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Roberts, Thomas (b. 1972)  
 
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Handsome, intelligent, and articulate, Thomas Roberts is one of only a few openly gay anchors on national television news. After some 15 years as a television news reporter, and a stint as an anchor on CNN, in 2010 he was named a full-time anchor on MSNBC. In addition to anchoring his own news show, he frequently serves as substitute newsreader or host on such shows as NBC's Today as well as on several MSNBC programs.

A major talent in American television news, Roberts has also emerged as a visible symbol of new opportunities for openly gay people in society generally, as well as in journalism in particular. In an industry that has not been welcoming to openly gay men and women, Roberts has earned a place in the upper echelons of journalism by dint of hard work and persistence.

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He has resisted the temptation to hide his sexuality as a tactic to assure career advancement or out of some misguided journalistic tenet that being open would somehow compromise his objectivity in reporting the news.

Although Roberts does not hesitate to allude to his homosexuality in his news broadcasts when it is relevant, he remains thoroughly professional when reporting on glbtq issues. Refreshingly, however, his professionalism does not preclude a certain level of activism, especially through his participation in the National Lesbian & Gay Journalism Association and his contribution of a heartfelt video to the "It Gets Better" campaign.

Early Life and Education

Roberts was born into a Roman Catholic family in Towson, Maryland on October 5, 1972. He attended Catholic schools in Towson and nearby Baltimore. The security he felt as a child was shattered when he reached his teen years.

When he was a teenager, Roberts' parents divorced. While a student at Calvert College High School in Baltimore, he was molested by the school chaplain, Jerome F. Toohey, Jr., a Roman Catholic priest. The combination of his family's disruption and the shame he felt at the sexual abuse he experienced led to a suicide attempt when he was 15.

As he told interviewer Steve Pep in 2011, "The weight of all that shame felt unbearable and I thought suicide was the only way to freedom from what my day to day life had become. I wasn't mature enough to understand what was happening to me wasn't my fault and I didn't think anyone would believe me if I told the truth about the abuse. I was always afraid, like a cat on a hot tin roof."

Fortunately, Roberts' suicide attempt was foiled by his sister, who found him and saved his life. As he recalled in 2011, "My family worked hard to get me back to a better mental place. I had such a sense of hopelessness. However, the pain that I saw I caused my family, I knew I could never put them through that again and living was the only way to move forward."

Roberts attended college at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), where he graduated in 1994, with a major in communications and a minor in journalism.

Early Career and Coming Out

After graduating, Roberts took a job as a news reporter with a cable television station in Westminster, Maryland. He soon received an offer from NBC affiliate KNSD in San Diego, where he worked as a writer and field producer; from San Diego, he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he worked as a reporter for ABC affiliate KLKN-TV.

Roberts subsequently took jobs as a news anchor and investigative reporter for stations in Fort Myers, Florida and Portsmouth, Virginia.

During his early years as a television reporter, Roberts was deeply closeted. "I didn't know how best to deal with [being open] professionally or personally for that matter," he told The Advocate's Sean Kennedy. "I thought [being open] would be a roadblock—or a brick wall—to advancement." When he would arrive at a new job, "I would automatically date a girl and have everyone at the station see it. We'd date for a little while and then I'd break up with them or do something to make them break up with me."

Roberts claims that he did not make his first gay friend until he was 25 years old and working at WFTX in Fort Myers. "He knew that I wasn't out and he made no big deal about it. . . . He respected the fact that I wasn't in a place emotionally or psychologically" to come out.

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Thomas Roberts discusses marriage equality on MSNBC.
  
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