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Fear of being outed for some wrestlers

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While the Gay Games are a great beacon for out gay athletes, there is also no shortage of wrestlers in Cologne who are afraid of coming out in their personal or professional lives.

One wrestler, who is a high school wrestling referee, said that if parents in his area found out he is gay they would petition his state's kids wrestling federation and that federation would ask him to resign as a referee. When I asked him whom at the organization I could speak to about it, he got emotional and begged me not to. Another wrestler, a high school coach, turned away when I asked for a photo saying he couldn't be featured. His friends, who remained behind, said he was afraid of losing his job.

I wondered (quite nearly aloud) whether their fear was justified, or whether it was the same unfounded "fear of the unknown" that so many closeted professional athletes face. For example, Outsports has already done a full-length, front-page story on the high school coach using his full name, city and a photograph of him. When I asked the closeted referee how he knew he would lose his job if he came out publicly, he said he just knew. When pressed, he said he had seen parents push out gay coaches in his area before (he is a referee).

Regardless of whether the fear is justified or not, that fear is very real and very personal. The referee got tears in his eyes just thinking about even a remote possibility that he could lose his job. He said he has worked with inner-city kids for years, and coming out in his job isn't worth risking the great work he has done with so many kids who need the direction he provides. The high school coach has even adopted a wayward kid (who had been kicked out of his home by his parents), and that kid is soon attending an Ivy League school.

A lot of people make villains of those who won't come out fully in their lives, and I understand it to an extent. But I also understand these men who are doing so much in their local communities; Nothing is worth risking that to them.