Chris Cheng already broke barriers when the Asian-American tech geek won the fourth season of History Channel’s shooting competition, “Top Shot.” On Tuesday, he revealed he’s gay.
“While it’s something my friends and family have known for years, I believe now that I have become a television personality and public figure, it is important to be honest and upfront about who Chris Cheng is,” he said on his official blog.
After winning “Top Shot,” Cheng quit his job at Google to pursue the show’s prize of a professional marksman contract. Cheng knows he’s breaking down stereotypes about his sport.
“One reason why I chose to come out publicly is that I’m a gay guy in a gun world,” the 34-year-old said.
“Hunters, sport shooting enthusiasts, and collectors are too often stereotyped as part of efforts to politicize guns, as we witnessed last week on the anniversary of the horrific Newtown tragedy,” he continued. “Take it from someone who in a single package is not only gay, but Chinese, Japanese, California-born, a college graduate, a tech geek who worked on cool Google projects, a gun enthusiast and a passionate Second Amendment advocate. Our community is as diverse as anyone’s.”
Cheng, who has been with his boyfriend for more than four years, went on to thank the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation for supporting his decision to come out.
In an interview on Tuesday, he also revealed that the “Top Shot” producers knew of his sexuality during the show.
“I wanted to make a point that gays, and geeks for that matter, can shoot guns as good as anyone else,” he told Recoil.com. “As part of my audition, I decided that being a token gay guy could increase my chance of being selected.”
He added, “I’m pretty sure it factored into the casting panel’s decision to accept me, but it was one of many factors they considered. I had to demonstrate that I could shoot well. ‘Top Shot’ isn’t about personality conflicts and drama like other reality competitions. It’s a marksmanship competition to see who can master a wide variety of weapons in unpredictable, challenging situations.”
The pro marksman was also impressed with how his fellow “Top Shot” contenders handled his news.
“I was pleasantly surprised when other competitors found out I was gay,” he said. “They were either indifferent or accepting. The most common response I received was ‘Chris, we don’t really care that you’re gay, we care about how well you can shoot… the better we all shoot, the more exciting the competition will be…’ I suppose this affected the house dynamics in that I never heard any gay pejoratives during my six weeks there.”
The “Top Shot” champ is now developing a TV show pilot in which he hopes to spotlight diversity among marksmen. “Shoot to Win,” his book on leadership and shooting, will be available in July.