In the weeks leading up to Pride season, MSNBC host Thomas Roberts has been warming up his pitching arm. “I’ve been practicing with Billy Bean, MLB’s first ambassador for inclusion” he says. “Everyone keeps telling me it’s a lot further than you think.”
Why is he so nervous about getting it over the plate? Because Roberts has not just one, but two opening pitches to throw next week: one for the Baltimore Orioles, and another for the Nats on their respective Pride nights. And that’s just the start of his Pride season. He will then jet down to Norfolk, Virginia to assume his responsibilities as Grand Marshall of Hampton Roads Pride.
As the first openly gay news anchor for a major network, Roberts knows intimately the need for Pride. It was in his late twenties when he first came out to his family, but he was nervous that being gay could affect his career. “I struggled with being honest with myself,” he says. “I wanted to keep personal and professional separate.” With his long-term boyfriend in one hand, and a promising career in the other, he rose through the ranks of news media. Until, a position at CNN became available.
It was there he decided to come out publicly. “I figured there was no better time, it was never going to be easy,” he says. “And there were so many LGBT people in the media that had platforms that they weren’t using. We were being invited into homes where people would say, ‘I don’t know anyone who’s gay or lesbian,’ but yeah you do. You’re watching me, or somebody else like me, in your homes on a daily basis.”
A recipient of the 2015 GLAAD Vito Russo Award, Roberts has paved the way for others to use their platform to the full extent of their ability. “Now, we have a tremendous representation of LGBT media — morning, noon and night — on cable and network,” he says. “Which is fantastic. It’s important to act as a role model. People should be proud of their success and their achievements.”
For Roberts, this individual pride has contributed to the sway in public opinion on gay marriage. “The upcoming Supreme Court decision will be one for the history books, but I think we know how it’ll come down: marriage equality will be the law of the land,” he says. “And I think that comes from people standing up for themselves every day of the year.”
Thomas Roberts will throw the opening pitch at Team DC’s Night Out at the Nationals, Wednesday, June 17, at 7 p.m. Centerfield gates open at 4:30 p.m. with $6 Beer Specials and DJ Chord spinning. Tickets are $25 and are available at Nellie’s (900 U St. NW) or at nationals.com/nightout.
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