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Matty McLean: ‘Being gay doesn’t define me’

Coming out to New Zealand has changed the TV One reporter’s life.
TV One reporter Matty McLean

When Matty McLean publicly acknowledged he was gay for the first time last year, he thought there might be at least some negative reaction.

He didn’t expect to change people’s attitudes towards the gay community. And he certainly didn’t anticipate a flood of letters from mothers across the country, expressing their dismay that he wouldn’t be marrying their daughters.

“That was quite cute,” says the chipper One News journalist, who came out in a newspaper story last November. But while Matty (26) won’t be fulfilling the wishes of the nation’s mums, he’s working on one of his dad Steve’s dreams – to have a beer with his son on his wedding day.

“Coming out to my dad was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Matty recalls. “I didn’t want to let him down, but he said he was disappointed. Not in me, but he was upset I was going to miss out on things like getting married and having kids.”

He’s not ashamed of being gay – in fact he’s incredibly proud – but he’s never felt the need to shout it from the rooftops.

Seeing his father so saddened was the push Matty needed to get involved with the marriage equality campaign. It spurred him on to write submission in favour of the Marriage Amendment Bill, which was later read out at parliament. If it goes ahead, the bill will legalise same-sex marriage in New Zealand, giving gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

“I wrote about coming out to Dad, so I had to check he was okay with it,” he says. “In fact, the whole process of the submission has brought us closer than ever. He’s amazingly supportive.”

It’s a piece of legislation that Matty is, not surprisingly, extremely passionate about. “I want the choice,” he says fervently. “One day I want to get married and have children, and at the moment I can’t do that. It just doesn’t seem very ‘New Zealand’ to me, when we’ve been so progressive in the past.”

It took a lot of soul searching for Matty to decide to speak publicly about his sexuality. He’s not ashamed of being gay – in fact he’s incredibly proud – but he’s never felt the need to shout it from the rooftops.

“All my friends and family have always known” says Matty. “But I would hope being gay isn’t the most interesting thing about me. I don’t want it to define me.”

He’s just “a normal guy trying to live life” and apart from getting a little excited when all the members of Destiny’s Child reunited on stage at last month’s Super Bowl final, Matty doesn’t feel he embodies much of the gay stereotype – most of the time.

He did, however, know from a young age that he was different. “Mum reckons she knew when I was five years old,” he grins. “I don’t know how. Maybe because I was always friends with girls!”

Growing up in Queenstown, which was a “bit of a bubble”, Matty – or Matt, as he is called on One News – hid his sexuality throughout school.

“High school certainly wasn’t the easiest. I definitely got bullied because of who I was. Generally, though, I’m an easygoing guy and I don’t take things to heart very easily, so it could have been a lot worse.”

It was when Matty entered the “big wide world” at 19 and attended broadcasting school in Christchurch that he finally realised he was comfortable being gay – and he’s never looked back. “It was just the biggest relief to start telling people, it was the hugest weight of my shoulders.”

While Matty’s long-term dream is to be a host on TV One’s Breakfast, the One News reporter’s next big goal is to complete the New York marathon with his mum in November.

Now, living in suburban Wellington with three flatmates, “surrounded by families and their Labradors”, life has never been better. “I’m so happy,” he says. “I love Wellington. I’m still exploring the city and I moved here six years ago!”

While life is good for Matty, he knows that others who are in the same position as he was a few years ago are struggling. After intense reflection, Matty decided to take up the offer to read his emotional submission before parliament’s select committee; something that has changed his life.

“I thought if I could make one little bit of difference, then it would all be worth it,” he explains. “I went through high school knowing I was different and feeling the difference. If kids at school knew they had the same rights as everyone else, it would make them feel so much better about themselves.”

The response to his submission blew Matty away. “I got so many supportive messages, but there was one from a 50-year-old woman that stuck in my mind. She was always against gay marriage, but she changed her mind after reading my submission. That was amazing.”

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