By Ezra Amacher
Today is my 18th birthday. It's taken 18 long years to get to this point. But with the help of a couple intimate, close friends and the support of my family - even without their knowing - I am no longer apprehensive of accepting myself.
I am gay.
I am also a writer, an avid tweeter, a fan of sports with a passion that borders on obsessive, and a brother. I'm a member of my high school rowing team and the school marching band. I go to Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Va.: Home of the Cavaliers (the Cavaliers outside of Charlottesville, anyway). I'll be a senior there this fall.
Not one characteristic defines me any more than the other - except when there's an Arizona Wildcats basketball game on. Then I am just a frantic fan who isn't particularly fun to be around. My passion for the Wildcats spills onto the page for PointGuardU.com, a University of Arizona basketball blog where I am a contributing writer.
Unfortunately, we still live in a time where being gay is considered taboo in some parts of the country. That's why I'm taking a break from the upcoming Arizona basketball season and, in a rare instance, writing about my personal journey.
I grew up in a household in which both parents stressed the importance of tolerance and being kind to those who are different. As I matured into the beginning of adulthood, I tried to always keep that forefront in my mind, especially after I realized I was one of those who were "different."
Despite all of that, I kept my difference hidden from everyone.
Up until about a year ago, I was content with keeping it a secret, sacrificing my emotional well-being at times. But through the past six or seven months, my fear of the unknown began to fall more and more, like ocean waves weakening a sand castle till its collapse. Slowly, my anxieties lessened.
When I came out to a couple friends and they reacted with immediate support -- or just as good, a complete nonchalance -- it provided an affirmation that whatever fears I still had were exaggerated.
Furthermore, seeing openly gay members in my marching band and rowing team judged by their contributions rather than sexuality has given me encouragement that my peers will give me the same courtesy.
Of course, it's my hope that no one will treat me any differently than they did before. I certainly don't ask for admiration. Heck, I don't even necessarily ask for approval. But when I read the headlines about Robbie Rogers and Jason Collins coming out in the pros, and when I see the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay rights, I get the strength to be myself.
I used to think coming out could hinder my ability to be a sportswriter, but with Chuck Culpepper being out, and reading Outsports, I see my sexuality won't affect my readership. I know that being public about my sexual orientation won't matter to my readers one bit.
And here I am today, finishing a letter that I once couldn't have imagined even starting: I'm gay, I want the world to know, and I want to show every gay reader that they're OK too.
For more information on the nation's largest LGBT high school and college athletes network, visit GO! Athletes. GLSEN's Changing The Game project also has resources for LGBT athletes, teachers and coaches in K-12.