It’s not every day that brings the opportunity to write a lead sentence like “This week, the most insightful thought about LGBTQ sports came from a cast member of the British TV show, ‘I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here.’”
But such was the case thanks to British actor John Barrowman, who American TV fans may know best from playing Captain Jack Harkness on “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood,” and The Dark Archer Malcolm Merlyn in “Arrow.”
Barrowman discussed a recent exchange with fellow “Celebrity” castmate and British football manager Harry Redknapp:
“I had this conversation with Harry who apparently had never met a gay man before he met me in the jungle, which I find hard to believe as I know there are gay footballers out there.
“If people are fearful of coming out because of their job, they’re stupid. Because there are so many ways and people around to protect them now... Think of how many lives you will save... if you come out and be your true self and show that you can be successful and can live your life and not worry about stereotype, you are going to help maybe that one kid who is struggling and possibly on the verge of doing something drastic in their life because they feel they are shut down and can’t be who they are.”
Barrowman’s comments highlight the dilemma that gay athletes in professional athletics face in every country. Simply put, many teams in major league sports give positions of power to figures like Harry Redknapp, who labor under the impression that no one in their league is gay — a statistical probability so minute that it can only be described in terms like “Baltimore Orioleswinning percentage.”
And because athletes don’t know how authority figures like Redknapp will react, it makes it that much harder to come out and live their truth.
Last year, for example, former MLB manager Dusty Baker discussed this very issue with The Athletics’ Ken Rosenthal...
Guess what? There are some gay guys in baseball. They must be tortured inside (not revealing their sexual orientation), but they’re blessed with the ability to play baseball.
It’s a fear that cuts across all sports. But as Barrowman went on to say, the reward for overcoming that fear is the opportunity to “make history.” Fortunately, recent events reinforce Barrowman’s point by providing several examples of professional athletes being thrust into prominence and assuming heroic roles after publicly coming out.
Foremost among these history making figures is Jason Collins, a former center for several NBA teams who came out in a Sports Illustrated cover story after the 2012-13 season. This was one instance where the infamous SI cover jinxdid not manifest itself, as Collins became one of the leading figures of hope and inclusivity from that day forward.
Normally, a retired NBA player who put up lifetime stats of 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game is subjected to a lifetime of answering questions that range from “What’s Shaq really like?” to “What’s LeBron really like?” But because Collins was the first active player in his league to take the brave step of coming out, it ensured that he would never be lost in the crowd of thousands of anonymous ex-ballers.
Instead, Collins became the rare back-up center to be invited to the State of the Union as a guest of Michelle Obama. And since retirement, Collins has remained a fixture of the civil rights movement, serving as an ambassador for NBA Cares and the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative.
Additionally, the Brooklyn Nets have established an annual Jason Collins Award for Courage and Leadership presented during the team’s annual Pride Night celebration.
And Collins is hardly alone in being celebrated and supported as a role model for out athletes. After coming out during his tenure with Minnesota United in 2018, Collin Martin earned an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden and even got to play a round of “Late Late Live Tinder.”
Meanwhile, following a national championship with the Baylor women’s basketball team, Brittney Griner publicly came out and subsequently signed an endorsement deal with Nike as soon as she turned pro. And while she spent her college career at Baylor being true to herself, Griner’s alma mater finally dropped its ban on “homosexual acts” two years after she graduated.
Within the past decade, British sports have seen cricketer Steven Davies and rugby star Gareth Thomas come out and maintain prominent lives in the public eye, with Thomas receiving Stonewall’s Hero of the Year award.
Every one of these athletes are living examples of Barrowman’s assertion that coming out in professional sports would be equivalent to making history. As he predicted, all of them found a support system in the culture ready to lift them up. And that support system is still there and waiting for the next prominent athlete to live their truth.
All of this makes the wait for the next sports star to come out feel frustratingly long at times. Outsports will be addressing this topic with a special panel about the dearth of male athletes coming out at Outsports Pride 2019 beginning June 6 in Los Angeles.
