Rick Morton is a social affairs writer for The Australian who recently published an article about homosexuality being punishable by death under Islamic law. When commenters on the piece attacked him, saying that he had ignored Christians, Australian politicians and other church leaders with anti-gay viewpoints, Morton published a personal essay on Medium about the experience of reporting on homophobia as a gay man.
“Ignore them? They have been my atmosphere for almost every one of the 29 years I have been alive,” he writes. “To be born gay in this country, even today, is to grow up in an environment in which your growth is not assured.”
The Australian journalist opens up about how he lived in fear every day while growing up in outback Queensland during his late teens and early twenties, receiving hate messages in his hometown.
“I had friends try and convert me,” he writes. "Not out of malice but out of a lack of understanding."
Morton explains that he while is no longer afraid in the way he used to be, he has been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for almost a decade.
Describing what it feels like to have drunk men yell at you on the street, he writes: "The word faggot is a gunshot. I hear it everywhere. I remember it. You never forget the sound of a gunshot".
"There are fault lines in your soul, to be gay in this world."
After listening to an imam tell him that the Islamic law punishment for homosexuality is death during an interview, Morton notes: "It wasn’t until the interview ended that I realised how deeply desensitised I had become to such forms of hate."
“Sure, plenty of angry people have told me I should kill myself but that’s old hat now,” he writes.
As a reporter who identifies as gay, Morton has been criticised for working at The Australian numerous times and been called a "traitor" to the LGBT+ community, but he stands by his work, saying: "I am proud of my reporting... proud of the stories I have written about equality in all its forms throughout my career.
“When I spoke to the imam it did not occur to me for one second that I should keep it quiet. To what end?” he asks.
On reporting on homophobia, Morton writes: "I resent explaining myself through the prism of my own sexuality, which is as much a part of me as my elbow is," noting that his "life has been ruled by [his] identity".
And yet, "to write about things that matter" Morton concludes that it's worth it, finishing with: “At a certain stage, you become used to the noise.”
Read Morton's full essay here.