For better or worse, family has a way of putting life in perspective.
When stories started popping up about me coming out on television, one of my sisters was quick to state the obvious and bring me back to reality.
"Why all this attention? It's not like you're Oprah or anything."
True. (But a guy can dream, can't he?)
Here's the back-story:
As I was filling in on ABC World News Now, I complimented Zachary Quinto's "coming out" and joked that I would consider dating him. (Again, a guy can dream, can't he?) Later that morning, I wrote a blog about why I decided to share a little of myself. That afternoon, a few sites started running with the story, leading to a snowball of messages and then some television coverage.
Clearly, name recognition didn't spark the attention. Instead, I think it was the simplicity of the statement and the casual delivery that raised eyebrows. After all, it's not too often you hear a guy-to-guy comment on-air, at least not without a punch line. But how often do we hear a female anchor swoon over George Clooney or a male anchor talk up Hugh Hefner as an idol?
I know some people think those comments, regardless of sexuality, don't belong in a newscast. But an early, early morning show (3 a.m.!) like World News Now allows a little wiggle room for personality; it's part of the DNA. A looser format gives anchors a chance to show more of their personal side. My side, however, is rarely out there for the rest of the world to see.
So why'd I do it? To fulfill a promise I made to myself a few years back.
Like a lot of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, I knew pretty early that I was "different" from everybody else. In grade school, I was an easy target for teasing: a little chunky, glasses, and painfully awkward at sports. So to avoid being someone's prey, I usually ate by myself, hid in the bathroom or stayed in the safety of the classroom during lunch and recess.
To be clear, I had a tremendously supportive family. And when their words of encouragement didn't work, Mom usually stuffed a candy bar in my hand to help me forget about being a little out of place. I learned "comfort food" at an early age.
Throughout high school, I hid from reality, dating girls and knocking down rumors that I was gay. Despite struggling to hide a part of me, high school was a lot of fun. I built solid friendships, gained some confidence and even worked my way into the "cool" cliques.
It wasn't until college that I'd finally had enough of the battle. I was ready to wave the white/rainbow flag and declare my sexuality to the world. The support and love was overwhelming, and it's grown stronger ever since, which is why it's time to finally make good on the vow I made years ago.
As I was growing up, I swore that if I ever enjoyed any kind of visibility or success, I was going to somehow help break down the walls of hate that hold others captive. I was fortunate to be surrounded by loving family and friends, but as we too often hear, not everyone is so lucky.
I'm looking forward to working with Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the "It Gets Better" project. Some might say I'm a little late to the party, so I've got to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, there's plenty of work to be done to show kids it's what inside their hearts that really counts.
I might not be Oprah, but if I can help just one person, I'll have kept my word.
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