Sunday's front page edition of The Hartford Courant contains a piece sports radio commentator Jason Page. Recently, the broadcaster took the courageous step in opening his sexual orientation.
Although he worked as an openly gay morning host at Gay & Lesbian Radio on SiriusXM eight years ago, Jason Page was more private when he entered the testosterone-fueled field of sports talk radio. He wasn't comfortable letting the sports world know about his personal life.
No way, no how.
In the past few weeks, CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon, former Villanova basketball player Will Sheridan, Phoenix Suns general manager Rick Welts and ESPN radio personality Jared Max have all come out and said they are gay.
Their candor helped give Page, a former sports radio personality in the Hartford market, the courage to say he is gay, too.
"One person does it, which emboldens another person to do it, which emboldens another person to do it," said Page. "I think it's a snowball effect, and I'm hoping what I'm doing will kind of do the same thing."
To be fair, that's not all Page is hoping happens. Page, whose afternoon ESPN show was carried on WPOP-1410 in Hartford until January, wants to live his life free and with no secrets.
"There were a lot of times when I felt Jason wasn't being himself at work and it affected him, and it affected the way he treated people," said Evan Wilner, Page's former producer at POP. "He treated people differently because you could tell he wasn't happy with the person they thought he was. He was trying to be someone he wasn't. Now, he gets to be who he is, and I think that's great. I think [coming out is] going to help him."
Page's professional resume extends to Danbury where he worked in the news department at WLAD as well as the Director of Communications for the city of Danbury. In the sub-section of the article entitled "Dealing With The Slurs" Page talks about his time in Danbury working under them first term Mayor Mark Boughton and his then chief of staff Mike McLachlan.
In 2002, he shelved his stage name and used his given name, Jason Gontarek, as the director of communications for Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
Current state Sen. Mike McLachlan, R-Danbury, was Boughton's chief of staff.
"So I uprooted from East Haven, moved to Danbury, bought a condo and two months into the job, my partner at the time, Oscar, made a really nice special piece of artwork for me and he wrote a message on the back," Page said. "It was something to the effect of, 'Love, Oscar.'
"One day the mayor's wife came in and looked at the back of the frame that was on my wall. It was a Friday. The following Monday they bring me in, the chief of staff, Mike McLachlan, and the mayor bring me in and proceed to essentially rip me a new one because I didn't tell them before I was hired that I was gay and they were like, 'We should never be finding out this way, what if we found out through the press? You should have told us before we hired you. …'
"From that day until the day I left McLachlan was cold to me."
For their part, McLachlan and Boughton give the almost too predictable responses to the allegations: Issue a "no comment" or go on the attack.
McLachlan issued a "no comment" through his office for this story. Boughton responded.
He said he thought he knew Page, or Gontarek, was gay and he called the conversation Page alluded to "complete nonsense."
Asked if he knew Gontarek was gay before he hired him, Boughton said: "It was nine years ago so I don't specifically recall exactly, but I was aware and I frankly didn't care. It wasn't relative to what kind of job he could do. We have other people who are gay that work for various parts of the administration. It wasn't an issue at all."
A contributor at My Left Nutmeg pretty much summed things up about Boughton and McLachlan's alleged reaction to Page's sexuality...
Got that jobseekers? Just let Boughton and McLachlan know whether you like guys or girls (or both) during the job interview, and everything will be fine!
No wonder these guys weren't in favor of Equality.
UPDATE: Over at his blog, Page offers his take on the Courant article:
First, a huge THANK YOU to the folks at the Hartford Courant for their professionalism and discretion in the way they handled this story. There are a lot of elements that went into this process over the past couple of weeks. There were many delicate matters that had to be discussed. They could not have been better to deal with during all of this. That needs to be said. Real journalism isn’t dead. It still lives. The Hartford Courant has made me believe that.
Next, I should address why I chose to do this now. The article talks about it some, but we always find ourselves remembering things we would have liked to say if we had the opportunity to do the interview again. Plain and simple. If not now, then when?? I am 33 years old and I didn’t want to go on living my life in a “dual-personality” sort of way. Some may have assumed I was gay over the years. Some might have thought otherwise. Up until recently, I hadn’t been in many meaningful relationships (over the past 3 years). I have been seeing somebody now for a couple of months and its been a great experience. This contributed some to my decision to do this now. I didn’t come out while working for Clear Channel and ESPN Radio 1410. The reason was simple. I couldn’t be sure upper-management would have my back if the ratings declined as a result of coming out of the closet. As many stories as were told in the Courant article, in terms of some of the things I have endured being out in the workplace, I didn’t share all of my stories out of fear for a backlash against me by radio executives. In the end, I now regret not coming out while on the air with Clear Channel. I will leave it at that.
I have lived my life as two different people for the past 11 years. There was the Jason everybody knew on the air and there was the Jason who lived a much different life than anyone had probably imagined. This often created conflicts for me that I just got used to “managing” over the past decade. Introducing a partner or a boyfriend as a “friend.” Having to remind said “friend” that in public we couldn’t show affection towards one another and had to be careful what we discussed within ear-shot of others. I forgot how much work that had been over the past 10 years. It was only through talking with Desmond Conner that I realized what I had been putting myself through.
I am at a crossroads in my life both personally and professionally. I was on the fence for a few days on whether or not to reveal this “secret” out of fear of what it might mean to my career. Radio is an extremely subjective business. As one very high-profile personality told me in private: “You never want to give a radio or TV outlet a reason not to hire you.” Now, I have done so. For as much as we might like to believe discrimination doesn’t exist towards all minorities, I can tell you that it does. I have worked in the media biz since I was 17 years old. If they don’t have a reason not to hire you or a reason to fire you, they will find or concoct one. This is a truth that might make some media insiders cringe and it might even cost me a few opportunities for work, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.
Up until today, I have always viewed being gay as a minute part of who I am. Like the color of my hair or hazel eyes, I never wanted it to define me. I realize thats not possible in the world we live in. And if I can help just one other person whose in a similar situation to the one I have been faced with for the last decade, then believe it or not, this has all been worth it. I am sure I will have more to say. But this is it for now.
UPDATE 06.06.11: This morning Jason Page made an appearance on Fox61 to talk about the article.