As Barrowman stated, every gay athlete who opens up about who they are influences countless others who are struggling with their identity in the best possible way. Hopefully, we’ll have another heroic story to write about soon in the world of pro sports.
Written by: Ken Schultz. 24 May 2019. Outsports.com
A soccer star has become the first former A-league player to come out as gay, less than a year after breaking up with his girlfriend.
Former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan came out as gay on an Instagram post today (14 May).
The 26-year-old joined the Jets in 2015 before parting in 2017, making a total of five A-league appearances. He’s now the winger and striker for Green Scully, a Melbourne soccer club.
What did he say?
In a candid Instagram post, the Hobart-born Australian said: ‘It’s taken me years to get comfortable saying this – I’m gay.
‘I was scared it would affect my friendships, my teammates, and my family.
‘But the support of the people around me has been so great and helped me get to the final step; being completely open.
‘Being open is the best way for me to feel most comfortable and be myself. So… carry on!’
‘Tried to hide it and push it aside’
He told the Herald Sun that coming out felt like the lifting of a huge burden. He broke up with his girlfriend last June.
‘Six months ago I thought about it a lot, tried to hide it and push it aside because of the way I thought it would be perceived by many.’
‘I suppose I’ve carried this burden with me for so long about being gay and I’ve come to the realisation that I can be open with it and speak to people about it and it’s ok,’ Brennan said on a Professional Footballers Australia video.
‘I tried to hide, a lot and tried to push it aside. Just because of the way I thought it would be perceived by other people … they might treat me differently.’
Queerphobia in soccer
The gulf between LGBTI and soccer has been great over the years across the world. Justin Fashanu in 1990 became the first and, still to this day, only professional player in the UK to come out, for example.
Moreover, trans player’s inclusion in men’s and women’s divisions has provoked debate and homophobic chants continue across stadiums.
But many LGBTI activists have made great strides to make the iconic sport more accessible and welcoming.
Football v Homophobia was born out of the gap. Running workshops across Europe for clubs to better promote a space where professional players might feel comfortable coming out, as well as where fans might challenge queerphobia in and off the pitch.
Written by: Josh Milton. 13 May 2019. News. Gaystarnews.com
Lars Sullivan is a professional wrestler and one of the hottest acts in the WWE’s SmackDown series at the moment. He’s also a total bigot.
Ring Side News is reporting that 30-year-old Sullivan, whose real name is Dylan Miley, posted dozens of racist, sexist, and homophobic comments under two different usernames at BodyBuilding.com between 2007 and 2014.
After Sullivan’s first username (Disenfranchised) was deactivated, presumably for hate speech, he created another one (Elperfecto), which is still active today, though he hasn’t posted any new comments in almost five years.
Of course, as we all know, the internet remembers everything.
Some of Sullivan’s past online remarks include:
In a heated 2007 exchange with another user, Sullivan (writing as Disenfranchised) says, “Oh, you’re black? No wonder all you can do is copy and paste” before calling the person a “whiny, c*nty idiot.”
And in another post written in 2012, Sullivan (as Elperfecto) tells someone that if his co-worker ever came out as gay, he “would draw the line and make him feel like a worthless outcast of society.”
He also wrote posts bashing Mexicans, Muslims, the Chinese, drag queens, people with mental illnesses, people who struggle with addiction, the NAACP, and “manly” women, among countless other groups of people.
Neither WWE nor Sullivan have issued any comment on the recently unearthed posts, though Ring Side News notes that they were actually discovered by hardcore WWE fans over a year ago and nothing was ever done about it then.
Perhaps now that more people are noticing, Sullivan will be held accountable for his years (and years) of online bigotry. Or perhaps not.
You can read a comprehensive, though not totally complete, list of of Lars’ past posts here.
Written by: Graham Gremore. 08 May 2019. Life. Queerty.com
The boot awaits Israel Folau, now more than ever.
