Balancing It All

This black, gay, Christian, father, ESPN and CNN writer defies society and likes it

by Published: Feb 20, 2013

LZ Granderson: LZ Granderson, a writer and columnist for ESPN, speaks at Fountain Street Church. Ferris students made the trip down to Grand Rapids to hear his presentation about his life. Photo By: Katelyn Crain | Ferris State Torch

LZ Granderson: LZ Granderson, a writer and colum­nist for ESPN, speaks at Fountain Street Church. Ferris stu­dents made the trip down to Grand Rapids to hear his pre­sen­ta­tion about his life. Photo By: Katelyn Crain | Ferris State Torch

He grew up in a Detroit neigh­bor­hood where he was lucky to make it to the age of 16. Now liv­ing in Grand Rapids, the black homo­sex­ual Christian man is doing every­thing he can to be vis­i­ble in his community.

Many may know him, as he writes a weekly col­umn for CNN​.com and is a senior writer and colum­nist for “ESPN The Magazine” and ESPN​.com. LZ Granderson is also a famil­iar face on ESPN’s “Sports Center,” “Outside the Lines” and “First Take.”

“I am on national tele­vi­sion every week, mul­ti­ple times a week, and I am a part of West Michigan,” Granderson said. “If you would have seen my neigh­bor­hood in Detroit, and you would have told that lit­tle dusty five-year-old that in 30-some years he was going to be this guy on tele­vi­sion, that five-year-old wouldn’t have believed you. So don’t ever let your cur­rent sit­u­a­tion dic­tate what you think you can be.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, nearly 30 Ferris stu­dents trav­eled on a bus to hear Granderson’s pre­sen­ta­tion at the Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids. The event was hosted by Grand Rapids Community College as a part of their Diversity Lecture Series. The Office of Multicultural Student Services at Ferris pro­vided the bus in sup­port of Black History Month.

Granderson spoke about the chal­lenges in soci­ety that come with being black, gay, Christian and a father. He shared his story of liv­ing in Grand Rapids on and off for nearly 16 years and a man who changed his life, Jeff Swanson.

Swanson was the owner of a cof­fee shop/bookstore called Sons and Daughters that specif­i­cally catered to peo­ple in the les­bian, gay, bisex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity in Grand Rapids.

When Granderson met Swanson, he was mar­ried to a woman and would go into his cof­fee shop often to get cof­fee and a bagel, then sit and hide in the cor­ner. After months of doing that, Swanson approached Granderson and asked him why he was there.

Granderson explained to Swanson that he just liked cof­fee, but Swanson didn’t accept his rea­son­ing. He asked Granderson again why he was there.

“So I told him I’m mar­ried and I think I’m gay and I’m not quite sure what to do about this. I’ve been try­ing to pray it away now for a num­ber of years and either God is not lis­ten­ing or it can’t be prayed away,” Granderson said. “The more that we talked, the less scared I became. I would not be the com­fort­able, con­fi­dent, some­times out­spo­ken sto­ry­teller I am today if it wasn’t for Jeff being vis­i­ble in this community.”

Sandy Alspach, a Ferris com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­fes­sor, encour­aged stu­dents in her classes to attend Granderson’s pre­sen­ta­tion. Students from sports com­mu­ni­ca­tion as well as diver­sity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sat among the audience.

“The prox­im­ity of his lec­ture, and the will­ing­ness of OMSS to spon­sor the bus as part of Black History month, made the replace­ment of our class les­son with this oppor­tu­nity a no-brainer,” Alspach said. “I was very impressed with Mr. Granderson’s pres­ence before an audi­ence; he is nat­ural and dynamic as a story teller—a great model for speakers.”

Although Granderson has a sig­nif­i­cant knowl­edge of sports, he did not spend much time dis­cussing his jour­ney through the sports world. Alspach as well as some stu­dents in sports com­mu­ni­ca­tion were left want­ing to know more about his career path.

“I was a bit dis­ap­pointed that there wasn’t more ref­er­ence to his career in the sports indus­try for the sake of the sports com­mu­ni­ca­tion stu­dents,” Alspach said. “A cou­ple of the stu­dents com­mented to me that they enjoyed most of his pre­sen­ta­tion, but wanted more sports stories.”

Simon Denis, Ferris sopho­more in both sports com­mu­ni­ca­tion and diver­sity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, attended the event. The sports com­mu­ni­ca­tion major said he really enjoyed the pre­sen­ta­tion from both sides.

“It was pow­er­ful; he did a great job of get­ting across his points and he stuck to his beliefs,” Denis said. “Be more under­stand­ing of people’s rights and beliefs. Even though he is black and gay, he still does every­thing any­one
else does.”