Jeff answered the phone in the B98.5 studio the other morning, during which the caller asked to speak to our producer. Once Jeremy picked up the line I could see his frustration grow as he listened to whatever lengthy story the listener was telling him. He ended the conversation by slamming the phone on the receiver and continuing his work. Jeff and I asked what made him so angry, and Jeremy explained that the listener and his family had just taken a vote to stop listening to our show. The reason? I was gay.
This listener was apparently tending horses in a barn with 14 members of his family that morning and heard me talk about my girlfriend, which prompted “the vote.” After the call, Jeff and Jeremy spent the next few minutes discussing how offended they were at hatred towards gay people. Mind you, I was not part of that conversation, since I was unaffected by the call and continued with my work. But to hear these straight guys genuinely disappointed in homophobia was refreshing. They also called the listener a coward for not talking to me directly. I must agree.
I have been fortunate in my decades-long radio career in Atlanta to rarely experience prejudice for being a lesbian. People are amazed when I tell them I have never received a piece of hate mail for that reason. Usually listeners get bent out of shape because I’m an opinionated female on the mic, having nothing to do with my sexuality.
There are other positive signs of acceptance in media. “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts came out on Facebook, thanking her long-time girlfriend Amber Laign. She then talked about her on GMA, showing a picture of them at a family wedding. First Lady Michelle Obama took to social media to tell Roberts how happy she was for her, adding, “You continue to make us all proud.”
Two former members of the Houston Oilers recently told the Houston Chronicle that there gay members on the 1993 team. They were called “unbelievable teammates” by Lamar Lathon, and Cris Dishman said having gay players in the locker room was “no big deal.”
During the Tournament of Roses parade over the holiday, a gay marriage took place on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation wedding cake float. While watching coverage of the parade on HGTV, I noticed their coverage of the groundbreaking float was no different than that of any of the other floats. Nancy O’Dell even made a point to congratulate Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair.
I like stupid humor, so I also have to mention the gay parody of “The Bachelor” that was posted on “Funny or Die,” starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson and hosted by George Takei. Being able to make fun of things can be cathartic too.
It’s human nature to want to be liked. Of course I hate the idea that a group of people spent time in a barn criticizing my life, and actually held a vote on turning the dial so they didn’t have to hear me talk anymore. Even more, I hate the idea that one of those family members was gay, in the closet, and realized in that moment their family would never love them.
But that’s not what I focus on. For one phone call that says my gayness should not be on the airwaves there are scores of others who support me and my family, including the two men I share a studio with every morning. Love really is stronger than hate, if you allow it to be. Those who are angry and exclusionary have their own demons that got them to that place, and I leave them to that struggle. Enjoying the people around you is much more relaxing, and doesn’t end in slamming the phone to end a disturbing conversation.