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``Being gay had no bearing on my playing sports''

(This article was published in 2001).

As part of his research into gay athletes, Mike Bryant conducted followup interviews with some respondents. Here are the views of three of these athletes.

Jon Hodge - Orlando, Florida

Age: 20

Sports: High School Wrestling, Soccer & Cross-Country

Jon grew up in Nashville, where he competed in three sports at Hume-Fogg Academic High School. Jon began his high school career playing three sports where he learned to accept his sexuality, subsequently leading him to talk openly about it. Following his sophomore year and his decision to "come out" about his sexuality, Jon dropped wrestling to concentrate on cross-country and soccer, both sports in which his father was his coach. Following high school, Jon attended Middle Tennessee State University and began working with gay youth as a peer-counselor and activities coordinator.

Jon now lives in Orlando, where he is a co-youth director for GALIXY an Orlando based gay youth group.

Jeff Kreiling - Mendota, Illinois

Age: 22

Sports: High School/College Basketball

Jeff recently completed his collegiate eligibility at a small Catholic college in Wisconsin where he earned All-America honors after leading his team in scoring and into post-season tournament play. Jeff grew up in the Midwest, playing basketball at Mendota Township High School.

Jeff is currently playing professional basketball overseas.

Chris - Arizona

Age: 19

Sports: High School - Football, Baseball; College - Baseball

Chris grew up playing sports as sports have always played a significant role in his family. Growing up in the Midwest, Chris played most sports, starting around the age of four. He has played football, baseball, basketball and soccer competitively. In high school, Chris' concentration focused on football and baseball, both of which he was the best player for his high school teams, gaining him much recognition around town and across the state. Leading into college, Chris decided that baseball would be the sport he would pursue with aspirations to play professionally.

Chris is currently playing collegiate baseball in Arizona.

When did you first know you were gay?

Jon: "I accepted the fact that I was gay when I was 13. After my sophomore year, when I was 15, is when I started telling some of my friends. My mother and her best friend made it aware to me that they both knew around my junior year. I think it really hit my dad around my senior year. My dad was my cross-country and soccer coach. My dad knew but it wasn't something we talked about. However, it didn't change our relationship much."

Chris: "I had weird feelings about my sexual orientation when I was young because of some of the things I would dream about. When I got into high school and around the age of 15 is when I knew for sure I was gay."

Were you "out" to your teammates while you were playing?

Jon: "While wrestling I was not out. I only wrestled my freshman and sophomore years. I didn't come out to everyone until the end of my sophomore year. My cross-country and soccer teammates knew when I came out to the school."

Jeff: "On a scale of 1-10, being out to my teammates was about a 6. It was known but not really talked about. I don't know if it was because they didn't want to offend me or they didn't know how to approach it. Amongst my high school friends I was out a little bit more."

Chris: "I am not out to anyone. I am sure a lot of people have their suspicions because I have never had a serious girlfriend, but I have always kept myself busy with grades and athletics."

What were your relationships like with your teammates and/or coaches? Do you think your level of contribution to your team influenced the way your teammates treated you?

Jon: "I came out after I stopped wrestling. My relationships with my cross-country and soccer teammates didn't change. They accepted me and we made cute little jokes about it. My dad was the coach and he and I didn't talk about it much. My father being the coach may have had some bearing on it as well. I went to a pretty open-minded high school and honestly, I don't think my contribution or my father being the coach had much to do with the way my teammates accepted me."

Jeff: "I don't think my sexuality made a difference to the team as a whole. I am pretty sure that much of the reason that it wasn't discussed was because I was good, and it didn't make a difference. Also, maybe they didn't want it to get out that there was someone gay on the team, or that their best player was gay. If I was in a reserve role on the bench I really don't think that people would have been so tolerant. I think that as long as I was good for them and they were achieving because of what I was doing, they didn't want to make any waves or risk losing part of their team."

Chris: "If I was out I don't think the coaches or teammates really would have cared because I was not there to pick up guys or find a date. I was there because I love the game and wanted personal and team success. My family had a name in the community. My older brother played football and my younger brother plays football and baseball and we are in the newspaper a lot. I think that everyone in high school would have been more accepting because they all knew me and I think they probably would have been more accepting because I was good, but it is hard to say. I feel the same way in college too."

Describe your intent to play sports growing up. Did being gay influence your decision to participate in team sports?

Jon: "I grew up playing sports, before my sexuality was even an issue. I thoroughly enjoy sports. I thought that it might have been a problem during wrestling only because a handful of people knew, but I wasn't sure how much it would get out. Being gay had no bearing on my playing sports or what sports I chose to play."

Chris: "I grew up in a family where all of us played sports. My mom and dad played sports and both of my brothers did also. I think my parents used sports as a way to keep us out of trouble and disciplined in school. I personally had fun playing sports. I enjoyed going to practices and made tons of friends through it. I also had the dream of being a professional athlete growing up and so I knew I would have to work at everything in order for that to happen. Being gay had no influence at all for playing sports. My sexuality will never make any decisions in my life. I am not going to move somewhere to be with a guy I meet, but I am going where my opportunities and dreams to play pro ball can come true."