I received a submission (a while ago, but you know how procrastination is) from a wonderful 22 year old swimmer from Mexico City. He just goes to show that this blog can reach anywhere and help anyone. Enjoy
My name is Ángel. I’m a 22 year old swimmer from Mexico City. I swim on a competitive team where I’ve trained for the past four years.
I came out when I was 18 (a little late compared to other people from my generation) to my best friend who was also a teammate. Ever since, I’ve been coming out gradually to my friends and family until a few weeks ago when I came out to my coach.
To all of you guys involved in team sports, I don’t think I have to explain the bond that’s created between teammates. Between the infinite hours of practice, the road trips, the races, and the parties, before you notice, they’ve become your brothers. And sports have something that really strips your soul. With all your energy invested in competing, in doing your best, in always running the extra mile, there’s no energy left to pretend to be someone you’re not. That’s why I really didn’t have to come out to most of my teammates, since they got to know the real me and I knew trying to wear a mask would only drain my energy. I came out to some, some others asked me if I was gay and I didn’t deny it, some downright asked me if I had a boyfriend (and have insisted I should really get one ever since).
Coming out to my coach was possibly the third hardest coming out conversation I’ve ever had to have, after coming out to my parents. It took me a while to gather the courage to do it and I first talked to some of my teammates about it to get some encouragement. And it really shouldn’t have been that hard. Just like your teammates become brothers, your coach usually knows you better than your parents do: he knows your goals, your motivations, your fears, what makes you tick. I knew my coach must have heard some rumors about me after all this time and, after all the history we have together, it just felt wrong that I didn’t openly talk to him about it.
When you think about coming out, you second guess yourself a lot. You torture yourself with a thousand “what ifs”. Athletes aren’t particularly used to doubting themselves all the time, so it’s kind of unsettling. From my experience, younger people accept things like being gay much better than grown ups. (my mother totally flipped.) I was so scared to lose the bond I have with my coach, the one who encouraged me to run a marathon and even ran it with me, the one who is always there to motivate me whenever I come up with some crazy goal.
Now I regret that I didn’t tell him earlier. He thanked me for trusting him enough to tell him, ’cause I was the first to ever do something like that (our team is huge, I’m not the only gay guy but I’m the only one out). And I thought,” Damn, this is my coach, the one who has always had my back, 100%, no matter what. Why didn’t I do this earlier? What stopped me?”
And then I realized most of the fears were in my head. Being gay in an environment where no one is out does things to your mind. At college, almost every gay guy is out, and no one really gives a damn, so if you’re gay, you get to know a lot of people you can relate to, with a story and a life you can empathize with. In sports it’s a completely different story.
There are no role models for gay guys in sports. There’s no one to tell you,” Hey, don’t sweat it. It will be alright.” That’s why I decided to submit my story. I read in the blog how a swimmer declined some offers to swim in college ’cause he didn’t want to spend his life in the closet, and I’m sure there are gay athletes all over the world who are thinking about doing the exact same thing.
It’s with them especially that I’d like to share what I’ve learnt from the four years. I’ve been swimming with my team: many stereotypes don’t come from just the straight population, but from everyone else, too. Just like people think that all blondes are dumb and all gays act like girls, we buy the stereotype of the idiotic, bigoted jock with no brains and who acts like a caveman. And alright, maybe sometimes jocks do act like cavemen, but that doesn’t mean an athlete is homophobic by default. We gays have our own prejudices, and we must fight them if we ever expect to fight the prejudices in straight people.
If you’re part of a team, if it really is a team, they probably already know you’re gay. Sports bring teammates so close and strip them in a way that no mask can be held for too long. And if you really are part of a team, they will not turn their back on you because you’re gay. If these guys really are like your brothers, chances are they’ll be trying to set you up on a date rather than disown you. And if they do have a problem with it, you’re not part of a team and you never were in the first place.
Never, EVER leave a sport you love out of fear. It’s not gonna be worth it. Come out, if you think you’re ready. Or don’t, if you’re not, but don’t let being gay define what you can or cannot do.
I really want to thank Brad, Robert and Ben for starting this blog. It makes gay athletes everywhere realize they’re not alone and that they can be out and happy with their sport. I’m sure your efforts will make the coming out process easier to a lot of people, and I hope my story helps someone out there too.