Robert, in his own words: “I don’t think my coming out story is much different than anyone else. There were the years of denial. The years of thinking it was a phase. The years thinking I just needed to meet the right girl. And then I embraced my reality. I came bursting out of the closet in Miami, and I did so with explosive energy, eager to make up for lost time. This all took place a year or two before the first HIV patients showed up in doctors’ offices and hospitals. And so, we were enjoying the last great days of abundant unprotected sex, not knowing that a deadly virus was being spread around like a western forest fire. I am amazed to be alive. I lost friends, good friends, close friends. But here I am, and I am damn grateful to be here and gay.
To me, being gay is about much more than same-sex attraction. Someone once described gays as being the third sex; I’ve always liked that description. Being gay means seeing life through a different lens, a view that is as different as a straight woman is to a straight man. Our gayness influences us from our core, giving us our energy, creativity and zeal for life. I am always amused by some younger guys who are just coming out. They are at a stage where they are ready to embrace the idea that they are sexually attracted to other men. But they will say their gayness does not define them, it’s just a small part of their life. This is bullshit. Hopefully, later in life, they will see that their gayness is their joyful gift that runs deep through all aspects of their lives.
One of the biggest challenges I faced not long after coming out was deciding if I wanted to be out at work, as I had taken a new job at a newspaper in Texas. Texas is obviously not a state known for its liberal views or acceptance. But I came out at my new job and never regretted it. Eventually, I became the president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. During my time in NLGJA’s leadership, we saw the news media make giant strides in improving the way they reported LGBT stories. And we also saw news organizations become LGBT-affirming workplaces with domestic partner health benefits becoming an industry standard. My NLGJA leadership was one of the most rewarding parts of my journalism career, one that also included nearly 25 years as a Washington correspondent. During my time as NLGJA president, my newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, was very supportive, giving me time and a financial budget to pursue my leadership role. My greatest challenge became one of my greatest successes.
Today, I draw from all those experiences as I prepare to publish my first book, Vietnam 40 Years Later. I can see all the influences of being journalist, industry leader and a gay man at work. When the book is published in Spring 2014, it will another one of those life achievements that was molded and shaped by my unique, third-sex view of the world.”