A panel of Australian national rugby officials reportedly have concluded star player Falou did violate his contract in posting controversial messages on social media that included a warning that “hell awaits” gay people, among others.
It’s important to note, as the Guardian reports, that the officials decided the violation was “a high level” breach of that contract, which gives them the power to ban him from the game. Anything less and he might have gotten away with just being fired from the national team.
The devout Christian was fired by Rugby Australia last month for his April 10th Instagram postin which he proclaimed “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators” were going to hell unless they repented and asked to be “saved” by Jesus.
The three-person panel of chair John West, Rugby Australia representative Kate Eastman and the Rugby Union Players Association representative John Boultbee is now deciding Folau’s fate.
According to the Guardian, a suspension and/or a fine remains the best possible outcome for Folau, but the termination of his contract is now a distinct possibility. Whatever decision the panel makes is not expected to be announced for several days.
Folau can appeal whatever decision is reached, and if that happens, a new three-person panel would be selected.
Their decision may hinge on the fact that this isn’t Folau’s first brush with a potential breach of contract, or violation of official guidance. Last year the rugby fullback was warned against further anti-LGBTQ social-media posting. He complied, until last month.
Written by: Dawn Ennis. 07 May 2019. Outsports.com
A high school baseball player in upstate New York who came out publicly as bisexual a year ago has condemned one or two players on an opposing team who called him a “faggot” during a game earlier this month.
Sam Culwell, 17, a pitcher and third baseman at Rondout Valley High School in Kenhonkson, New York, detailed the April 10 incident against Marlboro in a Facebook post:
My name is Sam Culwell. I’m a straight A student, I play baseball for Rondout Valley’s varsity team, and as a matter of fact I’m the captain. I’ve played baseball since I was 4, and I’ve loved it ever since. Training year round is fun to me, and there’s nothing like going up to the field with my teammates after school for a game or practice. 13 years of playing baseball and I was fortunate enough to find a great college program that I feel comfortable playing at.
Last year I came out as bisexual, and in a small school like mine, it came with it’s struggles. Luckily enough, I have helped to change my friend’s and my school’s views on sexuality and sports.... that is to say there’s no reason to discriminate against an athlete for this reason, and I want to be judged based on my abilities, sportsmanship, and effort. I’m better than I’ve ever been because of hard work both on the field and in learning to accept myself. Today my team played Marlboro, which is our biggest rival. I came in to relieve our pitcher after he threw 4 1/3 great innings. We were losing 4-1 and as expected, I was pitching well and got out of the inning.
Next inning rolls around and my coach came out to the mound to just give me a breather. At this point I had already struck out one batter and as my coach comes up to talk to me all I hear from the opposing dugout is “tell him he’s a failure and a faggot” it took all of my composure to not break down on the spot.
I am disappointed, disgusted, and hurt by the treatment that I have received by Marlboro Central Schools Athletes and coaches. There is no room for hate, especially in a high school baseball game. We are all there for the same reason. Our love of baseball. And shame on your program for going out of their way to try and ruin what I love so much. All I have to say is Marlboro Central School District Take notes from my school. We have the ability to change, accept and embrace those who are different.
The slur clearly shook Culwell, who came out publicly on Instagram last year and was able to eventually win over his teammates and classmates after some hostility. His dad, Brian, told Justin Fedich of the Times Herald-Record newspaper how the incident affected his son:
As Brian watched from the crowd, he couldn’t hear what was said but knew something was wrong. After Culwell escaped the sixth inning, he stormed to the dugout in anger, sat on the bench and wept.
“I saw his disposition change,” Brian said. “Something just happened.”
After refusing to shake his opponents’ hands postgame, Culwell came home, still stirring over what happened.
“You did nothing wrong,” Colleen [his mom] told him, “but I wish you hadn’t let them see you cry.”
Sam broke down again. “But it hurts so much,” he said.
