This is a big weekend for David Gilbert, a distance runner for Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. Not only did the lifelong Jehovah's Witness come out to his family on Saturday, but he came out to his entire world on Sunday posting a message on social media. While coming out to his family and to his team were important for him to find peace, he knows that by sharing his story and his feelings that he will connect with other young athletes and help them through their struggles.
This is what he wrote on social media to the people in his life and to anyone who might be looking for some reassurance and inspiration:
I do not really know how to start this letter, but this is something I have to do for myself. If this offends you, hopefully someday you will be able to accept me.
Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, I have been told many times whom I can and cannot be. There are so many standards set by both society and the religious community in regards to what is "right or "normal." We are told from a very young age how to do right in our lives and sometimes that means changing parts of who we truly are in order to fit in. It has taken me awhile to realize that this is truly a devastating way to live. This past year it's been slowly hitting me that I cannot fight who I really am anymore. It's a battle that I'll never win. This being said, I have made the choice to stop battling who I really am in order to make others happy.
I would like to let everyone know that I, David James Gilbert, am bisexual.
I've read many stories about people coming out of the closet, so I'm prepared for the worst reaction possible. I'm 100% okay if I lose support from my family, my friends, and my team. It is my choice to be myself and it is your choice if you support me or not. I understand that it might be difficult for you to accept.
I know people will have a lot of questions, so please read this whole letter so that you understand everything. Also, feel free to contact me once you have read it over if you have remaining questions.
I have always known that I was different. But I always thought it was just a phase, something that I would grow out of. Now that I'm older, however, I understand that will never happen. Over the last few months, I have made a few new friends and have received support from an old friend who has encouraged me to take this final step in making this public statement. I now see why it's very important for me to do this and to stop fighting the truth.
My whole life I've been taught that "being gay is wrong" and that it is a choice; an urge that will go away if you ignore it. Well, I would like you to think about things we actually choose in life. We choose what we eat, who we are friends with, what we want to do with our lives, and so on. Things we cannot choose are what color our eyes are, if we have crooked teeth, who our parents are, or even what gender we are sexually attracted to. That's right—the gender you're attracted to is not a choice. You didn't choose to be straight just like gay people don't choose to be gay.
I wish I could help you to better understand how emotionally difficult this process is. The fear of judgment tears me apart every day of my life. We live in a world that convinces you that being homosexual or bisexual is wrong. But why should I have to hide who I truly am when most people do not? What I have come to realize is that what is socially acceptable is not always right.
As I make this announcement, the one thing I hope you understand is that I'm still the same person today that I have always been. I am still the guy you played basketball with, the college runner, the ASB nerd, the friend who invited you to the lake every weekend, the person who strives to be better than everyone in everything (even though he knows the chances are low), the guy you went to dances with or dated, your teammate, volleyball friend, and so on. I am still that person. The only difference is that I have finally accepted myself. For once in my life, I can finally tell myself that I'm happy with who I am today. If you choose to see me as a different person, you have that right. However, just try and put yourself in my situation for a moment and remember that this has never been a choice.
One goal I have is that this letter might reach other people who might have this same struggle that I have had my whole life.
If you are gay or bisexual, I will share a message that helped give me the final push on making this decision to go public with who I really am: "Please don't give up hope on life or yourself. You're very special to me, and I am working very hard to make this life a better and safer place for you to live in. Promise me you'll keep trying. My son gave up. I hope you won't." These words were said by Mary Griffith, whose son killed himself because she and the rest of his family didn't support his homosexuality. His family and friends thought this was a choice he made and judged him for it. They did not understand that he was born this way and could not change himself. Some guys or girls who try and fight this truth have such little support and get pushed around so much that they give up.
I'm begging you to not be the next statistic. This is not something you should have to fight your whole life. If this is who you really are, you should release the burden of your big secret. You have every right to pursue who you want go after whom you want to go after, love whomever you want, be your genuine self, and not go to bed every night hating yourself.
If you ever need to talk, please feel free to contact me, and I will do everything I can to help you and be by your side in this journey.
'Sorry girls, I'm gay.' Football player comes out
Sean Warren was sick of hiding and decided to use social media to tell the world he's gay. Once bullied, the Phoenix player is proud of who he is.
Such a powerful, heartfelt piece that seeks only to ask for tolerance and give youth some hopeful words.
What might be the saddest part is that the sophomore runner expects some amount of rejection from the people around him. That is where we still are in this country and in sports: LGBT youth believe they will face some form of rejection for simply being who they are. It's thanks to young people like Gilbert that we are getting better. The march continues.
Big congratulations and thanks to Gilbert for having the courage to come out despite significant fear, and thanks to him for wanting to help other youth avoid the struggles he experienced
All photos by Scott Martinez Photography.