A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

Coming out

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.

215 likes
Ethics

Join the discussion

  1. michelle

    Mark I want to say well done to you for writing this comment, but it sickens me that in 2014 you felt like you had to. Ignorance is still a part of our society I dont unsderstand it – never did never will. Reading this I first felt anger for you, than I cried. You are who you are, you love who you love so what, we all do. Straight, Gay, Black, White, Christian, Non Christian, we are all in this life together our differences should make us interesting to one another not threatened. To the person who is trying to use your sexuality against you … GROW UP you ignorant piece of —-.

    24 likes

  2. Cameron

    Good on you Mark. There are many reasons to admire you. Here is just another. The nation’s come a long way, but still has a long way to go.

    7 likes

  3. Brett

    Many of us have known for many years – it has made no difference to the way we relate and do business.

    Says more about the person doing the attacking than it does about you.

    6 likes

  4. David @ Angle Vale Newsagency

    DAMN! So now I have to replace my Tower System and forget everything I have learned from this blog because Mark is gay and we all know “the gay” taints everything!

    Mark, I met you at last years ANCOL trade show and you didn’t disclose this most important fact thus misleading me in to thinking you knew what you were talking about.

    /sarcasm.

    I didn’t know until now. I’ll probably forget it in a few days. Sadly, the bigots won’t.

    I am sad you felt you had to write this post to defend your business and think that it isn’t you who needs to be “outed”, rather it is the idiot who thinks your sexuality is important. I think your knowledge and your willingness to freely share it is the most important aspect of any relationship we have.

    Out him/her, let us all see the dark underbelly of the world we inhabit and let us decide if we now wish to do business with bigots. And, as a plus, we can all point and laugh whenever we encounter the bigot, showing him/her that we don’t think sexuality is as important as humanity.

    24 likes

  5. Jamie Cammell

    Mark, You should give this person the benefit of the doubt and call them and ask them if it is true. Give them the opportunity to reveal the context rather than relying on a Chinese whisper. A quote from Bridget Jones diary is worthwhile mentioning here- “Well I can see I’ve been labouring under a misapprehension”.

    0 likes

  6. Dennis Robertson

    Mark, I think I understand your reason for making this post. Good for you.

    I hope your confrontation of this grub shook him to his core. Mores the pity that cowardly fools like him can cause a lot of destructive grief to young people who often struggle with their sexuality. I hope he is quaking in his boots as I suspect he is. The fear, real or imagined, of being ‘outed’ as homophobic should have him rattled quite nicely.

    I wouldn’t worry about the impact upon friends, employees or colleagues because most of us are a whole lot more civilised/mature/sophisticated than we were back a while ago.

    I hope the fellow in question is reading this because there is a theory that was written about in the New York Times a couple of years ago. If he reads it he might just have a bit more on his plate to think about.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/opinion/sunday/homophobic-maybe-youre-gay.html

    I have faith Mark you will understand the irony in the way I have presented this particular part of my comment. It’s all on him.

    14 likes

  7. jessie s

    Mark, I am disgusted that you even had to write this post. The fact that people today still think that your sexuality has any affect on the rest of your life is appalling.
    I pity the person who has been making comments in the hopes of causing detriment to you, they are clearly ignorant and narrow minded.
    For the record, I did not know you were gay.
    For the record I don’t think I needed to know.
    But hopefully the fact that you have written here helps somebody else either feel more comfortable about their sexuality, or perhaps helps to open the minds of some people.

    7 likes

  8. John

    Your last comment is most important and a reason for gay marriage to be legalised (don’t want to hijack the thread). But while young gay people are continually told they are different and can’t participate in even a totally secular marriage then more of these kids will become statistics.

    6 likes

  9. Megan

    This is a very disappointing experience, Mark. My view is that your sexuality is an important aspect of you – to you and your loved ones. For the rest of us, it’s irrelevant. Why anyone in your business world thinks they need to know or will behave differently if they do know is beyond me.