The Marlboro Central School District is investigating the incident. The Times Herald-Record reports that two of Culwell’s teammates heard “faggot,” while “Marlboro witnesses have said the statement was, ‘Tell him he’s a failure and fat.’” It is unclear if one or two players used the slur.
A suspension is warranted if the slur was used and Marlboro’s coach John Morrissey needs to be grilled on whether he condones such language among his players and what he intends to do about it.
“Hate of any kind is unacceptable, immoral and goes against all that we as a district believe, live and teach,” Marlboro Superintendent Michael M. Brooks said in a prepared statement, reported by the Daily Freeman. “We have been made aware of a serious allegation made against an individual on our varsity baseball team. It is alleged that inflammatory and derogatory name-calling related to an opposing player’s sexuality was used during a recent game.”
Brooks said the school district has begun an investigation under its Dignity for All Students Act.
”If the investigation warrants, there will be immediate and appropriate consequences,” he said.
Culwell did respond positively in one major respect by not letting the slur affect his on-field performance. During a game Thursday, he hit a three-run home run and broke up a no-hitter to help defeat a rival. “The dugout cleared to celebrate with him at home plate,” the Times-Herald said.
Culwell will attend community college this fall and has hopes of eventually playing baseball at a Division I school. He will do it with pride and a sense of knowing who he is.
“If I do make it that far, I do want to be a role model to everyone,” Culwell told Fedich in a terrific profile of Culwell that goes beyond the incident. “But also, at the same time, that’s not my goal. I just want to be good at something that I love.”
Written by: Jim Buzinski. 21 April 2019. Baseball. Outsports.com
It’s a warm Friday night and the line at the ILWU Memorial Hall in Wilmington, California, wraps around the block. The crowd is diverse — men and women, young and old, all different walks of life — and once inside the venue, the buzz is palpable.
Vendors sling cheap beer and tacos as quickly as possible, merchandise sales fly fast at makeshift stands and spectators settle into their folding chairs for a night of independent professional wrestling.
But this night is noteworthy for a reason that goes far beyond the action in the ring. Because on this night, in front of a sold-out crowd some 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, everybody is here to see a champion who just happens to be gay.
Jake Atlas won the PCW ULTRALight title in January 2019, a milestone in the meteoric rise of one of the most talented and buzzworthy performers in the sport. PCW (Pacific Coast Wrestling) is one of the most popular companies on the exploding indie wrestling scene. For Atlas, an openly gay man, the impact and importance of his title reign is something he cherishes.
“I have so much pride in a variety of aspects in being the PCW ULTRALight champion,” he says. “I worked so hard for two years to have management believe that I can be a part of their roster, that I can be someone they can rely on to deliver in front of capacity crowds.
“I was the first one in the building and the last one to leave for two years. I did everything from setting up the locker room, holding the cables for the cameramen, running entrance gear for the talent and leading a group of young wrestlers to set up the entire arena on show days.
“To have management believe in my story and background, allowing me to showcase my pride with the lifestyle I live, has been an incredible sense of relief. I am one of the leading faces of PCW Ultra, along with some of the greatest talent in the world. I am also gay. I am proud of that.”
Mike Scharnagl, owner of PCW, never gave it a second thought. “There was never any issue with having an openly LGBTQ wrestler with one of our belts,” he says. “The great thing about wrestling is that the audience is a great cross-section of Los Angeles … when they all get in the building, they are all just fans, blowing off steam from a hard week of work.”
Atlas represents the new breed of LGBTQ talent in the professional wrestling world, a community that has flourished in recent years thanks to promotions like PCW and performers like himself.
It hasn’t always been this way.
In 2013, Darren Young became the first openly gay wrestler in WWE. Young, who had contemplated how to handle his sexuality for years, spontaneously came out to a TMZ cameraman when asked about whether or not the wrestling world was ready for a gay performer.
His fear and uncertainty came from decades as a wrestling fan.
