My life completely changed after coming out on National Coming Out Day in 2017.
I was the captain of the swim team at my military college, and I was having a lot of fun — but I knew I wasn’t being my true self. That made it hard as a captain, trying to hide something while also trying to be a leader.
Swimming made it hard to come out for me, mainly because of the locker room chat, where “Gay!” and “Homo!” were shouted every day. It was also a military college. I always had the fear of being made fun of, or that someone might talk behind my back.
So October 11, 2017, I decided to come out.
I chose Coming Out Day because I kept delaying it and delaying it. I wasn’t ready at the beginning of the semester, and every time I thought I was ready, I got in my head. But after talking with a lot of friends and thinking it out, that day felt right.
I told my coaches first, and they were really accepting. Then during the middle of practice, I asked everyone to jump out of the pool, and I told everyone on my swim team. Immediately after, everyone came in for a hug, and I knew it was going to be okay. I knew that if someone on another team or even on my team were to say something, and they heard about it, my teammates would do something about it. And as a swim coach myself, I want the same for my swimmers or any LGBTQ athlete.
Right after practice, I came out to the rest of the world in an Instagram post.
First, I got emails and messages of happiness and acceptance from alumni. My most memorable experience was from one of my biology professors, one of the hardest teachers I ever had. I went into his office to check my grade before the final and, as I was leaving, he told me he read my story and he was proud of me.
One of the biggest reasons why I came out publicly was to help anyone in that uncomfortable situation know that they could be gay and still play a sport. It is a scary situation to be in, and to be bullied because of your sexuality should not be the reason why someone with talent and love for a sport ends up quitting. I was a swimmer on a D1 swim team at Virginia Military Institute, and the support and respect of my classmates, professors, and friends made my last season more enjoyable, and allowed me to be myself. Feeling accepted helped me finish my swimming career with my best season ever, setting multiple school records, and being awarded Conference Swimmer of the Week.
There’s always an uncertainty coming out in both new and familiar environments, whether it’s work, school, or a team. This summer, I was the head coach of a local swim team in Falls Church, Virginia, and going into my second year openly gay, I was scared of what my swimmers or parents would think of me. Becoming comfortable with myself and having a genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the sport, coming out only made things better. I only had total acceptance as a gay coach, and I received love and support from swimmers, parents, board members, and other coaches.
I am still dealing with family acceptance. It’s hard, and something I deal with every day. I can’t tell my mom about a cute guy I went on a date with, or about my best friends, who are also gay. But the friends I have made and others who have gotten so much closer are my chosen family.