You can hear Fez Whatley daily on the Ron & Fez show on SiriusXM from 11am to 3pm est on XM 105 Sirius 206.
After years of struggling with his sexual identity, Radio host Fez Whatley came out as gay on the Ron and Fez Show today. This announcement came after spending the last 20 years playing a gay character on-air, while insisting to friends, family, and even himself that he was straight. In an exclusive interview with The Interrobang Fez talked with us about his struggle. Here, in his own words, is what he had to say:
I couldn’t have been more excited decades ago when I got my first big break in radio. I became a part of the hugely popular “Ron & Ron Show” in Florida. Working with my friend Ron Bennington, we created an on-air persona for me. His name was Fez Whatley. Fez was eccentric, over the top, flambouyant and most of all, gay. Really gay. Fez took down celebrities, talked gossip, lampooned women and did it all with a wicked gay tongue. I could say it was the part I was born to play, but back then I didn’t realize how true that was.
At this point in my adult life, I was sure I wasn’t gay. Even though, I hadn’t dated, didn’t show any interest in women and had never had sex or even made out with girl. My thoughts on that were that I had just not found the right girl yet. And when I did find her, there would be no question about my sexuality.
As you can suspect, taking on the role of gay person, meant questions came up. As the character grew in popularity, fans of the show would ask me if I was really gay? My response, “Yes, 6 to 10am weekdays,” the hours our show was on. That was my little joke just to make sure everyone knew that there was a straight guy behind the feather boa and sequined jacket. As Fez, the gay jokes and sexual innuendo came fast and very easy. As long as everyone was laughing along I was fine.
Fast forward some years. Ron Bennington and I are still working together. We put together the “Ron & Fez Show” and have been heard in New York, Washington, DC and now on SiriusXM. All along the way, I kept playing Fez as gay as ever. One other thing stayed the same too. That “right girl” I was sure was on her way, still hadn’t shown up. And I had developed some intense friendships with straight guys. These were actually high school like crushes. Then I realized, I was just like the character I had created. I’m gay.
Coming to this realization was devastating. After all those years of denying it, it was true. Fez Whatley was no longer a character that I played on the air. He was me. And now it wasn’t funny anymore. I was now everything that I had joked about. I got depressed. I became severley anxious and couldn’t perform any longer. I’ve had huge bouts of stage fright, panic and locking up on the air. And most of all, I couldn’t make myself be Fez Whatley anymore. The whole dynamic changed for me. I was terrified about being really gay. To me, that meant that people were no longer going to be laughing with me. They were going to be laughing at me. On the show, I quit acting like Fez. I quit talking like Fez. I quit being Fez because now I didn’t have a clever line if someone came to me and asked “Are you really gay?”
The anxiety and depression and emotion became too much. I was seeing psychiatrists and taking anti-depressants that made me even more unmanageable. I couldn’t keep it in anymore. And one night, through tears, I told my best friend Ron Bennington. The acceptance that I knew would be there, was there 10 times over. But I was still dealing with the shame. So much shame and guilt of growing up in a religious family and thinking this was wrong. It felt like there were too many years of denial to embrace this now.
On the show, I started talking about gay issues. Gay marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, bullying. But from a place of anger, not understanding. And with only one person knowing I was gay, certainly not from a point of authenticity. I was still calling myself Fez Whatley, but the fun was gone. All that was there was a really angry closet case. This had to change.
There are too many important issues out there facing Gay Americans for me to just be yelling out the occasional protest from the closet. I see comedians like Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Mo Rocca and most recently Todd Glass, and they haven’t lost their sense of humor. They’re entertaining and still make a difference in the gay community.
Organizations like GLAAD and the Trevor Project are working so hard to protect LGTB youth from dangerous situations with bullying and from endangering themselves. To talk about these things, I need to be honest about who I am.
Today I’m coming out. To everyone. I can’t be a part of “It’s gets better” until I make sure things are going to get better for me. And that’s what I intend on doing. So that the next time I’m asked by a someone, “Are you really gay?” I can finally answer, “24 hours a day.”