A Life of Challenges and Achievements
Terrance Dean was born on September 8, 1968, in Detroit, Michigan, where he faced many hardships and losses in his childhood. His mother was a heroin addict and he lost her and two of his brothers to AIDS. He graduated from Central High School in 1986 and moved to Nashville, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Fisk University. He then moved to New York, where he worked in the entertainment industry for over 15 years, becoming an executive with MTV Networks and producing live award shows and events. He also wrote his first book, Reclaim Your Power! A 30-Day Guide to Hope, Healing and Inspiration for Men of Color, in 2003.
A Controversial and Bestselling Memoir
In 2008, Dean came out as gay and published his memoir, Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry — from Music to Hollywood, which revealed the secret gay hip-hop subculture and DL sex parties he witnessed and participated in while working in entertainment. The book caused a stir in the media and the hip-hop community, as Dean used aliases to protect the identities of famous rappers and celebrities who were allegedly on the down low. The book became an Essence magazine bestseller and brought Dean national attention and acclaim.
A Passionate and Prolific Writer and Scholar
Dean continued to write and publish several books, including Straight From Your Gay Best Friend – The Straight Up Truth About Relationships, Love, and Having A Fabulous Life (2010), Visible Lives: Three Stories in Tribute to E. Lynn Harris (2010), and Mogul (2011), his fiction debut. He also contributed to anthologies such as Souls of My Brothers and Always Too Soon, and wrote for magazines such as VIBE, Essence, XXL, and The Advocate. He later returned to academia, earning two master’s degrees and a PhD in religion and African American diaspora studies from Vanderbilt University. He became an assistant professor of Black Studies at Denison University in 2019, where he researched topics such as African-American religion, Afro-futurism, and James Baldwin. He was also appointed the first Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Scholar-in-Residence at the Columbus Museum of Art in 2022.
A Tragic and Mysterious Death
According to Denison University, Dean died on August 11, 2022, at the age of 53, following an illness. He had been hospitalized briefly in Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 2022, but the exact cause of his death was not disclosed. His death shocked and saddened his family, friends, colleagues, and fans, who remembered him as a talented, passionate, and inspiring person. His funeral was held on August 19, 2022, at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, where he was eulogized by his father, John Shea, and his friend, author Michael Arceneaux.
A Lasting Legacy and Influence
Terrance Dean leaves behind a rich and diverse legacy as one of the most influential queer authors and academics of his generation. He was a trailblazer for gay men of color, who often face discrimination and stigma in the entertainment industry and the society at large. He was a mentor and supporter of many emerging artists and scholars, who looked up to him for his expertise and guidance. He was a creative force who pushed the boundaries of music, culture, and literature, and inspired many people with his courage, honesty, and positivity. Terrance Dean will be dearly missed by his loved ones and admirers, but his work and spirit will live on forever.