Living as an openly gay man can be difficult. Living as an openly gay man in the Deep South is even more difficult. Living as an openly gay man in the Deep South with a career in sports broadcasting, a career field that is traditionally highly homophobic, is incomprehensibly challenging. While I had developed emotional armor throughout my life, that armor was shattered earlier this week when my sexuality became the focus of local and national news headlines as a result of a hateful and homophobic Twitter attack from the official Twitter account of my employer.
I never wanted to be ‘That Gay Sportscaster.’ I’ve only ever wanted to be an exceptional sports broadcaster who happens to be gay. While I’ve been open about my sexuality in my personal life since my early-twenties, it’s not something that I discuss on the air, nor in my columns or blogs. The focus has always been on doing my job and doing it well. I feel like that focus has been unceremoniously ripped away from me.
Many people had asked why I chose to take a leave of absence from my duties on-air, believing that I was ‘letting bigotry win.’ This isn’t about winning or losing to me. Rather, it is a painful step that I had to take to step away from a job that I love for my emotional and mental well-being.
While I have suffered greatly, this attack was not just about me. While I may have been the one directly and publicly shamed with the use of an unacceptable slur disseminated on social media, the target was really the entire LGBTQ+ community. That community, my community, is subjected to that sort of vile language and hate on a daily basis. Look inside the comments, replies, or DM’s to any openly LGBTQ+ person and you’ll easily find similar disgusting, foul attacks. This incident just peeled back the curtain a bit for people to see the ugliness that surrounds us.
I truly believe this targeted attack was, in part, the result of deteriorating civil discourse in our country. Powerful men and women have decided to make hate, bigotry, and divisiveness platforms for their advancement in public life. It’s apparent that far too many people have forgotten the ugly lessons of the past, and this growing divide threatens to shatter the very foundations of an equal and welcoming society.
What happened on Twitter earlier this week is a symptom of that sickness. To my colleagues in the media and those covering or following this story, I ask that you turn the focus to the impact this has on, and the serious challenged facing, the LGBTQ+ community. There are too many spaces and workplaces where overt hate and bigotry are not only tolerated, but actively promoted. Because queer people fear for their job security, as well as retaliation from those in positions of power, these incidents almost always go unreported or are swept under the rug. This is unacceptable.
To all of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people out there, especially our youth, please do not be afraid to speak out when you are subjected to hate or bigoted attacks. Know that you are supported and loved by so many people, and that only by using your voice to speak out will change happen. That change is always incremental and tediously slow, but it will happen. Do not lose hope.
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from all across the world this week. I plan on continuing to be the best person I can be, and using my platform to speak out against injustice wherever and whenever I see it.
In the short term, I would ask that you respect my privacy and process, and direct your questions instead to my attorney, Megan C. Kiefer.