“In the ‘70’s, ‘80’s or even ‘90’s, it was not a safe space for gays,” he says.
After coming out, Young was thrown into a fire that nobody saw coming. Despite an almost exclusively warm welcome from the backstage contingent and a seemingly positive reaction from his boss, those in places of power and influence below the surface were less enthused. The flame burned out quickly.
He draws a straight line between his coming out and his eventual demise with the company. “I sacrificed my WWE career and living my childhood dream to live my life truthfully,” he said.
Young was released from WWE in 2017.
Despite its troubled history, the professional wrestling landscape is diversifying and expanding as quickly as its talent base.
The recently founded and much buzzed about All Elite Wrestling, featuring the likes of the legendary Chris Jericho, signed Sonny Kiss, an openly gay wrestler, and Nyla Rose, the first-ever transgender competitor signed to a major promotion. A Matter of Pride, a promotion that features exclusively LGBTQ wrestlers and allies, is flourishing in New York. Just years ago, the mere thought of developments like this would have been unfathomable.
Anthony Bowens, an openly gay wrestler who has most recently competed for IMPACT Wrestling and WrestlePro, says attitudes have shifted in the six years he has been wrestling professionally.
“I have seen things change and it’s for the better,” he says. “I can’t speak for everyone, but the locker rooms I’ve been a part of have been incredibly supportive and, because of that, all the original worries of acceptance that I had before coming out are not even a thought anymore.”
Mike Parrow, a gay wrestler who prides himself on busting stereotypes with his 6-foot-4 and nearly 300-pound frame, struggled to see himself using his sexuality as a source of power when he started his career. “It was part of the reason I stayed in the closet,” he says. “I thought I would lose all of my bookings.”
Now, Parrow is a torch-bearer for the sport, bringing his message of positivity to shows all around the world.
As attitudes evolve, it is important for LGBTQ talent to not only be accepted, but to be legitimized. In these independent promotions, diversity is paramount, but quality is king.
“A common misconception is that we are expected to be awarded titles, championships and recognition because we are gay,” Atlas says. “I can definitely and confidently say that that is not the general message. The message is that we don’t want our potential to be hidden and/or disregarded because of our sexuality.”
For the new crop of LGBTQ talent, it’s all about what comes next. Wrestlers like Atlas and Bowens will be quick to tell you that WWE is still the goal. To the company’s credit, they have shown signs of growth recently.
Sonya Deville, who came out as a lesbian before her WWE debut, is one of their fastest-rising female stars. At last year’s WrestleMania, Finn Balor, one of the most popular names in the entire company and a straight man, made his entrance decked out in rainbow gear surrounded by the LGBTQ community of New Orleans. Balor had his custom rainbow shirt sold on WWE.com, with a portion of proceeds benefiting GLAAD.
Atlas, who spent time training at the WWE Performance Center late last year, has big dreams for the grand stage.
“The biggest challenge we face is being able to be presented openly and without fear to the mainstream audience,” he says. “I hope to be at the forefront of this progress as I begin to build some more steam in my professional career to get more eyes and attention on our talents.”
But on this night in Wilmington, the only audience that matters is the one in front of him. Not only does the raucous crowd accept him, they embrace him. As chants of “Whose house? Jake’s house!” rain down, he uses finishing move the LGB-DDT to retain his title. It’s just another step toward a revolution.
“I want us to get to a point where becoming a gay champion isn’t a headline, it becomes the norm,” he says. “So, any other LGBTQ kid that comes after us can see that nothing is holding them back from following their dreams.”
Written by: Daniel Trainor. 15 April, 2019. Wrestling. Outsports.com
The NHL said it is investigating the use of a homophobic slur during Monday’s Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs game, won by the Lightning 6-2.
“The NHL is aware of reports that a homophobic slur was used during the Maple Leafs-Lightning game,” NHL Public Relations tweeted. “The League is investigating the incident and will have no further comment until this investigation is completed.”
