Former university and semi-pro ice hockey player Brock McGillis has come out publicly as gay in a personal essay on Yahoo Sports Canada.
The picture McGillis paints of his hockey world growing up reflects experiences we’ve heard from so many others in youth, high school and college sports where homophobic language and gay slurs are tossed around regularly and eat at gay athletes.
He starts his piece for Yahoo! Canada diving right into that world:
For years I lived a life full of lies. Growing up in a culture of hockey – minor hockey, the Ontario Hockey League, university hockey, and semi-pro in Europe – I felt I would never be accepted.
For years I lived a life of denial, because I am gay.
Hockey has always been very homophobic. I can’t count the amount of times I heard phrases like: That’s gay or what a homo in the dressing room over the course of my hockey career. Words like fag, p---y, and b---h are part of the daily banter. Those words are used to belittle players, to weaken and feminize them, because hockey is hyper-masculine, meant for the manliest of men.
McGillis talks also about the support he received from his family, but how his hockey family created an environment where he felt it was impossible to come out.
McGillis had actually reached out to me almost six years ago. We talked about him sharing his story, but he was concerned about being blackballed in hockey for being gay and publicly out. Even in 2010 the atmosphere and support structures for LGBT athletes in every sport was very different. Patrick Burke had not created the You Can Play project. Michael Sam, Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers hadn’t come out.
He told Outsports on Thursday morning, just hours after the story posted, that the reaction to his story has already been tremendous.
The reaction has been incredible. The Toronto maple leafs have reached out, as have the Chicago Blackhawks. Elliot Friedman of hockey night in Canada sent me a message. Plus the outpouring from people I know in the hockey world has been immense. I was sitting in class and my phone was blowing up. I'm still shaking.
Given the language McGillis has had to endure over the years in his sport, it’s no wonder it took him six years since originally reaching out to me to finally find the strength to come out.
Hopefully good things come to those who wait. He told Outsports he wants to help further change in his sport. We know he will.