SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Blake Hayes has been waking up thousand of Mainers on Coast 93.1 for the last eight years.
"The Blake Show with Kelly and Todd" is packed with everything you expect of your typical drive-to-work radio show—but it's real. Part of that reality is Hayes unabashedly sharing the fact he is gay.
"I was on the air in Boston at a radio station I worked at when I was in college and I remember the first time I said the phrase 'I'm gay,'" Hayes said.
A lot has changed for Hayes since then. He is now the voice and the brand of one of Maine's largest radio stations.
But even with all the pressure that comes with the job, and being a host-turned-role-model, he said he has surprisingly received little pushback over the years.
"I have to say, and props to Maine, I have gotten one letter in the entire time I've been here that said, 'Why do you have to push it so much?'" Hayes said. "I'm just talking about life in the same way that you talk about your husband. Is that pushing an agenda on me? No. I'm just talking about love."
The positivity that has come out of that level of honesty with his listeners has been priceless. Hayes recounted countless stories of parents, kids and total strangers reaching out to thank him.
"For some reason that phrase [I'm gay] has so much more weight to it," he said. "That's a point you get to in the coming out process."
The hardest thing for him to share was just three years ago, when his partner Kyle died suddenly from a rare heart condition.
After some time off the air to process the loss, he ultimately found comfort where he always has: in front of the microphone.
"I came back because, in some ways, the radio has always been a safe space," Hayes said.
The outpouring of support he received from listeners, he said, solidified the importance of being fully authentic and honest personally and professionally.
Hayes is quick to point out the success he has had is in large part thanks to all the LGBTQ+ broadcasters who came before him.
"It's because of the other out gay people that I got to this comfort level," Hayes said. "Being on the radio I feel it's important for me to pay it forward. It's getting easier, but we're not there yet."
If you or someone you love is struggling with their gender identity or sexual orientation, there are resources in Maine. You can find a full list at EqualityMaine.org.
June is Pride Month! There are events happening across at least 16 Maine communities. Click here for more details.