On audio from the game, it’s appears that someone calls a referee a “fucking faggot.” In this clip, the slur can apparently be clearly heard with the TV announcers saying “[Leafs defenseman] Morgan] Rielly looking for a hooking penalty there” as the words are caught on the mic. It is unclear who uttered the words, though, and whether it was a player. The slur with 1:51 left to play in the second period.
It’s telling that the league states definitively that a gay slur was uttered and it’s what I hear listening to the audio multiple times. It also seems that the offender was a Maple Leaf player, someone with the team or a fan based on a statement Maple Leafs PR put out on Twitter from general manager Kyle Dubas:
“The club is aware of the reports surrounding a homophobic slur used during the Maple Leafs versus Lightning game on Monday night. The issue of homophobia is one the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club strongly condemns and takes very seriously. We are in communication with the NHL and are cooperating fully with their office.”
As ESPNw reported, the Maple Leafs have been one of the most vocal supporters of the “You Can Play” organization, which partnered with the team on Feb. 25 for a night that spotlighted the LGBTQ hockey community. A public service announcement featuring Maple Leafs players was shown in-arena during the game. “The Toronto Maple Leafs are very much a part of You Can Play history,” Ryan Pettengill, You Can Play executive director, told ESPNw.
The league has punished players before for using anti-gay slurs. Andrew Shaw was suspended for one game in April 2016, and fined $5,000, when he yelled “faggot” after receiving a penalty. At the time he was with the Chicago Blackhawks, and his suspension forced him to miss Game 5 of the playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. Shaw was also required to undergo sensitivity training.
But a year and a month later, the NHL failed to do anything more than fine Ryan Getzlaf when the Anaheim Ducks captain yelled an anti-gay slur at a ref in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup playoff series with the Nashville Predators.
Social media was awash in theories that I won’t get into and, as usual, the trolls took over. A Reddit hockey forum had to shut down its comments on the thread, writing:
Racist, ethnic, sexist or homophobic slurs/remarks of any kind will lead to a ban. Read more.
People coming here to say “it’s just a word” or “people are too PC” will be banned. We know the trolls are out.
The NHL themselves even say “Hockey is for everyone” https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-is-for-everyone.
Thanks and please ”Remember the Human.”
Edit: At over 3 hours we’ve let this thread go on. The trolls have now invaded. We’re locking this thread now as there has been plenty of discussion to read through.
I applaud the Reddit moderators because “faggot” is about the worst gay slur that can be uttered against a man, and has been the slur of choice in sports forever. The NHL has suspended players before for saying the word and if a player uttered this, he needs a long suspension and fine.
Written by: Jim Buzinski. 12 March 2019. outsports.com
Amateur male model Malik Joseph has claimed that he engaged in a romantic relation with Oakland Raiders P.J. Hall.
Joseph shared text messages on his Instagram account which are reportedly from P.J. Hall which is states “prove” the NFL player likes men. He also encouraged his followers to harass Hall’s girlfriend over DM.
Furthermore, he has suggested there might be other closeted men, including an individual running for Atlanta City Council, who he’s hooked up with and about to expose.
A rep for Hall tells Black Sports Online the story is totally false and accuses Joseph of making “defamatory and slanderous accusations” against the NFLer, adding that Joseph has a “history of extorting men.”
The rep did not say whether Hall plans to pursue any legal action against the Only Fans model.
Meanwhile, Hall himself took to Twitter to deny the accusations and to say he and his girlfriend are “all good.”
Lmao, me and my girl are all good over here and have been. Y’all can try whatever y’all want!!
— PJ Hall (@Pjjwatt) February 6, 2019
There are no openly gay players in Super Bowl LIII between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. There has never been an openly gay player in the Super Bowl, but four players who were later out have played in the game.
