Megan Barnard has a great career. She’s a famous sports broadcaster who covers cricket for Fox Sports Australia, serving as one of the game’s leading voices.
Yet, she wasn’t ready to publicly come out as gay, until a now-fired colleague outed her. Barnard’s story illustrates the challenging landscape that out LGBTQ sports broadcasters face.
There just aren’t very many of us. The dearth of representation breeds a silencing effect.
Barnard’s story is horrible. One of her colleagues, Tom Morris, was making crude comments about her physical appearance and sexuality to other people (presumably other men at Fox Sports Australia). Audio of that conversation was leaked, and as a result, Barnard was outed.
“Unfortunately, she’s a lesbian, lads,” Morris said.
He was fired following an internal investigation.
Barnard addressed the episode on her Instagram shortly thereafter. “Fortunately, I am at a place in my life where I am comfortable with who I am and I can handle something deeply personal becoming public,” she wrote.
In a new interview, Barnard spoke more at length about the impact of being outed.
“No one should ever be forced to come out before they’re ready; it can be dangerous,” she said, via Pink News. “Some people might not think it’s a big deal in this day and age, but it still is; no one knows what you suffered when you were younger and talking about your sexuality is such a private, personal piece of you.”
That’s true for anybody, and especially those working in a heteronormative industry such as sports TV. Morris’ remarks encapsulate the frat-like nature of the “between the break banter.”
In an environment like that, no wonder why Barnard, or any other LGBTQ person, would feel uncomfortable being their true selves.
This problem extends to the U.S. as well. Last year, Outsports’ Ken Schultz wrote about the lack of out LGBTQ sports broadcasters. There isn’t a single out national broadcaster for the four major pro U.S. sports.
As an aspiring sports radio person, I was very careful about protecting my sexuality before landing my first full-time job. While I was in college, I co-hosted an Internet radio show with Boston sports radio legend Glenn Ordway, and never once mentioned anything about my personal life.
I stuck to the bats and (base)balls. I wanted to be regarded as a knowledgable sports person, and thought being an out gay person would prevent me from doing that.
My thinking changed a few years later, when I came out during one of my first appearances on the Boston sports station, WEEI (full disclosure: I work for WEEI’s parent company, Audacy).
At that time, I was more comfortable with my sexuality, and thought there was great power in making the announcement on-air. I also thought it was the best way to do my job.
As a host, I wanted to let the listeners into my life, and that could only happen if I were honest with them.
But as Barnard says in her interview, everybody works on their own timeline. Two months after being outed, she’s now ready to talk about it.
“If this resonates with just one person and makes them realize it’s OK to be gay, that it’s not something to hide or run from, then sitting down for this article has been worth it,” she said.
Welcome to the club, Megan. Here’s hoping that one day it becomes less exclusive.