Gay radio host opens up about negative reaction to engagement: 'It made me emotional'

Shannon Burns has opened up about her fight to celebrate the love she shares with her girlfriend.

Shannon Burns
Radio host Shannon Burns opened up to Yahoo Canada about the aftermath of her engagement.

A Canadian radio host says a recent response to her engagement announcement left her shocked and upset — before motivating her to speak up.

Virgin Radio host Shannon Burns, 30, got engaged to her girlfriend Morgan in late May.

She hosts the midday show out of Toronto, which airs across 10 Virgin Radio stations in the country — and, according to Burns, has thousands of daily listeners.

Sharing personal news on the show isn’t unusual for her.

"I share a lot about my personal life on my radio show... music, news and pop culture, and myself," Burns told Yahoo Canada.

Shannon Burns and her girlfriend Morgan proposed to each other at the end of May.
Shannon Burns and her girlfriend Morgan proposed to each other at the end of May. (Credit: Stephanie Brajkovich/August Media)

"I came into work, I was so excited, everybody at work was celebrating… I just went on, and I said, 'I wanted to share some good news, I am engaged to my girlfriend.'"

Burns also shared a brief anecdote with her listeners from her engagement weekend — which had an unexpected twist.

Burns had been with Morgan, her now-fiancee, for three years before popping the question on May 26.

She’s been planning to propose for months, and had no idea her partner had the same idea.

"She had actually planned to propose the same weekend," Burns shared. "She ended up bringing a ring as well, and then she proposed right back."

Burns said that’s the gist of what she said on the radio, and that "we were really excited to get married."

Soon after the show, she received the email from a listener that left her in shock.

"I'm used to getting negative feedback... being a gay person," Burns said. "I’m used to getting comments, typically from men who have silly things to say about it, and I can ignore that and brush it off. I've learned to do that over the years.

"But there was something about this message in particular that I just couldn't shake off — it made me emotional," she admitted.

The email, which Burns screenshotted and shared to her social media, began by congratulating her on the engagement before making comment on same-sex marriage.

There was something about this message in particular that I just couldn't shake off — it made me emotional.Shannon Burns

"Although I am totally accepting of the non-heterosexual community, I feel that same sex marriage and non-heterosexuality are 'mature' themes and not appropriate to talk about on a daytime radio show," the email read.

"They are themes that I as a parent don't want to have to explain to my young children," it continued.

Burns said the email left her upset.

"It made me kind of worried that there's people out there that think they can just say something like this and not see anything wrong with it."

The host explained how contradictory the sender was in congratulating her but still pointing out her engagement is different than that of a straight couple. Burns said she responded to the sender to let them know that.

It made me kind of worried that there's people out there that think they can just say something like this.Shannon Burns

"There's nothing wrong with celebrating the shared love between two consenting adults... and young people are always made aware of love and marriage at an early age, and it's never confusing for anyone, so this should really be the same thing."

'We haven't reached equality'

The now-30-year-old radio personality lives and works in Toronto, but she grew up in Burlington, Ont., in what she described as a "very conservative community."

She came out as gay when she was about 18 years old and was met with negativity in her environment.

When she first got into radio, around 2013, she used gender-neutral terms when talking about her personal life, for years. "It was very limiting," Burns recalled.

In 2017, she began working at a radio station in Edmonton where she finally decided to come out publicly.

When you're only giving half the truth, you can't really be your authentic self.Shannon Burns

"I decided one day to make the announcement that I'm gay, and was met with all positivity, and it was really wonderful."

Though she's been open about her personal life since then on radio and her social media, it hasn't all been positive — especially in recent months.

"I still have a lot of people in my personal life, and my family, that [are] still not totally accepting," Burns added.

The day after she and Morgan got engaged, the couple took some time away from celebrating with their friends to talk through announcing their big step.

"I was feeling really anxious to post it, and I was getting upset at the fact that I wasn't able to just fully celebrate us getting engaged, because there's always this weight that comes with it.

"It's supposed to be just celebratory, and something that's super exciting. But knowing that there are people out there that are going to still find a way to try and make you feel bad about being who you are, is just so unfortunate."

Nonetheless, Burns decided to use the hateful email as motivation to keep sharing her queer relationship and advocating.

"Going into Pride Month now, I think it's just such a good reminder to the community and to everyone out there that... we haven't reached equality, we're not there yet," she claimed.

"I wanted to share this in hopes that other people maybe who might want to send messages like this — don't.

"I wanted to remind people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, that they are valid and that they are good, and that they don't need to be silenced," Burns said.

"I grew up feeling ashamed of who I am, and I don't feel that way anymore... It just made me more proud of who I am, and it made me want to fight harder for all of our rights."

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