WHILE STAYING TRUE TO HIMSELF
By: Sophia Reza Fuerte Men Correspondent
Jim Walker is following a path of unknown territory. After 25 years in the television news business as a reporter and anchor, he has left his professional career, not by choice, but by force. His last day on-air at WZVN-TV ABC-7 in Fort Myers, Florida was August 4th. Walker says research showed viewers in Fort Myers didn't like him, even though more people watched the shows he anchored compared to the year before.
The news was clearly a disappointment because Walker had been through the same situation three times in the last five years. He left the CBS station in Dallas, Texas in 2005 to work at KBTV, the FOX affiliate in Beaumont, Texas. In August 2009, the station renewed his contract and gave him a raise. Six weeks later, Walker was told the station was downsizing and his contract wasn't renewed as originally planned. He will admit it has been a bumpy road, but he is moving on to the next chapter in his life knowing he has always been true to himself and to viewers.
Walker has been an openly gay man since he was 15. He says, “If you are not honest about who you are, how can anyone trust you.” When his professional career started, he didn't hide his sexual orientation either. “I was told I was making a mistake,” says Walker, but he continued living his life, his way.
Walker admits it wasn't always easy. Viewers living in the markets where he worked, from Bakersfield, California, to Beaumont, TX, to Fort Myers, Florida, expressed their views about his sexual orientation with hurtful comments. He says he was sometimes the focus of gay bashing through the internet on his Facebook page, which was private and only for his friends. Walker soon learned someone on his list of friends was his enemy. He writes about the experience calling it “The Enemy Unseen.”
“The internet has made it possible for people to throw stones at those of us in the public eye unlike ever before. The distinct difference is that now, you don’t have “own” anything or even include your name. You can say anything about anyone at any time with consequence.”
Walker says when he defended his views he was accused of “lashing out,” but he continued to push forward, living his life.
Walker has been with his partner Kelly Murphy for eight years, sacrificing their relationship for his career. Kelly works in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a magazine. They have been apart since Walker was hired in Fort Myers. Still, Walker has a thick skin and has continued living his life.
He says, “the best way to be a role model is to show who you are.” He has been an advocate for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community by raising money for The Resource Center in Dallas, participating in drag shows as himself and helping out with the AIDS Foundation in Beaumont.
Living a healthy lifestyle has also been a part of Walker's life since college, after living through a rough childhood. It had nothing to do with his family. It was the constant teasing he faced over his weight. In Walker's own words he was “a fat kid.” In high school he was 5'10 and weighed over 230 pounds. At one point, the ridicule was too much for him and he started cutting classes. He even contemplated suicide. Walker was sent to a continuation school for problem kids, where life was better for him. He was able to earn his GED two years before his classmates. While in college he started walking to lose weight. Then, he started running and eating better. Walker eventually started training with weights, which lead to training for body building competitions. In 2003, he won second place in novice heavyweight for his first show ”Heart of Texas.”
Now, at the age of 42, he wants to compete again. Walker is moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan to be with Kelly. He says he will never part from him again. He is thinking about his next move professionally. Whatever that will be, Walker will stay true to himself.