There have certainly been more than four gay or bi men who have played in a Super Bowl, but these are the only four whose sexual orientation has been made known publicly:
Jerry Smith (Washington Redskins tight end, Super Bowl VII, 1972 season); Roy Simmons (New York Giants offensive lineman, Super Bowl XVIII, 1983 season); Esera Tuaolo (Atlanta Falconsdefensive lineman, Super Bowl XXXIII, 1998 season) and Ryan O’Callaghan (New England Patriots offensive lineman, Super Bowl XLII, 2007 season).
Smith is the only one of the four to start in a Super Bowl, rushing one time for six yards and catching one pass for 11 yards in the Redskins’ 14-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins, who capped a perfect season with the win.
Smith, who later died of complications from AIDS, is also the only one of the four to never come out publicly as gay. But his orientation was known by his Redskins teammates, including running back Dave Kopay, who came out as gay in 1975 after retiring from a nine-year career. NFL Films did a fantastic documentary on Smith’s secret life.
Simmons played with the Giants before landing with the Redskins for their 1983 season that ended in a 38-9 Super Bowl loss to the Los Angeles Raiders. In a 2014 obituary on Simmons, the New York Times reported on his Super Bowl experience:
By his own account, Simmons abused his opportunity in the pros, falling quickly into heavy alcohol and drug use. The night before he played with the Redskins in the 1984 Super Bowl, his last game in the N.F.L., he snorted cocaine. In the stands that Sunday, he said, were friends he had invited, including three lovers — two female, one male. Somehow, he continued to keep his complicated sexuality a secret.
Tuaolo played for five teams, including the 1998 Falcons that lost the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos, 34-19. He has been an advocate for LGBT people in sports since coming out as gay in 2003 and this week hosted a Super Bowl inclusion party in Atlanta, site of this year’s Super Bowl. He held a similar event last year in Minneapolis, having been a longtime Viking.
O’Callaghan finished his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, but was with the Patriots in 2007 when they lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants, 17-14. He came out in 2017 and team owner Robert Kraft has been among his biggest supporters. When I asked Kraft last year about having an openly gay Patriot, he dismissed any concerns, saying, “the only thing I care about is can they help us win.”
Written by: Jim Buzinski. 01 February 2019. Outsports.com
I began playing football on a whim in the fall of 2013, as an eighth-grader in Michigan, not realizing how the sport would change my life.
In football I found camaraderie with people whom I never fathomed I could love. Those I had never previously interacted with became my brothers. It was also during this confusing time of growing up that my mind began to wander and explore the unknowns of human sexuality.
While my friends were already solidified in their sexuality, I vacillated in a state of sexual limbo, not really comprehending what I was. I tried having feelings for girls, tried asking them out and falling for them, but a barrier always existed that made me hesitate and feel uncomfortable.
I was beginning to understand that I wasn’t “normal,” but I refused to acknowledge it. I was finally forced to confront these feelings in my sophomore year of high school when I began therapy for depression and anxiety.
For most of high school, I was able to go through life and never give a second thought to my sexuality. It wasn’t until my junior year in football, however, that I began to recognize the toll it was taking on my life.
During the football season that year, I earned respect and status among my teammates as we went to the state semifinals. Not a week after the season concluded, I was named one of the three captains for next season. I was thrilled for the approval from my peers and coaches for the honorary title. At the same time, though, a sense of cognitive dissonance began to overwhelm me.
I scrutinized my life as a seemingly invalid conclusion popped into my brain. I was a leader of the football team, valued by my team. On the other hand, I was also gay, something I thought was an unforgivable sin to my coaches and teammates, as the idea had connotations of disgust, femininity and reason for ostracism.
Even with the progressive nature of my high school, it is undeniable that football possesses a different culture that exudes explicit normative masculinity. I couldn’t fathom how I, someone who identified as “gay,” could be an “alpha-male,” an athlete who was receiving attention from college coaches. It defied my schema of the separate spheres of “gay” and “jock.”
It was at that moment that I felt alone in the world. I was neither flamboyant nor was I just “one of the guys” on the football team. I couldn’t fully identify with either faction. I was a dichotomy, a paradox.
