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This gay anchorman was fired after coming out—now he's more seen than ever

anchorman Mark Pettit
Courtesy Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit shares his journey of pushing through adversity, from losing his career as a TV news anchor to finding his true self.

I came out as a gay man when I was 28 years old in 1991. Not long after, my world fell apart. After winning three Emmy awards and writing my first best-selling book, I lost my career as a TV news anchorman and investigative reporter. Soon after my sexuality was revealed, my contract wasn't renewed at the station where I had worked in Atlanta.

Back then, it wasn't acceptable to be gay on television.

My agent at the time didn't sugarcoat things: "There's nothing I can do for you now," she told me. "They don't put guys like you on the evening news."

My dream of becoming the next Dan Rather and sitting in that famous chair on 60 Minutes was dashed. It was devastating but the least of my real worries. Not long after I lost my job, my first boyfriend died of AIDS. The same fate that befell the late, great actor Rock Hudson.

I remember when news broke out of Hudson's death in 1985. I was on a clandestine date with another man at a sports bar in Omaha when national news broke into regular programming.

"We can now confirm that Hudson died of the mysterious disease AIDS," the anchorman said. "Again, we can now confirm that the actor, Rock Hudson, died of AIDS."

As the report concluded, the bar erupted in applause. Patrons actually laughed and cheered at the cause of Hudson's death.

I sat in silence, mortified by what I was witnessing. Then, like a zombie, I rose and walked out of the bar into the chilly Nebraska night. Less than a block away, I leaned back against a brick wall and slowly slid down on the cold concrete below, tears pouring from my eyes and sticking to my young face as I sat in a heap on the sidewalk.

At that moment, I realized I could never be out as a TV news personality. If people hated Rock Hudson, I knew they would never like me. Hudson's death pushed me further into the closet and still haunts me to this day.

Though I would go on to interview presidential candidates and countless celebrities, even sharing the stage with Oprah Winfrey at the fabulous Orpheum Theater in Omaha, it all felt like a shallow sham.

Every professional accomplishment became another bar in my personal prison.

Things were moving fast, and my personal life was headed for a head-on collision with my professional life. The crash occurred, and life as I knew it was over.

But life as it should be was about to begin.

The sad fact was that, as an anchorman and investigative reporter, they were paying me to tell the truth while I was living a lie, right down to the color of my hair. Finally, one night, when I was near rock bottom, I stared at myself in the mirror and saw a disgusting mess. My eyes were sunken and lifeless; the remnants from the latest round of hair dye framed my face.

That was it.

I picked up an electric razor and placed it to my temple. The razor buzzed to life as I sheered every strand of fake hair from my head, revealing a smooth, silver scalp. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I didn't recognize this man. I feared him, but he and I were finally free.

From that moment on, it was my life to live my way.

It wasn't until I lost everything that I gained something extraordinary. I realize now that there is a pricefor living an authentic life. But ultimately, there is a costfor not doing so—one I didn't want to pay.

After some fill-in anchor work on CNN, I ultimately decided TV news wouldn't be for me if I couldn't be my true self. I switched gears to PR and launched my own marketing agency before a brief return to news just in time to cover the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on same-sex marriage. Not long after, I dipped my toes into the world of acting.

Ironically, as an actor, more people have now watched me portray an anchorman on shows like True Detective and Mindhunter. Life has a funny way of working itself out. Even when it seems things are falling apart. I am happier today than I've ever been.

Still, I am stunned and saddened by the actors at play threatening to undo the progress we've made as a community over the decades.

The Human Rights Campaign is currently tracking more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation across the U.S. that reduces or threatens the freedoms of LGBTQ+ Americans. Everything from laws criminalizing drag queens and censorship of books in schools to denying gender-affirming medical treatment for youths.

It's hard enough being a gay person these days without crackpots, placekickers, and politicians attacking members of a community they don't know or understand.

Perhaps their voices and actions should address and take action on the real problems of this world, like hunger and homelessness. This isn't 1985, and we shouldn't be where we are today.

Unfortunately, we are, and we must do better.

To members of my fellow LGBTQ+ community: Hold your heads up high. Continue to make your way and make a difference in this world.

Mark Pettit is a three-time Emmy® award-winning TV news anchorman and best-selling author turned actor. Mark's new book,ANKRBOY, is now available worldwide on Amazon.

Voices is dedicated to featuring a wide range of inspiring personal stories and impactful opinions from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Visit to learn more about submission guidelines. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on any of our stories. Email us at Views expressed in Voices stories are those of the guest writers, columnists and editors, and do not directly represent the views of Out or our parent company, equalpride.

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