Recently I introduced you to Jack Brennan (here I mean, he’d been introduced on much bigger platforms elsewhere). Jack has graciously allowed me to “interview” him in a series of email exchanges. Here is our first!
This is the obvious question, now having seen the articles announcing your coming out, what was the reaction among those that know you well? Friends? Family? Former co-workers? Your football friends? The general public?
The reaction to my coming out has been almost entirely positive. The best thing I did, before The Athletic and Cincinnati Enquirer stories came out, was to contact bunches of people from my sports and media life and tell them that I wanted them to hear of it directly from me, rather than just stumbling onto one of the stories or hearing it from other friends. This relieved me of not knowing whether any of these various people knew or didn’t know, and it relieved them from knowing but being unsure whether they should contact me.
Most of these were people that I dealt with and liked over the years, but with whom I had lost close touch, and my outing proved to be the spark for restarting good but dormant friendships. I wound up having long phone conversations with people I knew I liked but hadn’t said 20 words to in 10 years. The support from the group was most gratifying. Many praised me and said “it took a lot of balls to do what you did”. Of course I found that compliment to be a tad ironic. Very soon, I am going to go dressed to a bar and meet some of these friends who knew nothing of my dressing prior to this past February. They are looking forward to it, and I am tremendously excited about it, while of course worrying myself to death over details of what outfit I want to wear.
The only negatives, really, were a sprinkling of bashing comments to the online version of the Enquirer story. Nothing more than one would expect. Hey, if everyone was OK with cross-dressing, there’d be no reason that coming out would be seen as a big deal. (The Athletic chose to not allow online reaction to its story.) As for general public reaction, I just don’t think it reaches me. Makes me learn that you can be the subject of a story by the main sports columnist for the established newspaper in your town and still be rather anonymous in daily life on the street.
Only one person, I think, has come up to me out of the blue and mentioned it. I’m a little surprised that I have not been reached out to at all by the LGBTQ community here, nor have I gotten any expressions from people who said my coming out has helped them or someone they love. Not that I’m looking for anyone to erect a statue of me. What you do, Kandi, is also reaching a lot of people in a very good and inspirational way It is probably on me now to reach out more to some of these local queer communities. Overall, the coming out experience has been far easier for me than I know it has been for millions of others. I am thankful and do feel really liberated.
Being “out” the way that I am (keeping the secret from those that know me otherwise, but going out in a very public fashion), I have learned a few things and talked about them here. The LBGTQ community is sadly, not a community. It is a grouping of people, not much more. I have said that here and said that to people in the LGBTQ “community” and those in positions of leadership within this grouping (to their faces personally). Our little segment of this grouping is very secretive, so even if they admire what you did, they are not likely to say so for fear they may be discovered themselves. Frankly, crossdressers are not even considered LGBTQ+ by members of this grouping. You have used the articles and your upcoming book and I scream from my little pulpit and we’ll slowly (to use a football analogy) move the ball downfield. Very slowly.
We know the Jack Brennan back story from the articles, what is the Jackie back story? The genesis of Jackie? What was your tipping pint for coming out?
The tipping points for coming out were two. First, I’m a writer, and I came to realize that I had a book in me about this, and it was a great project to take on in retirement. I am highly motivated to write a successful and hopefully somewhat significant book. Call it professional writer’s ego. Secondly, when you get older, when your life and legacy is somewhat established for better or worse, things (like coming out) that scared you to death as a younger person are not quite so scary anymore. And though I wouldn’t call it a tipping point, the desire had been in me for years to try to become a more genuine and unafraid person. My wife of 47 years, Valerie, and my three adult children have all been supportive. Valerie’s support is of course the most crucial. She has been less afraid than me of what coming out may mean and has said, “People shouldn’t have to hide things like you felt you had to do for so many years. I felt that, too, but now it’s time to tell your story.”
Many of us reach that point in our lives while on “the back nine” so to speak. I envy you the ability to have made a living writing. This blog was developed to hopefully inspire or help someone out there but I won’t lie, it’s a vanity project for my writing (yeah, you probably thought for my photos, but I value a writing complement greatly!). That magic 50th birthday seems to have created many of the ladies I know today!
Check out the entire Difference Makers series!