You are an inspiration.

Regardless of whether anyone has ever said that to you, I wanted you to know. That’s because, as a member of the media who has spent decades learning the craft of self-promotion, I have come to realize my biggest inspiration comes from people whose names no one recognizes.

As the “oops baby” in my family, I developed a self-image of not belonging. As incorrect as that perception is, as a child I thought I was adapting to an environment of outspoken elders who left little room for me to express my feelings. That’s why, when I heard Patty Murray on Nashville radio and saw Jessica Savitch on national television, I knew a profession with a captive audience was for me. I would speak and someone would listen.

And I had something to say. I came out on 99X in 1996, in an effort to include gay couples in a dating segment the morning-show team of Barnes, Leslie, and Jimmy aired each week. I shared my struggles with a chronic illness on The Bert Show, hoping the story of my kidney transplant would inspire people to become organ donors. And listeners to my current show on B98.5 have followed the anxious months of bringing Mr. Carter into the world via surrogate and the struggles some couples have with creating a family.

Some would consider me an activist for my work these past two decades. My ability to grab a microphone while climbing up on a soapbox has indeed satisfied a personal desire to create change in the arenas of gay and patient advocacy. And I got what I wanted as a child: for people to listen to what I have to say. However, my inner child came to realize that a one-way conversation did not make her whole.

I’ve grown to understand the point of my job is not to share my life on air in order to become more popular. That’s the misconception of many of my colleagues. Instead, I open my world in hopes of a connection, so that my listeners and I don’t feel alone.

An activist is usually defined as a person who campaigns for some kind of social change, the most common image depicting an angry face and a fist in the air. I’ve certainly formed that posture more than once, and have been more than happy to march down several city streets, from Midtown to outside the White House. But there are many who can’t relate to that effort.

Being loud and proud may be a nice swift kick that knocks a hole in an oppressive wall, and certainly serves as a good first step. But after that initial effort is made, I believe sharing what we have in common is the true key to any change. That’s why you are an inspiration: because your story is as important as mine.

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