I remember watching Pedro on The Real World in the summer of 1994. It was the first time I saw a gay person living an actual life who wasn’t just a comedic sidekick.
I remember watching the premiere of Will & Grace on September 21, 1998. I was still a closeted 18-year old and had to pick between my favorite show, Ally McBeal, or this new show. I watched Will Truman and Jack McFarland as gay men — as flawed and stereotypical as the writing may have been — it was one of the first times where I thought “maybe I can come out and be happy, be a lawyer, and find love.”
It happened again in 2000 with Danny Roberts from The Real World: New Orleans.
Then it happened again this week with Pete Buttigieg when approached by 9-yo Zachary Ro at a rally in Denver when Zachary asked Pete to help him come out to the world. Pete responded: “I don’t think you need a lot of advice from me on bravery. You seem pretty strong,” Buttigieg told Zachary. “It took me a long time to figure out how to tell even my best friend that I was gay, let alone to go out there and tell the world.”
I sat weeping at a restaurant in Napa.
A few days later, I gave a storytelling for leaders keynote at a conference in Napa. Later that evening a man approached me and wanted to share his story — one he hadn’t even realized was driving his entire life’s path until our time together during my keynote.
And I realized — visibility matters.
As leaders, as speakers, as entrepreneurs — we are showing up in people’s lives in ways that can have a profound impact on how they see themselves.
It’s a reminder that it is critical that when called into that arena, onto that stage, on that screen — we show up — as fully as we can. As fully self-expressed as we can — because someone is watching.
I also paired this episode with a fully-expressed wine — and one of the first one’s that helped me see myself in wine. Albariño! This one comes from a winery owned by a gay winemaker in Geyserville. Mercury Wines makes an expressive Albariño that pairs well with life and food.