Last week, a person working for me was asked by a newsagent whether I was gay. My colleague responded saying that the newsagent should ask me.
On hearing of the conversation I called the newsagent and asked if he wanted to ask me the question. He said he doesn’t care and has no interest in knowing if someone is homosexual. He was shocked that I asked him the question.
I first encountered homophobia in the newsagency channel in the early 1990s when I heard of several people working for a newsagency supplier telling newsagents that I was gay. It was being said to turn people away from me and my business.
I am sure others have stories of ignorance and vilification. There are far more important challenges we should be talking about than someone’s sexuality.
I am gay. If that is news to you – knowing it does not alter who I am, who I have been or who I will be. Knowing it does not alter my commitment to the newsagency channel, to newsagents, to their businesses and those who work in them.
For many years I chose to not be out. I was concerned for my young family and for my young business in the mid 1980s. From 1998 people working for me knew. It was not until ten years ago that I resolved to answer the question with yes if ever asked. No one asked so I didn’t tell. I didn’t see a reason to tell, I didn’t want to make it a thing.
Around eight years ago I was invited by a supplier to a major sporting event. The invitation was for two. The supplier rep was bringing their spouse. Taking a deep breath I told them I was gay. They were happy for me to bring my partner. We had a terrific dinner and enjoyed the wonderful sporting event. My sexuality and relationship status was treated as normal. It was an affirming experience and continues to be so in my mind.
I am writing about this today because there is at least one person using my sexuality in an effort to damage my personal reputation. As they engage in this they could harm the reputations of colleagues, employees, friends – all because they want to hurt me.
It shocks me that in 2014 in Australia there are still people who would think it is relevant or interesting to say someone is gay – or homosexual as it was put to one newsagent recently – to damage their reputation. I’d hope that the person saying this is more damaged than the person they are speaking about.
The newsagency channel has many gay people – owning newsagencies, working in newsagencies and supplying newsagencies. Their sexuality has nothing to do with the value and contribution they make.
We are all in this life together.
The rate of suicide by young Australians is an unreported tragic epidemic. The type of ignorant behavior I have written about here could be a factor in another taking their own life.