My mind churned as I accepted the faulty notion that no matter how talented I was as a player or how influential I was as a leader, I would never be unconditionally loved by some of my closest friends because of my orientation.
I felt I could never come out, not without shattering the foundations of the new life I’d built for myself. I would have to shroud my truth and wear a mask for the rest of my life as a football player.
This fear traveled with me as I embarked on life at college. It wasn’t until recently that this paranoia began to dissolve.
It was brought to my attention that a rumor about my sexual orientation was circulating around my hometown and made its way to Kalamazoo College, a private Division III school about two hours west of where I grew up. I was paralyzed with anxiety as I feared the inevitable reactions of teammates with whom I had barely become acquainted.
To my surprise, however, I have only experienced a few adverse reactions to which I have given little regard. After learning that a sizable portion of my new team was made aware of my closely guarded secret, I realized that there was no point in attempting to maintain a false front.
I suppose I was done giving a damn as to what others thought about me, and that it was time to accept who I was. I was done living a lie. I was done trying to be something that I am not.
I had come out to my family in my sophomore year of high school, and they served as my primary support. Slowly, I began to branch out as I learned to trust more and more people, eventually telling my close friends and even some of my teammates on my high school team.
Since I publicly came out this past Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, with a Facebook post, I have been stunned by the overwhelming support and affirmations from those whom I feared rejection from the most.
In the days after I publicly came out over social media, I received messages from old classmates, teammates and coaches all offering their salutations and, in some cases, apologies for previous insensitivity or intolerant behavior.
Reflecting on all of this, I realized that while it was smart to wait until college to come clean with myself and the world, my largest critic was myself.
Surely, some people may have taken my news with disdain, but ultimately my insecurity was my largest barrier. Those whom I feared rejection from exceeded my expectations in their support for me; it was my own doubt and intolerance that made life intolerable.
By coming out, I can now focus my full attention athletically to being the best player possible. I wasn’t originally interested in pursuing collegiate football until I met the coaching staff from Kalamazoo. I fell in love with Kalamazoo and withdrew my interests from other schools that I was considering, such as the University of Michigan and Yale University.
This last season, Kalamazoo went 7-3, our best record since 1963. In high school I was a captain and named All-State Honorable Mention for both athletic and for scholastic achievements in my senior year. Yet at Kalamazoo, for the first time, I was not a starter and was rudely awakened by the culture of college football.
Coming from a high school where I was one of the tallest, strongest and smartest athletes, when I arrived at Kalamazoo, I learned that the talents I relied on in high school were average traits of the players in college. While I did not start this year, I am working diligently through the off-season to learn, grow and improve.
By writing this article, I am joining the list of openly gay college football players.
By writing this article, I am joining the list of openly gay college football players, partially in solidarity of advocating for equality and exposure and to begin to find my pride in accepting my identity.
I would like to be the eighth member of this exclusive community of open and visual LGBT+ college football players and help end the stigma associated with LGBT+ athletes. I want to help join the fight and be a leader for those who struggle to follow in a path similar to me.
My moral is this: while having the love and support of those around you is important, nothing is more essential than one’s love and acceptance for themselves. It has taken me a long time to learn this lesson, and I’m still working to fully accept this, but it is the greatest piece of advice that I can offer to those who may read this and identify with my struggle.
Learn to love yourself and be comfortable in your own skin. The rest will follow.
Christian Zeitvogel is a freshman offensive lineman on the Kalamazoo College football team, a Division III private school in Michigan. He is pursuing a double major in Political Science and Psychology, and is looking to pursue a career as a civil rights attorney through amicus curiae brief submission. He is involved in social public policy reform advocacy, co-led a student walk-out in reaction to the Parkland Shooting and participated in voter registration drives. He can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @The_Zeisenvogel or on his new Instagram account.
Written by: Christian Zeitvogel. 08 January 2019. Outsports.com
Story editor: Jim Buzinski