    7 likes

  10. Jason McLeod

    What a sad day it is when an industry colleague has to deal with such ignorance & arrogance.
    For many years I was involved in foster care & have seen firsthand the impact this type of ignorance has had on the wellbeing of the victim, both physically & mentally. Some victims never recover!
    Majority of our industry are good hard working people from many different backgrounds, it’s a shame however some people have to carry such a primitive attitude towards another person.
    Remain strong Mark.

    21 likes

  11. P

    I don’t care or think it is anyones business what happens behind closed doors gay or not but why do you feel you need to write about it.Alot of people put shit on me so what if it can’t hurt or isn’t the truth why care – don’t give them the space of our good blog site

    4 likes

  12. Mark Fletcher

    Thank you for supportive and positive comments.

    Jamie, there is no ‘Chinese whisper’ involved. There is more I could have written but chose not to as I did not want to detract from the core point of the post.

    P, being out is about opening the closed doors.

    39 likes

  13. Angelo

    Good on you for making this post Mark. I commend you.
    Whilst I would also like to know who the grub is that feels a need to question your sexuality I think you would only be dropping yourself to their level by doing so.
    It’s a sad indictment that in 2014 some people feel the need to establish another persons sexuality to satisfy their morbid curiosity. I’m very comfortable being around gay customers, family or friends and don’t give it a moments thought. For the life of me I can’t find what difference it possibly make to business, friendships or family though I appreciate it does to bigots.

    10 likes

  14. allan wickham

    More power to you Mark. This post must have taken a lot to write and I commend you for doing so, it is a shame in this day and age that you had to feel that you should write about it. Given the exposure the word “bigot” has recieved lately I`m not sure we should use that term to describe somebody who is obviously a “moron”, “imbecile”, “homophobe”, “d*@khead”…….or all of those rolled into one.

    The best way to deal with those sorts of people is to NOT deal with them.

    15 likes

  15. June

    My gay brother was born in 1944 and believe me it was a huge problem for him
    being a gay teenager in the 60’s. Bashings were quite common and name calling was the norm. His school years were horrendous until he went to Uni (more thinking people were there)
    What a difficult puberty he had and I had no idea until I was older what the issues were, because the word “homosexual” was
    not even used in those days.
    We often talk about how fantastic to be gay today when people don’t care about such things but obviously some still do.
    The shame I feel for my fellow human beings who behave this way is palpable.
    Mark you are one of my heroes and I don’t
    have very many.

    10 likes

  16. John Fitzpatrick

    Mark,

    Mate. my 1/2 brother is gay – no one should be classified by their sexuality.

    Nothing changes for me – you’re Mark.

    John

    8 likes

  17. Hamish

    The only time a persons sexual leaning would concern or even interest me is if I wanted to consider having a relationship with them beyond friendship.

    If there is two thing this blog has shown me numerous times it irony is everywhere and that humans are interesting creatures.

    What I see here is people on one hand saying they are prepared to accept a person for who they are, then immediately ostracising another because they don’t conform to their personal ideal.

    If you truly don’t judge people by their sexuality, religion, appearance or beliefs then you wouldn’t be searching for a word to describe them or making the effort to belittle them.

    You cant blame people for having beliefs that stem from their earliest days on the planet and the environment they were raised in. Some (if not most) people do change their beliefs as they grow, learn and question their place in this world. I know I have but even now I feel its a conscious decision rather than subconscious.

    11 likes

  18. BruceZ

    Like so many others here I am appalled that someone is measuring a person according to his/her sexual orientation.
    Really, it makes NO difference. Yes I believe things are so much better now than in the 50s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s; but clearly we all have a way to go yet.
    Mark I shall continue to make judgement on your worth as a human, not according to outdated stereotyping.

    5 likes

  19. Russell

    You only have to read about the abuse Adam Goodes – the current Australian Of The Year – is copping to know that people need a lot more ‘education’ to understand that we are ALL EQUAL.

