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Stephanie Miller: Talk-radio host speaks on coming out
Extended for the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Steven Chaitman
2010-09-22

This article shared 4493 times since Wed Sep 22, 2010
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One day after Proposition 8 was overturned in California, nationally syndicated talk-adio host Stephanie Miller decided it was time to come out as a lesbian.

An ever-present liberal voice on political issues as heard on her daily morning show as well as MSNBC and other political commentary stations and programs, Miller made the announcement with the on-air support of her friend, country singer Chely Wright, who came out as a lesbian earlier this year.

Miller, 48, spent the late '80s in Chicago co-hosting the WCKG morning show with John Howell, but in the many years since, settled in California. She spoke with Windy City Times about the many reasons she decided to come out on a professional level and what the last month has been like.

Windy City Times: The news is obviously still pretty fresh, as it's been less than a month since you came out on your show. Could you talk about what became the "tipping point" where you said, 'This is the day; this is the show'?"

Stephanie Miller: When you say "tipping point," though, that's a good phrase that I know I've used before or "perfect storm" or whatever you want to call it. I think everyone's path is different. It was fairly spontaneous in that it was the day after they overturned Prop 8. … For me it became time to stop cheering gay rights from the sidelines and step down on the battlefield and put a human face on it. I'm just one more, but I think that's part of what moves any civil-rights battle forward is people putting a human face on it.

And there are people who inspired me like my friend, Chely Wright, who's the country singer who just came out. We got to be friends and she was able to speak to it in a way that I hadn't sort of heard before because I said on the air I've always been a very private person and I've never said I'm straight or I'm not gay or made up boyfriends; I've been out to my friends and family for years, so I didn't feel like in some ways I was in the closet, I just didn't talk about my personal life.

I guess the other one of my fears ( in weighing when/whether to come out ) had also been hurting the "you're born that way" argument. I talked about the fact that I've been with men and I've been in love with men and I get that we've talked about that on the show, just my personal belief is that sexuality is kind of a continuum some people are "gay, gay" and some people are "straight, straight" and I think some people—certainly a lot of the people I know or women I know—have been married [ to men ] and now are with women or the other way around I think sexuality has gray areas that maybe not everybody is comfortable with. Some people said, "maybe you should say you're bi." Well, I don't think that's authentic. I sort of joke that that Princess Cruise has sailed because my significant relationships have been with women for the last 15 years.

I think to a lot of people that implies you're with a different sex every night or something and I've sort of said for me it's not authentic to say. ... I guess the way I explained it to my 87-year-old Republican mom, she asked "Are you attracted to men" and I said, "Yeah, I am," so even the flirting on the air—I'm not faking it, I love men; I just feel more comfortable in a relationship with a woman.

WCT: How has coming out professionally been what you expected it would be like and what ways has it been different?

SM: The response has been probably overwhelmingly positive. See, my family is very Republican Catholic, so I learned a lesson there. I spent so many years thinking they would judge me that I realized I was judging them. They were overwhelmingly supportive and loving about it so the other point is when I did this I thought, "I guess I was judging my listeners in the same way."

One of the things I said on the air that I was most shocked about is that so many people were shocked. I'm a 48-year-old woman who's never been married, doesn't have kids and certainly hasn't made up boyfriends. But that was again part of what resonated with me that my friend Chely Wright said to me: That's why it's incumbent for those of us that can hide that we don't, and I got what she meant by that because maybe you don't fit a certain stereotype or a presumption about your sexuality, but you don't hide because it is an important time and that's the point I've tried to make as well.

Dick Cheney has a gay daughter and Newt Gingrich has a gay sister and Phyllis Schlafly has a gay son and Barry Goldwater has a gay grandson. For me, this is about being able to look in your loved ones eyes and say, "I love you, but I don't believe you deserve the same rights I do," so that's part of why I did it—to say this isn't a partisan issues anymore; this is a human- and civil-rights issue. I realized I couldn't talk authentically about these issues anymore without revealing my whole truth.

WCT: Obviously your work is tied to politics and discussing this stuff on a regular basis, so as far as that goes professionally—people can compare you to Rachel Maddow, who was out before her show even went on the air—how does it make a difference in terms of your line of work to be out right away?

SM: Well, I think what you bring up is a key point in all of this and that is that it's a generational thing. Rachel's a thousand years younger than I am, but I think that's part of what you look at. But you know, in the latest CNN poll for the first time there's majority support for gay marriage in the United States and, for people under 30, there's majority support in every state, not just in liberal state—every state. But part of it is, again, for Rachel, it was never an issue; when I was coming up, I think it might have been.

WCT: In terms of being invited to speak on certain issues for TV and radio shows, do you think this will open more opportunities for you? Do you think you'll be—or how would you feel about being—looked at as a major voice on LGBT issues?

SM: One thing I will say is it's good for me that I have my own outlet. I have my own radio show where I can do this, but part of that first week [ after I came out ] I did Larry King and, boy, for the first time there you see it right in the teleprompter: "Stephanie Miller, who …" There you go: That's the thing you're always afraid of, that you're defined like that, you know? You don't want to be the lesbian radio host; you want to be the great radio host.

But I've been on several times a week since then and people don't mention it, which is great. That was my fear, I don't want to be known as professionally gay, so after the initial burst, it's really been the same. I'm sure if that issue comes up, you know if it's a gay rights issue, they may mention it and that's fine. I'm hoping that it becomes a part of who you are, and not the entirety of who you are. I think I said to somebody "I don't want to be labeled" and my friend was like "who does?" Nobody wants to be labeled a certain way.

WCT: Are you hoping to take on more of an activist voice? Do you feel like you have more of a responsibility to speak out on LGBT issues?

SM: Of course, I wouldn't have done it if I didn't feel a responsibility. I realized everyone said, "Steph, no one is saying you're being a hypocrite." I've won awards for fighting for gay rights, I've been the grand marshal at the gay pride parade, so it's not like I've ever been afraid that people are going to think I'm gay—I've never really cared. So, no, like I say, I think it is a critical time.

One of the reasons Chely affected me is because that takes bravery in the country/western world to come out. I said to her at one point, "God, you make me feel like a coward. I'm a liberal radio host; everyone thinks we're all French and gay anyway." Of course I'll do what I can. My hope is that in the future we talk less about it, like it's not an issue anymore. That's what you want to get to. You just think, 'Oh my God, I can't believe we're even have to talk about these ridiculous things—"Don't Ask, Don't Tell"—that just got ruled unconstitutional.

WCT: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. What momentum do you think that will have at this point?

SM: I absolutely think that we have momentum; it's part of why I did what I did, because I just thought, "You know it's every hand on deck now. It's time to just say today is the day when I step on the battlefield myself and stop cheering from the sidelines." We certainly are at a critical point. It is hard at some point on a legal basis to justify discrimination.

WCT: Is this the time when people should recognize the momentum and take that stand for LGBT rights, even if it means checking other issues aside for the moment?

SM: I think the courts are going to push us to that because there are no other ways to spin discrimination in America. Those arguments are obviously not holding water anymore in courts, and this is why we don't put minority rights to a majority vote. Now, there's majority support for gay marriage in California, so do we go back to the ballot again and put the rights back to a test and if it turns out our way, then the right's going to bitch again? That's why we didn't put slavery to a vote, you know what I mean? At some point, there's just no way it's not going to be pushed forward on its own.


This article shared 4493 times since Wed Sep 22, 2010
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