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Athlete at Catholic college finds being gay and religion do mix

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Chase Boyle, who competes in throwing events, finds he can be himself on his traditional campus.

Chase Boyle

When I first arrived at Mount St. Mary’s University for orientation, I made a journey to the top of the mountain to the grotto for a mass. It was a first taste of how the Catholic influence seemed to come into play in almost every aspect of my college life.

We had mass for our opening convocation, team chaplains, team Bible study, theology classes, and classes with seminarians. Even our class rings were given out in a ceremony where the priest blessed them before we received them.

When our team chaplains were there or we were having a track and field team meeting or hopping on the bus we would always start with a prayer. My coaches and many of my closest teammates and friends are Catholic — as am I — and it all seemed to intimidating and scary to an 18-year-old kid struggling with his sexuality. Could I ever actually come out as gay and find the acceptance I had desired or would I face the rejection I had feared? It seemed that the odds of me being accepted by my teammates and coaches were not in my favor.

Mount St. Mary’s (known as "The Mount") is a very small Division I University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, sandwiched between Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Frederick, Maryland. Founded in 1808, it is the second oldest Catholic college in the country. The Mount still maintains its strong Catholic roots to this day.

But as this summer was winding down, I was at a crossroads in my coming out process. I was not out to my friends or teammates and thought that being gay wouldn’t mix well with my life at Mount St. Mary’s. It already seemed intimidating being gay at this school because the overwhelming majority of people here are Catholic and because of the school’s rich Catholic tradition. If that wasn’t intimidating enough, try adding on being a Division 1 athlete. For the longest time, I thought I couldn’t be out because it would just contradict my life as an athlete.

It was in the wake of the Pulse Night Club Shooting this June that my eyes were opened about the life I was living. If I were to die tomorrow people would not know who the real Chase Boyle really was? I knew that if I was going to live each day to the fullest I had to come to terms with who I am and face my fears instead of letting those fears control my life.

Never did I think I would find myself coming out and find acceptance and love by people who I thought would turn their back on me because of the fact I am gay. Never could I have imagined that I would be sitting with Father Jim Donahue in his office in the theology department this fall talking about what it is like to be a gay collegiate athlete at a Catholic institution. Facing a priest and talking about my sexuality was probably my biggest fear, but there I was having an open dialogue with a man of the Catholic Church talking about what it is like to be gay at Mount St. Mary’s University.

It was at the advice of my coach and my academic advisor that I reached out to Father Jim and talk to him since he was the professor in charge of the Allies Club. The club offers an open and safe friendly environment for gay students to meet and come together. They told me that he could offer me a good insight into what it was like for gay students at the University and what the real relationship is between the Catholic Church and the gay community.

As I entered his office he stood up and shook my hand and told me how happy he was to see me. There I was sitting across from a man in the white black shirt and white collar. It was already hot because the air conditioning was broken and the sweat was beading up on my forehead, but my hands were dead cold. We sat and I began to tell him my coming out story from this summer and how I was at a crossroads in this process being back at my Catholic university. He told me how happy he was for me and that he could see how happy it was making me that I was coming out. We discussed so much and it was such a rich conversation that gave me so much insight into his perspective.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I learned that it is just as easy for me to stereotype someone because of their Catholic faith as it is for someone to stereotype me because of sexuality. It was easy for me to think that because I meet someone who is Catholic that they will hate gay people and condemn me for being gay.

I thank God that my coming out to my family was not a horror story as is the case for some people. I have been blessed that my immediate family has been extremely accepting of me and embraced me for the man I am. They were all very open-minded people and gay friendly and being from my area of North Jersey people tend to be very accepting.

I compete in the throwing events in the field section of track and field with a specialty in the hammer and weight throw. If you have ever seen a throwing event being contested in the Olympics you would probably have a good idea of what I am describing. The throwers are all massive, muscular and macho men.

They compete to see who can pick up a heavy object and throw it the farthest. If that isn’t the most traditional masculine competition out there I don’t know what is. These men get in a circle or a runway and heave these objects weighing as much as 35 pounds and scream at the point of release to try to exert as much force into the throw as possible.

I am a thrower and have found a decent amount of success doing what I do. I am indoor conference champion in the weight throw and an outdoor conference champion in the hammer throw along with breaking school records in both events along the way.

I had thought that my sexuality would contradict my accomplishments I had worked so hard to achieve. I am a team captain and worked to get to where I am and the last thing I wanted was to be a distraction to my teammates and to make them uncomfortable.

I eventually decided enough was enough. I needed to tell someone on the team, so at one of my teammate’s graduation party I decided to tell two of my teammates. I asked if we could go take a quick walk down the block and as we walked I was trembling and could barely utter the words.

“Guys I can’t live my life like this anymore,” I said. “I need to be true to myself. I hope this doesn’t change what you think of me but I am gay.”

They were both absolutely stunned. They turned to me and said, “Chase don’t joke like that. That isn’t funny.” I had no idea how to respond and when they saw my reaction it all became real to them. They were both so happy for me and happy that I could share this news with them and that I was free to finally be myself. They assured me that everyone would love me and if they didn’t then they never really loved me in the first place.

Their support was pivotal to my coming out process because their love provided me with the comfort of knowing I have two of my best friends by my side through out this process.

After I told the first two teammates, I started telling others and everyone has been wonderfully accepting. Their sentiment was summed up by one who said, “Chase, you know my faith is really important to me, but my opinion of you hasn’t changed at all since you came out to me. You’re still my really good friend and I think of you the exact same way.”

I am so relieved and excited that I now can compete openly and proudly as a gay man. Finding Outsports was a life-changing experience for me. For the longest time I had been living my life trapped in this prison of my fears. I loved sports and being apart of a team. All of the teams I have been on acted as a second family that valued me and would push me to become a better person. Sports have this amazing ability to bring people together and I feared that being gay would exclude me from this family.

After finding the website and reading the countless stories of brave and courageous people coming out in sports and breaking down the barriers that exist, I was inspired to be brave and to overcome this obstacle in my life. Konrad Eiring was someone I messaged to thank for sharing his story because he was someone I could relate to because he does track as well. He has been an amazing friend offering advice and just being there when I wanted to talk to some one.

I am out, happy and successful at a place where I mistakenly thought I could never fit in as a young gay man. I wanted to share my story because I hope that even in the smallest of ways I can help someone in need by letting them know that they are not alone.

Chase Boyle is a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University and competes on the track and field team. He is majoring in Accounting and Sport Management with a Business minor. You can find him on Facebook @Chase Michael Boyle or on Instagram @jetlife_95 or contact him by email: chase.boyle@yahoo.com.

Story editor: Jim Buzinski