    4 likes

  20. Paul

    Mark , you have shown more courage in posting this than I suspect the person trying to damage your reputation has in their entire life. Sexuality should make no difference to who you are or how you’re dealt with by other people.

    Once I may have been “ignorant” of the issue, but having a mate who I’d known since pre-school come out many years ago and what he had to deal with at the time made me realise there is no place in this world for biggotted opinions. I’ve heard even worse stories from some of my customers. Anyone who thinks this is acceptable in this day and age has no place in our supplier network, businesses or society.

    Your last paragraph is very pertinant as little is currently mentioned in Australia about the suicide rate for teens suffering from bullying unlike in the US with rock bands getting behind the “It Gets Better” project. If anyone ever thought bullying someone for any reason was right watch the “Rise Against – Make it Stop” video , and even if you don’t like the music tell me the video doesn’t move you to think otherwise.

    Personally Mark, I would love to know who this person is or who they represent as they and their products would never set foot into my store again.

    15 likes

  21. Stephen P

    Bravo to you Mark. You have taken a forward step against what I consider bully to you. The fact you chose to write about this proves you are more of a man and a human being than this grub. Good for you.

    8 likes

  22. Richard Long

    Mark, so you’re gay. So what, who cares!

    2 likes

  23. rick

    Retailer still working on the computer, tower support still there if I need it, nothing’s changed for me, carry on the great work mark.

    6 likes

  24. Daniel Leahy

    Bravo Mark. Shame on the individuals who pushed you to believe that you had to share details of your private life. Great courageous post.

    4 likes

  25. Mark Richardson

    Mark what I admire in you is you positive attitude. As a newsagent of 20 years i’ve pretty much seen it all.
    I’ve had newsagents say to me “oh well we can’t do much about it we are only the small guys the big players will just do what they like” honestly why do these people even bother to go to work each day .
    Marks positive attitude inspires me and iam sure many other newsagents .
    So I say thank you Mark for your passion and support you have given the industry over the years. As for the others who feed of negativity and love to spread rumours ,I just keep away from them

    7 likes

  26. Rowan

    Mark
    I am writing this to show my support for you and yours. My anger over this forbids me from fueling the discussion further.

    4 likes

  27. Kris

    Your creativity and enthusiasm for life abounds. I am in awe of the work and effort you have put into the newsagency industry. As a father and a partner you always show love and courage….you are you and I am thankful for that.

    6 likes

  28. Anonymous

    Your revelation doesn’t change the way I see you as a great person. Who am I to judge a persons sexuality. May you continue to leave a joyous life abounding and love and care for others.

    4 likes

  29. Steve B

    When I want newsagency information I turn to Tower & Mark Fletcher. The same goes for industry news, ideas and inspiration, especially the reports on individual newsagencies that appear on this blog.
    I did not know that Mark was gay nor do I care. I do care that Mark’s sexuality is an issue for some newsagents when to me , a country newsagent, his efforts and views are worth more than VANA & the ANF combined. Keep up the great work Mark. We, and your partner, are lucky to have you. All newsagents should appreciate you for who you are and what you do.

    18 likes

  30. Sophie

    Just reading this Mark. So well put and well written. Big hugs and virtual high faves from all of us here at Hello May magazine xo

    4 likes

  31. Mark Fletcher

    Thanks Sophie, I appreciate your comments.

    3 likes

  32. Michael

    Is this the place for pushing a gay agenda? I think not.

    2 likes

  33. David Brindley

    WOW Michael, if you think this is “pushing a gay agenda” I feel sorry for you and your lack of humanity.

    This was Mark writing about something in his life, on his blog. Don’t like it? Too bad; you’re a guest here and don’t get to make the rules.

    And, before you ask, NO, I am not gay, but would it matter if I were? It doesn’t matter to me when I hug my gay grandson.

    6 likes

  34. Peter

    That explains it.

    0 likes

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