Amy and Molly are both in the class of 2014 at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. Amy plays first base on the softball team and Molly is the team's manager. Both are out lesbians at their school. Their stories of coming out both involve being a part of a team and the support that they received from their teammates. In their senior year they are working on a directed study focused on examining the change in acceptance of LGBTQ athletes in sports. They are examining whether there has been a paradigm shift in sport’s acceptance of LGBTQ athletes. Their stories serve as first-hand experience of the changing attitude in sports for the positive.
Ever since I was a teenager I was told I was gay. Whether it was the stereotypical softball player jokes, my peers in high school saying I was gay because I liked to wear sweatpants to class, or even my mother cracking harmless jokes, everyone seemed to have it figured out before I did I never had anything against gay people; I just never thought that was me. Having a crush on the same boy throughout the first 3 years high school didn’t leave me questioning my sexuality either. It wasn’t until a little show called South of Nowhere came into my life and my crush on the lead character seemed more real than any feeling I ever had for boys…then I started to wonder. After realizing my new found love I decided to get my best friend and high school softball teammate as obsessed as I was; and I succeeded. Together, my best friend and I started our realization and acceptance process together.
College came pretty fast after this realization; I was headed to play softball at a small D1 school in Rhode Island. I don’t know how my coming out process would have gone if I wasn’t a part of a team. That being said, I was still terrified of how they would respond. I knew I had to test the waters and feel out whom to tell first/if I should even tell anyone. I picked up on some stereotypical softball jokes being made by my teammates, but I never felt like they were backed by any ill will or hatred. The person I ever told out loud that I had a girlfriend was my teammate and suitemate Kirsten. Kirsten and I were having a heart to heart one night freshman year that consisted mostly of her being upset about missing her family and me being silent, wanting to tell her I was gay. After Kirsten started to feel better we went to our respective rooms for the night. Once I got back to my room I decided to let go of my fear, go back to her room, knocked on her door, and told her about my girlfriend. Once Kirsten reassured me that this didn’t change anything with our friendship, I started to gain the confidence to come out to my team. One by one I told my team. I told some of them in passing others on the way to class but their reactions were all the same as Kirsten’s.
Today, as a senior in college, if you know who I am, you more than likely know that I am gay. It’s not that I exude my homosexuality, but I most definitely do not hide it. I went from being one of the only out lesbians I knew at my school to helping half of my friends, including my current girlfriend Katie, come out.
I understand that most stories aren’t as easy and positive as mine. Teenagers looking to come out may read or hear about horror stories and decided that staying in the closet is the easiest and safest thing to do. While I would never force anyone to come out who wasn’t ready, I can honestly say that there is nothing more liberating than being who you are. People will surprise you. You will never actually knowhow someone will react until you tell them
There are three important phases in my story. The first phase was actually putting together all of the pieces. It’s really hard for me to pinpoint a single moment where I knew I was gay. I can remember a lot of little moments in my life where I just felt...different. All the feelings were there but I just couldn’t read them. It was my first real crush on a girl that brought on my realization. My best friend and teammate came out to me our junior year of high school. She would share stories of their relationship and on multiple occasions tell me about fights they would have. I found myself thinking a lot about Lindsey and her relationship. I would think to myself of how much better I would be at being her girlfriend. At the time I did not realize this was a crush. I just knew that I liked her...a lot. It was my first kiss with a girl that jolted me awake. The subconscious feelings were suddenly alive and the final piece of the puzzle was placed perfectly. End Phase One.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college...I was now in Phase two; I was gay. I knew it and my girlfriend did. It was my second year being the manager of the softball team. They had become my second family and were my support system. This phase was about accepting who I was and letting others in on what I had just discovered. Amy played a big role; she had been my teammate for a year now and was openly gay to everyone. She received support from our other teammates when she came out freshman year, but more importantly what I observed was they didn’t treat her any different. Amy was the first person I came out to on campus, and it was still hard to do. It was the first time I had to say it out loud to someone. After telling Amy and the same night telling another close teammate it just got easier and easier each time. I still sweat and over analyze each time I’m about to come out, but after having 20 girls look me in the eye and tell me they are proud of me, they love me, and accept me for who I am. I felt 100% myself for the first time in college. I was no longer telling those small lies to hide my sexuality that really weighted me down and kept me up at night. I was honest with myself and others and more importantly I was truly happy. End Phase two.
At this point I’m in phase three. I’m openly gay to all of my friends and my family. It is not something I have to hide anymore or ever feel ashamed of. The most important people in my life are the ones who love me for who I am at my deepest core and those people are my biggest support. Anyone who does not I have learned to let go, because I know that the liberating feeling I have received from being honest with myself and others is vast in comparison to anyone I have lost because of my sexuality.
Sport has the amazing ability to transcend societal norms. It has the ability to rise above in devastating and celebratory times. To me, my team and my athletic community were the driving force for me being able to gain the courage to come out. I saw other gay athletes succeeding. I was aware of the support the entire athletic community had for one another. These factors among others fostered my courage. After being out at Bryant for two years I decided that I wanted to “pay it forward.” They had given me so much without even knowing it, and I wanted others to know of our inclusion. I was able to convey this message perfectly though making a You Can Play video with other student athletes. Again, I was met with open arms and excitement. I had many players, staff, and administration that were not only willing to help but proud to do it.
Coming out to people got easier and easier with each person I told. Having the support of close friends and teammates created this circle of protection. They gave me support and advice about being exactly who I wanted to be. My close friends, including Amy, were the reason behind my decision to come out to my parents. They had my back no matter what and reassured me that the love my parents had for me would not be shaken by this personal realization. Sometimes I still struggle, especially with those closest to me. Many times with teachers, coaches, administration, and other students my sexuality comes out in regular conversation. Each time it is a conscious decision that I have to make to be honest because I know at the end of the day that’s what makes me happiest. I hope one day that it will be less of a conscious effort, but for now I have to give myself little reminders; be true to you, those who accept me for everything that I am are people I want to be around, and my favorite…Let people surprise you. I have been surprised by many, good and bad, and each time I have found myself feeling more comfortable and confident.