I’ve been told many times that the process of coming out is cathartic. Yet since coming to terms with my sexuality, I found it arduous and unnecessary. At least that’s what I kept telling myself. So today, I’m putting it in writing and not looking back.
I’m also an athlete. For years, I struggled to unite these two identities in my own mind. Not until after my professional athletic career came to an end did I allow myself to understand my sexuality. Now, three years later, I’m finally ready to share that with people.
If not for the strength of athletes like Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Brian Simms, I would likely still be struggling with my own cognitive dissonance. Each of their stories reinforced the truth that there is nothing wrong with being a competitive athlete and gay. Just as their stories helped me come to understand and accept myself, I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I hope to help someone else to understand his or her identity as a gay athlete.
I moved to San Francisco for work ten months ago and had the fortune of finding the Fog, an open rugby team. I’ll likely never forget my nerves as I drove up to my first practice. Without question, it was more nerve-wracking than when stepping onto the football field against some of the best defensive linemen in the country; at 26 years old, my fear of being outed was still that extreme. Much of my maturation occurred in a hyper-masculine environment that demeaned homosexuality, and the idea of gay men competing, much less alongside straight men, was all too foreign to me.
Since that first practice, the Fog has become a family to me. They’ve taught me a new sport and to accept myself. A month ago at our annual banquet, I met Mark Bingham’s mother. She shared her son’s journey in understanding his masculinity and homosexuality and how he helped her become an advocate for GLBT rights. Mark was a former Fog player who helped overtake United 93 and whom the gay rugby world championship is named for. Now, in just over a month, I’ll be traveling to Sydney to compete for the Bingham Cup.
This year has been quite a journey for me. I consider myself incredibly lucky for the opportunities I’ve had, my amazing friends and family, and to live at a time of great progress in gay rights. I wish that I could’ve shared this part of my life with more people individually but I’m also ready to move forward. My hope in coming out is that at least one other gay athlete will understand he or she isn’t alone and that it really does get better.
I can’t wait to see what the next year holds. Happy Independence Day.