EVANSTON, Illinois — While working on his master’s degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Joe Hladik researched the ways male athletes navigate masculinity.
Hladik, an All-American swimmer at the University of Missouri from 2009-13, completed his master’s degree in May 2016, and in November 2016, he published the research results on his website.
Within his master’s thesis, Hladik revealed his sexual identity as “non-straight” to frame his perspective for the first-person section of the research. It was the first time Hladik publicly revealed that he is LGBT.
He is one of 41 athletes from the Power Five conferences — Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Southeastern — to come out publicly in the past year.
A year ago, there were 174 varsity athletes from universities in the Power Five conferences that had publicly identified as LGBT in the previous 105 years.
There are now 215 current or former varsity athletes from universities that are members of the Power Five conferences that publicly identify as LGBT. That’s an increase pf 23.6 percent in 12 months.
Having researched the experience of LGBT athletes, Hladik discussed his experience and provided insight on athletes coming out publicly.
What do you think led to the increased number of athletes coming out in the past year?
Joe Hladik: “Something as obvious as marriage equality being legalized in the United States. Something as easy as that, it wasn’t a thing when I was at Mizzou. It wasn’t an option or a possible future for a lot of people.
“The willingness and acceptance to talk about it [being LGBT] openly in society, in a lot of ways, is also forcing sports to shift in that direction also.”
You described yourself as “non-straight” in your thesis. Is that how you still identify now?
Hladik: “To be completely honest, I don’t know if I’m completely sold on that term. … I’m kind of searching for something that is fluid in some aspects, because it’s a part of identity, at least for me, that is ever-changing and evolving. For me, it’s very claustrophobic to feel it’s something rigid.
“A label is for other people to understand it, but it’s not necessarily for other people to understand always.
“If I had to put a label, I would identify as gay, however, maybe part of this next step is using that term but also knowing that using a term can also be a fluid experience. It doesn’t have to have so much permanence to it. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
“I feel like saying gay, straight that puts sexuality on a very linear spectrum, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do that.”
When you came out your freshman year at Missouri, did you come out as non-straight?
Hladik: “It was something that I didn’t even put a label on then. I didn’t have the language at that point to really articulate what I was feeling or wanted to express. Talking to people I’d be like, ‘Hey, I’m interested in guys, but I’m also open to this. Now, you know.’ It was always welcomed and supported.
One of your teammates was Vito Cammisano, a Missouri swimmer from 2009-12 and Michael Sam’s boyfriend/fiancé for a while.
Hladik: “Vito and I were roommates our freshman year of college. He was one of the very early people I told.”
Of the 215 LGBT athletes from Power Five Conference schools, 50 have come from men’s swimming and diving teams — more than any other sport. What do you think contributes to that?
Hladik: “It comes down to understanding masculine capital, or what Eric Anderson defines as masculine capital. Society as a whole has this obsession with valuing masculinity.
“Masculine capital is a point system.
“Elite athletes gain high masculine capital through sports, and sports in general are considered the top of masculine hierarchy. Within this, too, if you don’t meet all these requirements of hegemonically masculine identities then you’re considered orthodox masculine, where if you’re gay but a white athlete who is good looking then there is enough masculine capital that few can challenge that masculinity.
“The large majority of [men’s swimmers and divers] are white and come from a middle-class background. Thinking about just the upbringing of swimming, it’s historically a country club sport.
“If we are falling back on that concept of masculine capital, most people in men’s swimming have high masculine capital because of those traits that are outside their agency. These are things they don't necessarily control — being white, male, able-bodied.”
You were out to your team eight years ago. Why didn’t you come out publicly until the last year?
Hladik: “I was out to my teammates, which seemed enough for me at the time. I think it's difficult to have any regrets about it, because at the time, I didn't have the language and perspective I do now.
“I didn’t understand the significance of having to really express or owning that part of my identity in combination with that athletic identity.
“I had a lot of success in my time at Mizzou — like being a team captain, being a NCAA All-American [in the 200-yard medley relay]. I was the 2013 SEC Community Service Leader of the Year. It was such an opportunity to represent the LGBT community on such a large scale. Looking back, maybe I could have done that more to have that voice or have that visibility.”
What are you doing now?
Hladik: “I’m the director of administration advancement and education at Elmhurst Art Museum. It’s in the Chicago suburbs. I’m doing all the education programming, helping with grants, and everything else at the museum pretty much.”
You had an exciting event happen recently. Want to say anything about it?
Hladik: “I got engaged in August. My boyfriend/fiancé, Jon Carlz, we’ve been together almost three years.
“We mutually talked about it and mutually decided we were engaged and it was the right time. We exchanged watches.
“There is a date set. We actually just set it this week — Aug. 4, 2018.”
Joe Hladik graduated from Missouri in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences. He obtained his master’s degree in art education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. You can find him on Twitter @NotSoAverageIV or Instagram @Joseph_Hladik_IV.
