The radio industry can be a difficult one to break into.
Like most entertainment and media jobs, we start at the bottom doing whatever tasks we’re given and are taught to never question them. Anything to ‘get your foot in the door’ could be a shot at a full-time gig at a radio station.
I ran fresh from high school to study radio broadcasting in college, and I still hadn’t fully accepted my sexuality when I graduated.
After two years of hard work, I was fortunate enough to secure a salary job at a small radio station.
I started producing commercials and a morning show that my boss hosted.
One day I stumbled upon a chain of emails that my boss had exchanged with another of my superiors. And I read the line, ‘he just sounds too gay.’
As anyone knows when you’re struggling internally with your sexuality, finding out that someone already knows the one thing that you’re trying so hard to disguise and keep secret can be terrifying.
All of the insecurities that I felt since noticing I was different back in high school came raging back. Then I did everything I could to start sounding ‘less gay’ on the radio.
I beefed up my voice. I didn’t talk about anything that I thought gay people might like.
And I even changed how I said my name on the radio just so I could sound more like ‘everyone else.’
‘It’s these unique things in you that make your words powerful’
My career continued on, but my personal life grew stagnant. Dating was unimaginable, I had no new friends, and I was stuck trying to hide a big part of my personality.
I knew that it was time for me to move on. I had absorbed as much experience and knowledge as possible and was ready to take that to my next adventure.
After a year of applying to jobs, I finally got a bite and moved myself across the country.
This was a fresh start for me personally and career wise. I was ready to accept myself and identify as being gay to every new person that I met, and to my new listeners on the radio.
Immediately I noticed a difference in my show, my personality, and my engagement with listeners.
I realized it’s these unique things in your voice, personality, and opinions that make your words powerful.
The moment I started wearing ‘you sound gay’ as a badge and not as a curse is when my on air skills and confidence skyrocketed.
But, it is not without it’s setbacks.
‘I have to be the voice for the kids who are struggling with their own identities’
I later worked at a station where I would receive weekly comments like, ‘no offense, but you sound really gay.’
It really bothered me that people would take the time and write to me to tell me that they were so disgusted by the sound of my voice that they couldn’t bare to listen. Rather than just press that next preset button, they wanted to write to me and let me know that they didn’t think ‘gay’ is how you should sound on the radio.
After I got over the rage, I knew what I had to do. I had to be openly gay on the radio for as long as I had the privilege.
I have to make ‘gay’ sound ‘normal.’
Now, I have to be the voice for the kids who are struggling with their own identities. I have to tell my stories and I have to share theirs.
Find the thing that you might not be happy with in your personality and own it.
I’m willing to bet there are thousands of people who will laugh along with you and share your idiosyncrasy. Or better yet, thousands more who will think you are all the more unique for it.
The more people celebrating their individuality, and the more allies we have willing to celebrate and nurture diversity, the more powerful our messages will be.
Follow Matty on Twitter.