In celebration of Pride month in the US, two college athletes have opened up about how they came out to each other and then starting dating.
“Peshtigo High School in Northern Wisconsin was a place where being gay was the punch line to almost every joke, and coming out would have alienated anyone beyond belief, especially if they were gay and an athlete,” writes Brad.
“I thought I could abolish the gay in me by excelling at sports. In part, it did the trick: Every medal I won transformed anyone’s thoughts of me being gay into affirmation of me being straight.
“I went through high school winning track meets and breaking school records, hoping that it would disguise the fact that I was gay.
“It worked on everyone except me.”
Justin grew up a few hours away from Brad in Milwaukee and writes that he always felt that there was “something different about me from my male peers, yet I honestly didn’t know what it was.”
“I ran track, played football, and even swam for a little bit. I dated girls and there was no problem. I was even successful in academics.
“Life was good, but there was still a part of myself that felt incomplete and missing.”
Justin says the first time he opened up to someone about being attracted to men, he nervously sent a text message to a friend who immediately responded: “Oh, that’s cool”.
“From that moment on, having finally come out to someone in my life, everything in my life improved – all because of telling that one person,” Justin writes.
“Telling one person led to another and another, eventually leading up to my parents. Telling them was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Thankfully they were super accepting and understanding, even though lots of awkward conversations and tears were exchanged.”
And that first person he came out to was Brad—who he’d known from athletic competitions—and they’ve now been dating for two years.
Brad says of their relationship: “At first, we didn’t know each other was gay. In fact, I just knew him as Justin, the kid who unrightfully took my 200-meter state title because I false started. (Side note: He thinks he would have won either way, but I know otherwise).
“We came out to each other over Thanksgiving break of 2014 – First him in a text message, then me in a later response.
“Finally, I had someone I could relate to. We didn’t quite have all the same experiences, but the oppression of gays in his hometown of Milwaukee is probably comparable to the oppression in my small, conservative farm town.
“We would talk for hours about everything, each of us being 100% ourselves for the first time in our entire lives.”
Justin then transferred to the University of Minnesota where Brad studies. They live together in Minneapolis and are both part of the same athletics team, the Golden Gophers.