As a former division-one track athlete, a two-time member of the US National Quidditch team, and a creative director on the women's pro tennis tour, it's easy to show people that sports have a special place in my life. Why else would someone voluntarily run marathons, you know? But, sometimes when I think about it, I wonder how I was able to love something that never wanted me there in the first place.
Growing up in a sports-focused family, most of my childhood memories are tied to athletics in some way (for better or for worse). While my success on the field offered a certain degree of validation, there was always a distance between me and my teammates that took years for me to fully understand.
I, like many others, endured my fair share of teasing. Homophobic slurs were the weapon of choice amongst my peers, and while I didn't know it at the time, the environment I was in pushed me deeper and deeper into the closet. I didn't know I was gay, but it was clear to me that gay men couldn't exist in high-level sports. They were "lesser" in some way, and athletics was not their arena.
Or so I was taught to believe.
When I finally began to understand who I was and found the strength to come out, I felt like I had to work twice as hard to earn respect from others. Whether or not that was actually true, the emotional impact of my past experiences made me feel inferior. I had to run faster. Tackle harder. Score more. I had to make up for who I was and, even if I was the best athlete on the field, I needed to prove I was as good as anyone else – especially to myself.
Through years of support, growth, and experience, I was able to embrace and love the man that I am. The journey was dark and difficult at times, but I would not change a thing about where I've been. I've learned empathy, I've learned self-worth, and most importantly, I've learned how valuable it is for people to speak up and be visible. The world needs champions of LGBTQ+ equality, and even the smallest acts of courage can change someone's life.
Now, I feel my purpose is to give back – to be an example for those who still feel lost, alone, and who are looking for someone like themselves. I have a voice, and I will spend my life using it for something good.