh my God, I’m attracted to the same sex.” I think it was kind of a learning experience for me. And I had girlfriends, I dated women so it was not like something that wasn’t uncomfortable for me. I’m.. my whole life... I think going through my eduction, through college, it just started to become more... something that was not as part of my every day sort of thought process. It started becoming more and more so.
And when it finally got a place where I felt comfortable with it and I understood it and I had a good enough foundation to say, “You know what? I think this is... I made a decision.” I probably was about my senior year of college. I told two of my best friends, guy friends and my two my best girlfriends in college. And they were totally cool with it. And about a year after I graduated from college after I had not been dating in a year, my parents asked me: “Why are you not dating anyone?” Just kind of like in conversation. That’s kind of how it started and they were pretty cool about it.
I mean, my mother said, “I can’t believe you’re gay, you’re such a slob.” That was pretty uneventful. I mean, my parents were pretty cool about it. They were friends with... they became friends with a lot of my friends and I was able to... it was a pretty positive experience. It was a very positive experience and it still is to this day. My mother is no longer alive but my father actually was there when "Queer Eye" came on the scene and I remember calling him and saying, “So there’s this project I’m working on. And I just want to let you know about it because I think you’re going to hear about it. Maybe.” I didn’t know, you know at that time. We didn’t really know how it... it could have just been like a TV show that no ever heard of or a few people did or whatever.
So I told him and he was like, “Oh my God.” He was like, “That’s quite a name.” So that was actually... I would say Queer Eye for all intensive purposes in my life was really when I came out because I mean, that’s when I came out to every single person I ever went to school with my entire life, teachers, professors, friends, family. I mean, it was... that was a real coming out for all five of us.
And I have to say it was a lot of fun and it was cool. It was really interesting to see people be really comfortable with the concept. And I was actually... I wondering where it was going to go and when the show really took off I thought, “Wow this is crazy." It took me a while to wrap my head around the show moving, the momentum that it moved at. I wasn’t... I was moving at a much slower pace than the show was. I was like, “Wait a minute.” All of a sudden we were on like the "Tonight Show." It was just kind of crazy and every single time in you’re in that situation we’re talking about "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and so it’s right there. And you’re talking on prime time television. You’re talking on cable. You’re talking at the Emmys. you’re talking at the Music Video Awards and so all of a sudden it just became, it was like coming out every day. It was really kind of... it was a little crazy. But I have to say it never was an issue. So it was actually a lot of fun.
I don’t think out of the five of us any one of us had a really negative experience with it at any level. I always thought "We’ve got to be careful, you know, where we’re going and what we’re doing because you just never know." And we just never... it never was an issue so it was a pretty powerful experience. It was like coming out for like three years every day.
Recorded August 4, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller