Kevin Sessums the Mentor

Many of you likely knew of Kevin Sessums, our theatre critic, from the celebrity profiles he has done for Vanity Fair or Allure or his memoir Mississippi Sissy, but it's likely most of you don't know he's also a regular writer for Parade, the national Sunday paper magazine, which has a fairly conservative readership, and a huge one.

This Sunday, Parade is publishing a personal piece in the magazine about the relationship Kevin has had for seven years mentoring Brandon, a straight youngster from Brooklyn born to a teen mother. Kevin has helped Brandon grow into a teen himself. Writes Kevin: "At 14, he is now
the same age his mother was when she gave birth to him. My mentioning that to him the other day—he
really hadn’t thought about it—prompted our first grown-up conversation about forgiveness and

Brandon has helped Kevin, who was orphaned at a young age, through some emotional tough spots as well.

Kevin says this article means more to him than almost anything he's written, and hopes it inspires more people to become mentors to kids who need it.

Mentoring Programs Change Lives [parade]


  1. Patrick M says

    Beautiful article. Wow. Congratulations, Kevin.

    A friend is also a Big Brother and describes it as one of the most important things he has done in his life. There is such a need that it makes me wish that more people were doing this, gay and straight. It also makes me think that mentoring is a role that gay people especially can fill, given that many of us do not have kids of their own, and yet have a desire to help others.

  2. says

    Thanks for posting a link the Parade piece, Andy. Kevin’s essay is superb, and his work in helping raise Brandon is inspiring.

  3. scar2 says

    That made me cry. I listened to ‘Mississippi Sissy’ last year & that was inspiring as well. Mentoring is something I hope to do in the near future as well.

  4. Joe in SF says

    I can really relate to Kevin story because I have been a mentor to a young man for the past thirteen years. Jason was 5-years old when I met him and his two lesbian mothers, and now he is 18 and will go off to college next year. During these years, I have been the main male influence in his life, helping him to explore the world, discover his interests and abilities, and develop a good sense of self.

    Jase’s teenage years have been challenging, requiring me to be the steady and calming presence. His moms went through a messy and protracted separation when he was twelve, and concurrently realized he was gay, and came out, a year later. A lot of turmoil resulted from these events which I won’t go into here.

    However, nothing I have done in my very full life has been more rewarding and satisfying than this experience. Thinking about the hundreds of meals we have shared together — not to mention movies, plays, games, and trips — I will never forget how he used to quietly put his shoes on top of mine, between the ages of 6-10, while sitting across from me at his favorite hamburger joint or sushi restaurant. While we never formally acknowledged this, it was a powerful acknowledgement of his trust and love for me, which still brings tears to my eyes.

    Bless you, Kevin Sessums for your story. And I encourage any man interested in becoming a mentor to a young person to do so. The “me, my and I” approach to life is highly overrated.

  5. r says


    Too bad most Parade readers will never know the man giving so much love as a mentor is gay.

  6. mike says

    Another reason why Towleroad is the BEST BEST BEST website–gay or straight–on the Internet. Thanks for posting this!

  7. RomanFingers says

    Mr. Andy Towle, sir, you are the sole reason I have resisted my friends’ pleas for me to start blogging! Your universal grasp of humanity’s complex interests so eclipses my meagre inclinations to postulate that I am repeatedly in awe of the scope of TOWLEROAD’S content. This Kevin Sessums article has made me cry with a joy that acknowledges how so many gay folks can still fulfill that ages old historic role of mentor to our younger folks in need of a caring friend to guide them into being “somebody” as Jesse Jackson has preached so often. Thanks for your open eyes & your open heart, good guy!

  8. Jacob Wang says

    How can I contact Kevin regarding that Parade magazine piece on mentoring? I’m almost 40 years old & I still think about someone who mentored me when I was the same age–and even younger–Brandon (the teenager Kevin is mentoring) is. I didn’t realize “mentoring” was the term for the relationship my mentor & I developed. I began to appreciate it even more as I grew older.

  9. Pablito says

    I too found Sessums’ essay compelling and touching. However, as I read it, I couldn’t help but see it as a missed opportunity. The majority of Parade’s readership is as ‘middle-America’ as it gets. The essay could have gone a long way in dispelling some of the pernicious myths about gay men middle-America tightly clings to had one crucial detail been included.

  10. the one and only ridor says

    I stumbled upon Parade this morning and found the mentoring article very touching. But is it me that I find it somewhat odd for Kevin to take 14 years old boy to watch Equus which Daniel Radcliffe paraded himself in nude?

    Maybe I’m conservative after all…


  11. Dan says

    Everyone should read this moving essay by Mr. Sessums. Bravo to you Mr Sessums for giving your time to this child.