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What it’s like to be gay in sports talk radio

Alex Reimer connects with another gay sports talk guy, and they talk about their experiences in the high-pressure talk radio world.

Alex Reimer came out on WEEI in 2016.
Photo by Alex Reimer

I did not have a plan when I came out on WEEI four years ago. My goal was to hang with the morning guys, and if I was going to succeed on the air, I knew I had to be myself. That meant publicly coming out as gay, so I could be unburdened to share the intimate details of my life to the listeners.

I apologize for any emotional duress that may have caused.

On this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki,” I was granted the rare opportunity to connect with another gay sports talk guy, Ben Livingston. While I was working at WEEI in Boston, Livingston was at Philadelphia’s legacy sports station, WIP, producing the city’s No. 1-rated afternoon show, “Marks and Reese.” We both spoke liberally on the air about our gay lives, without obfuscating many of the details.

“I wanted me talking about being gay on the radio to be just like when people talk about being straight,” Livingston told me. “We were just talking about my dating life. I was afraid at first that if I talked about things germane to being gay, it would be a turn off to the listeners. But I realized that talking about gay dating really isn’t that different.”

Admittedly, sometimes I took the conversation to unnecessarily extreme levels, boasting about hedonistic late-night bathhouse visits and sweaty nightclub interactions. It turned into a crutch for me, and over time, I made an effort to become more judicious about which parts of my weekend I shared. But merely fitting in among my married and middle-aged straight co-workers was never the goal. I wanted to stand out, and show “Chris in the car” that homosexuality is something to celebrate.

One of the more ironic parts of sports talk radio is that it really isn’t about sports. Sure, we talk about games and trades, but issues drive the conversation. And more than anything, it is a talk show. The good hosts actually talk to each other, and oftentimes, the natural flow of conversation deviates from the latest hot take about LeBron James’ playoff record — and onto stories about everyday life. This is called “guy talk,” and at its worst, devolves into misogynistic squawking and creepy one-liners. But when done well, it should feel like the listeners are also invited to the bar — remember those? — and eavesdropping on a conversation between good friends.

I don’t hide my sexuality when I’m talking with my actual friends, so I never saw a reason to do it on the air. Besides some nasty texts and tweets, I can’t say I encountered a lot of homophobia on the job, though there’s no doubt some listeners probably were uncomfortable.

Livingston says he hopes openly gay sports talk hosts speaking openly about their lives will eventually propel the format to become more inclusive.

“That’s what I hope sports talk becomes,” he said. “That we can talk about you or I going on a date in the same way that we talk about men and women going on a date, that there isn’t this intrinsic difference. I think that’s where ‘guy talk’ can pivot. ‘Guy talk’ doesn’t just have to be about women — like, ‘err women’ — it can be just about guys just having these urges.”

Livingston left WIP in July 2019 to move to New York City and change careers. He says his desire to live an active gay lifestyle didn’t coincide with the non-stop world of sports talk radio — too many Saturday night playoff games — and he wanted to take on new challenges. He’s living his dream gay life. It would make for great radio.

“My friends, if they hear I’ve slept with four guys in a week — and I have. I’m a 29-year-old gay in New York. Let’s be honest,” he said. “They will not be like, ‘that’s gross,’ or, ‘oh God, did you bottom?’ They’re not like that. They just high-five me and are like, ‘that’s awesome.’ That is what I hope for sports talk and gay guys and LGBT people in general. We can start to normalize this stuff.

“Honestly, anybody who’s had great sex three times in the last week should be really happy, and people should be able to enjoy those things and not feel shameful about them.”

Click here to check out this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki Podcast”. You can also subscribe to the show on Apple’s Podcast page as well as on Google Podcasts, and wherever you’ll find Outsports podcasts.