When I was young, I remember sitting in the back of my parents' car listening to the radio. Often when we were heading to a major league sports game downtown, during which I only paid attention to eating every food item the stadium offered, we listened to a talk radio station. On air was a host who infuriated me.
He was the kind of host that liked to listen to himself talk. He was pompous and overbearing, he ranted, he attacked his guests who were there only to be a target of his forceful opinions. I didn't think of him again until years later when he became one of the most vocal opponents to gay marriage, using his platform and rabid on-air personality to spread his opinions.
Naturally I was wary when invited to appear on his TV show on Canada's fledging right wing network. I was to represent Gays With Kids and speak as a voice for gay dads during an eight-minute interview that would be part of a special on families in current Canadian society. I was assured that the interview would be fair.
I agreed even though I was still skeptical about how I’d be treated or what I’d be asked. I was afraid to make myself the face of gay families in Canada and therefore a punching bag of the right. Nor did I want my children to be a target in any way. But I told myself to be brave and try to put a pleasant face forward. I also comforted myself with the fact that the station had a very low viewership so maybe the piece wouldn’t be seen by many people, though again I was still nervous because those few people might be the most rabid of reactionaries.
The day of the filming, I made myself look presentable, I wrote down some of the main points I wanted to make and I took the bus down to the studio. I felt like I was selling myself to the dark side, or at least entering the devil’s territory. The lobby of the building, however, was bright, white and eerily quiet, giving an impression that there actually wasn’t much going on – no factory of sinister men in black hats drumming their fingers and plotting ways to bring down the liberal elite.
I was greeted apathetically by the receptionist, met the indifferent production assistant, taken to make-up and then was asked to wait. The host himself came to get me and to walk me across the street to the studio. He was amiable and chatty, talking too much either out of his own nervousness or a way to keep my mind occupied to prevent me from getting nervous. We had to sit in the company cafeteria, a sterile little room with white tables and chairs, and devoid of any other people, while we waited for the studio to become available.
The host took the opportunity to tell me about himself, speaking about his children and grandchildren. Part of me thought, Yes, I know you’re straight, but the kinder side in me recognized that he was trying to find points of commonality. He also told me about his (Catholic) Church, and about how hate had infiltrated belief and how his own views of marriage had evolved. I still didn’t fully trust that he was being sincere.
We were called into the studio, fitted with microphones and ushered in front of the cameras. I tried not to be nervous, telling myself that I knew my own story and could share it easily. I focused on where to put my feet, which were hidden behind a desk, but dangling from the tall stools on which we were sitting.
The cameras rolled. I spoke about how my partner and I had wanted to start a family, had chosen adoption as our route, about having loving families, a great network, lots of resources and about the growing community of Gays With Kids. The host asked about any difficulties we may have faced and then asked a roundabout question: “How do we answer when people ask about the importance of a nuclear family and if our children need a mother?” I said that that speaks to the idea that men can’t be nurturing. And here the host jumped in and spoke a little about his own role as a father. It was the highlight of the interview for me: After I had made my main points, I had the host agreeing and sympathizing with me, surely a good sign to others in the right-wing world.
The eight minutes went by quickly, the interview was done, I was thanked and escorted to the street. That was that. I hadn’t been put on the spot, or confronted or pilloried. It was anti-climactic, just a pleasant little chat. And the man I loved to loathe for so long was no longer a threat or an enemy. A few months later Michael Coren (for he was the man in question) publicly discussed his change of heart in an interview with the National Post. The main reason he left the Catholic Church was the treatment of gays: “I could not remain in a church that effectively excluded gay people. ... I felt a hypocrite being part of a church that described homosexual relations as being disordered and sinful. ... I felt that the circle of love had to be broadened, not reduced.”
I waited for my interview to air on the weekend; I waited for the reaction from the internet trolls. But on that Friday Sun News TV went off the air. Its corporate company shut it down and laid off all its employees, effective immediately. The rabid right-wing reactionaries couldn’t sustain a profitable national network in progressive Canadian society.
Happy news in itself. But I also felt a mix of disappointment, because I was proud of how well the interview went and the points I made, as well as a bit of relief. No one would ever watch it: I wouldn’t be made a punching bag or target of the right and I’d never have to watch either, because I never want to see myself on tv.
The moral of the story? People can and do change. Right-wing networks go off the air. Most of all: Love wins.