Local news broadcaster Megan Mitchell is using her TikTok to remind other members of the LGBTQ community that they don’t have to hide who they are.
The 29-year-old Connecticut native is an anchor and reporter at WLWT News 5 in Cincinnati, but her reach goes far beyond Ohio, thanks to her successful social media platform. Mitchell has more than 1.8 million followers on TikTok, and uses the platform to share her experiences as an out lesbian working in news.
She recently went viral for a video she made chronicling her journey to accept her sexuality. The post, set to “You Might Not Like Her” by Maddie Zahm, shows Mitchell struggling to come to terms with being queer — from not understanding why she “freaked out” after kissing a girl to realizing that the feelings she thought were romantic towards her gay male best friend were about being “attracted to femininity.” She captioned the post, “Comp het made it so hard for me to realize," referring to “compulsory heterosexuality,” or “comp het,” the idea that because heterosexuality is the cultural norm, it can be challenging for people who don’t fall into that label to realize, or be willing to recognize, that they are queer.
The video resonated with her followers, one of whom wrote in the comments section, “Oh we have such a similar story. I’m so happy you get to be you.” Another shared, “Comp het made me push down my bi-ness for my whole life. Glad we can both be out and proud now.”
For Mitchell, who realized she was a lesbian while studying at Emerson College, there was the extra layer of worry that she may not be accepted as a newscaster if she was open about her sexuality.
“I came out my sophomore year, and it was just this like, weird moment where I was like, 'Wait, does my career line up with where my heart is?'” she tells Yahoo Life. “There weren't any out lesbians in news that I was aware of at the time. Jenna Wolfe came out a couple of years later, as did Robin Roberts.”
It was for that reason that Mitchell — who started her TikTok account in 2020 — chose to use her social media platform to set an example. She could be the openly queer broadcaster she didn’t initially see when she was looking towards her future career path.
Much of what she films is from behind the scenes at the news desk, but her account also features plenty of TikTok dances and trending sounds — and she gets personal, too. She’s been candid about how her parents have now fully embraced who she is, after initially being unsupportive of her after she came out at 19. One TikTok shows them throwing her and her younger brother (who came out after Mitchell did) a rainbow-filled party for Pride. Another features her dad embracing Mitchell’s girlfriend.
While Mitchell is very happy at her current workplace, and is thrilled that her coworkers are as excited as she is about making LGBTQ content for TikTok, she says that there’s a long way for news to go in terms of accepting and embracing her community. At a previous job in Bismarck, North Dakota, Mitchell says a reported piece on two-spirit Native Americans was initially turned down.
“They were like, ‘Yeah, we’re not airing this, our advertisers wouldn’t approve of this content,’” she says. “It’s not only LGBTQ+ content, it’s Native American content. And for me to have that pushed through, I had to use my own identity as a way to move it forward, like, ‘OK, I need you to tell me one more time why this isn’t working. This has to do with the LGBTQ+ content in this.’ And when I said that, they froze up. After a week of negotiations, they finally let it air — but it was a moment where I realized that employers won’t directly say, ‘Oh, we’re against this,’ but they’ll say everything else.”
Mitchell says that it’s the messages she receives from other queer people on TikTok that keeps her making videos. Sometimes it’s from people who are afraid to tell their parents about their sexuality. Others are from people who have come out later in life and want to thank Mitchell for sharing her story.
On the flip side, her videos sometimes end up on what she calls the “wrong side of TikTok” — aka, on the For You Pages of homophobes. While her comments section is overwhelmingly positive, she says she does get hate from these individuals. That also extends to real life: Last year, Mitchell posted a video of herself opening a hateful letter from a reader who quoted the Bible and called her sinful.
“The first couple of years I was doing TikTok, the comments were good, but it wasn’t until later that things started becoming political — like with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” she notes. “Nobody was up in arms about gay people for a few years after marriage equality passed, but now it’s political again, and these dramatic comments and debates are happening.”
In fact, she recently responded on TikTok to the news that Ohio was introducing its own version of Florida's controversial bill.
Fortunately, Mitchell’s current workplace is very supportive of her speaking out — and her co-workers are happy to get in on the action by joining her for a TikTok dance or two.
“I remember the first week I posted on TikTok and I started getting these followers, [my boss] was like, ‘OK, just remember your first priority is your work,’” she explains. “But since then, I remember like just peeking my head into his office one day to ask him a question about a TikTok, and he was like, ‘Megan, as long as you keep it about equal rights, we don't care what you do.’”
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