Despite loving sports, I was "that kid" growing up. You know the kind.

When it was time to pick teams, inevitably I'd be picked last. Even the disabled kid got selected ahead of me. One year, tragedy struck: a classmate died… and the jocks still picked him, in memoriam, ahead of picking me.

But I didn't let fear stop me. I consistently gave 100 percent effort to overcome my lack of coordination and the stigma of being effeminate.

I took part in both Little League and what we called "major league" baseball in 7th and 8th grades. I played left out, as in, I was “left out,” sitting on the bench for eight innings out of nine. Once in awhile, I made a big play or scored the winning run, so it was worth it. My dad asked me once what I whispered to myself each time the pitcher tossed one toward the plate. He encouraged me to trash talk, to yell, "no batter!"

What I actually muttered was: "Please don't hit it to me!"

But when the batters did, I bravely opened my eyes and emerged from my crouching position, putting aside my fears, running after the ball I was supposed to have caught.

I didn't make the basketball team, embarrassing my dad, a state champion star of hoops and of track. In gym class, I felt uncomfortable playing "shirts and skins," and despite practicing with my ever-increasingly frustrated father, I seemed unable to master the art of not "traveling."

But I refused to give in to fear and I tried out. I recall that this time, I managed to beat out the dead kid and the boy who took the short bus home. Sadly, I still didn't make the team.

On the track, I didn't have the stamina for anything longer than the 100-yard dash. Swimming was a natural fit, except for holding my breath long enough and being afraid to dive.

I tried skiing, and having not learned how to plow turned me into the fastest skier on the slopes. I was also the most unsafe, since I had no way of stopping, other than to fall down. The rescue team sent to pull me out of a snowbank kindly asked me if I would help them out by getting the hell of their mountain, and staying off.

I even tried my hand at my dad's game: golf. While on our way with our clubs to the Emerald Isle, an Irish buddy of mine fooled me into thinking that — like baseball — you had three chances to hit the ball. Sadly, that's not the case; even I know that. I managed a score of 65 after just the first nine.

Even so, I never ever let my fear take control of my dreams, leading me to empty big baskets at the driving range and do my part to hit that driver just right.

Ultimately, I joined a bowling league and learned to play chess.

So, I am clearly not one of the jocks who longs for those games of my youth. My yesteryear is filled with the sports heroes I saw on TV and read about in the newspaper, the Islanders dynasty, my usually hapless Mets.

My friends and I whom have come out, or are on the verge of doing so, aren't so much worried about the jocks who play better, play stronger or consistently score points. And most of us don't have an audience of 20,000 to worry about, either.

We worry about the woman or man in the mirror, looking back at us through the reflection. We worry how we can support our families as they struggle to support us. And yes, we watch out for one another.

Most likely none will be among the 171 heroic LGBT athletes who set a record in 2016 by deciding to live authentically. And they have already answered a question posed by Patrick McAleenan about LGBT athletes in London’s Telegraph:

"What I do take umbrage with is the idea that public figures have a moral obligation to announce their orientation. Why should they? It's hardly our divine right to know."

"As a gay man, the more I read or hear about it, the more I think: "If I were a gay footballer, I'd stay firmly in my closet, thank you very much.'"

"Forgive my cowardice, but I'd think twice before stepping out as an openly gay footballer in front of 12,000 people who aren't comfortable with the idea of my sexuality."

You're right, Patrick. But as a gay man, you yourself need to acknowledge that being out for me isn't the same as it is for you, or for anyone. Unlike your comparison of coming out to a game of "hide and seek," replete with calls to "come out, come out wherever you are!" this is the most personal decision one can make.

When you come out, you're leaving a place of security and consistency, albeit darkness. And as the name implies, you enter that place where almost everybody you know is waiting, sometimes with an unwelcome spotlight.

Exactly what gay and human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, told The Guardian. "They fear being singled out by the tabloids and bigoted fans.”

And McAleenan makes a fair point, too, questioning whether the statistic of 82% of fans who say they'd support an openly gay player is really the right way to look at this phenomenon. His perspective is that there is at least 12% of fans who admit they would indeed have a problem with an out player. "So, 12,000 people in a stadium of 60,000 is significant," Patrick wrote.

But to presume, as McAleenan does, that we need to take the onus off those who come out and shift it to society at large, is to fail to fully appreciate the choices facing the closeted professional athlete.

He wrote that it is incumbent on our neighbors in "the wider society" to help them see the world as place where they don't even have to think twice about revealing with whom they choose to go to bed.


What's incumbent is that in times like these, the simple act of being visible, is a victory greater than any win on a scoreboard. Whereas McAleenan dismisses as a given that a pro coming out can yield dividends in boosting the spirits and confidence of his or her fans who, in their own lives, have yet to "get off the bench," so to speak, I declare that nothing they do in their sports career will have as much personal impact on their fellow humans than that courageous decision to step up, to be counted, and not wait for the world to catch up.

It's really this simple: if I'm on first base, and my teammate clubs the ball into the deep reaches of the outfield, bouncing it off the wall and away from that bozo right fielder, I have a split-second decision to make: can I reach second before that jerk's throwing arm beats me to the plate? Will he bobble the ball again? That doesn’t matter. It's up to me!

But what if he's really on top of it this time, and I hesitate to run? Well, OK, that matters.

So, then when the opportunity is right, and I have confidence in myself to make this happen, I am not going to worry about the society of opposing players. I know my coach, my teammates and most of these tens of thousands of fans watching me are rooting for me to succeed.

And so I run. I take the chance, and it's entirely possible that the aim will be off and the ball will career into the infield where the pitcher is frozen on the mound and not backing up his second baseman or shortstop. So I run, round third and head for home to score the winning run.

I cannot stand on first and let the batter pass me by. If I don't run, he can't even touch first base. There comes the time that every runner must run. And this is my time.

To do anything less is to lose the game. That's what I believe will move us forward, as a team, and as a society. Any pro who wants to win at life, but feels they must do so from inside a closet, because of rejection, financial risk or to avoid embarrassment to their friends and family, needs to put one foot in front of the other, and run.

Run from fear. Run from rejection. Run because others will join you, stand beside you, and yes, some will run from you. Who are they, then, if they do not support you? They’re not your real fans. They’re not your real teammates. Being a leader is part and parcel of what it means to be an athlete. And those who have made the leaderboard by excelling inside a closet are denying all of us who love sports their personal best.

I’m no athletic superstar. But I’m out, and proud that everything I do, I do as my real, authentic self.

Dawn Ennis successfully transitioned from broadcast journalism to online media following another transition that made headlines; in 2013, she became the first trans staffer in any major TV network newsroom. She was the first out transgender editor at The Advocate, and the first professional trans journalist invited to interview Caitlyn Jenner in her home. Now the native New Yorker and award-winning writer is a contributor to several publications, including Outsports.

You can follow Dawn Ennis on Twitter @lifeafterdawn or on YouTube (