Erik Hall is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He can be reached on Facebook, Twitter @HallErik, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
LGBT Athletes from the Power Five Conferences
*No athletes have come out from Syracuse
Boston College (2): Jose Estevez (M. XC/Track, 2011-12); Lee-J Mirasolo (W. Hockey, 2004-08)
Clemson (1): Beatriz Gigi Fernandez (W. Tennis, 1982-83)
Duke (4): Keturah Jackson (W. Bkb, 2005-10); Liam Miranda (W. Rowing, 2012-16); EJ Proctor (W. Soccer, 2014-Present); Michele Van Gorp (W. Bkb, 1997-99)
Florida State (2): Aidan Faminoff (M. Diving, 2016-Present); Jane Geddes (W. Golf, 1979-82)
Georgia Tech (3): Roy Simmons (Football, 1975-78); Matt Tang (M. Swim, 2007-11); Travis Wagner (M. Swim, 2007-11)
Louisville (4): Kyle Covert (M. CC/Track, 2013-16); Emmonnie Henderson (W. Bkb/Track, 2013-Present); Angel McCoughtry (W. Bkb, 2005-09); Jake Schultz (M. Swim, 2013-17)
Miami (3): Nile Clark (M. Tennis, 2014-Present); Greg Louganis (M. Diver, 1978-80); Tanner Wilfong (M. Diver, 2012-16)
North Carolina (7): Stephen Bickford (M. Soccer, 2005-06); Ashley Dai (W. Tennis, 2012-16); Nunzio Esposto (M. Diving, 1987-91); Tom Luchsinger (M. Swim, 2009-12); David MacDonald (M. Diving, 2007-12); Warren Perry (M. Swim, 1999-2001); David Testo (M. Soccer, 2001-02)
N.C. State (5): Chris Arcara (M. Diver, 2009-14); Ashley Eli (W. Bkb, 2012-16); Derek Ernst (M. Swim, 2006-09); Hudson Rains (M. Diver, 2009-13); Jimmy Ross (M. Swim, 2008-12)
Notre Dame (6): John Andrade (M. Diver, 2011-13); Alexia “Lex” Clay (Softball, 2009-11); Matt Dooley (M. Tennis, 2011-14); Michelle Marciniak (W. Bkb, 1991-92); Barron Nydam (M. Fencing, 2007-11); Wes Villaflor (M. Diving, 2007-11)
Pittsburgh (2): Ed Gallagher (Football, 1977-79); Shavonte Zellous (W. Bkb, 2005-09)
Virginia (7): Parker Camp (M. Swim, 2010-14); Lexie Gerson (W. Bkb, 2009-14); Angela Hucles (W. Soccer, 1996-99); Sarah Huffman (W. Soccer, 2002-05); Lori Lindsey (W. Soccer, 1998-2001); Brian Vahaly (M. Tennis, 1997-2001); Sharnee Zoll-Norman (W. Bkb, 2004-08)
Virginia Tech (1): Taylor Emery (W. Bkb, 2017-Present)
Wake Forest (1): Katie Brenny (W. Golf, 1998-2002)
*No athletes have come out from Michigan State
Illinois (6): Konrad Eiring (M. Track, 2015-Present); Fred Hartville (M. Gym, 2013-16); Ella Masar (W. Soccer, 2004-07); Randy Lane (M. Gym, 1986-89); Cameron Rogers (M. Gym, 2011-14); Todd Searcy (Football, 1983-86)
Indiana (1): Conor Murphy (M. Diver, 2010-14)
Iowa (1): Mike Nelson (M. Swim, 2012-16)
Maryland (2): Akil Patterson (Football, 2001-03); Robbie Rogers (M. Soccer, 2005)
Michigan (8): Jenny Allard (Softball, 1987-90); Ben Baldus-Strauss (M. Gym, 2008-11); Evan Heiter (M. Gym, 2007-11); Layne Ingram (W. Basketball, 1998-2002); Kim Phillips (W. Soccer, 1994-95); G. Ryan (W. Swim, 2014-Present); David Sweeney (M. Track, 2008-11); Jamie Thompson (M. Gym, 2006-09)
Minnesota (6): Dawson LaRance (M. Track, 2017- Present); Luke McAvoy (Football, 2011-14); Janel McCarville (W. Bkb, 2001-05); Brad Neumann (M. Track, 2013-Present); Zach Puchtel (M. Bkb, 2004-06); Justin Rabon (M. Track, 2016)
Nebraska (5): Jace Anderson (M. Track, 2016-Present); Jason Burch (Baseball, 2001-03); Kelly Erisman (Softball, 1981-82); Eric Leushen (Football, 2003-05); Charlie Rogers (W. Bkb, 1997-2000)
Northwestern (6): John Andrade (M. Diver, 2013-15); Walter Currie (Football, 1979-81); Tara Gordon (W. Field Hockey, 2012-14); Kayleen McMonigal (W. Cross Country, 2011-12); Kasha Roseta (W. Soccer, 1996-2000); Jack Thorne (M. Swim, 2015-Present)
Ohio State (6): Derrick Anderson (M. Track, 2012-14); Patrick Jeffrey (M. Diver, 1985-88); Rosie Jones (W. Golf, 1978-81); Jake Martin (M. Gym, 2013-17); David Pichler (M. Diver, 1989-92); Mike Pucillo (Wrestling, 2005-10)
Penn State (6): John Amaechi (M. Bkb, 1991-95); Matthew Greenfield (M. Gym, 2007-10); Joanna Lohman (W. Soccer, 2000-03); Antonio Logan-El (Football, 2006); Colleen O’Hara (W. Lacrosse, 2000-03); Diane Whipple (W. Lacrosse, 1987-90)
Purdue (12): Jamie Bissett (M. Diver, 2011-15); Jenny Bradfisch (W. Soccer, 2005-09); Beth (Millard) Brooke-Marciniak (W. Bkb, 1978-80); Dorien Bryant (Football, 2004-07); Ryan Dafforn (M. Swim, 2007-11); Bree Horrocks (W. Bkb, 2014-17); Andrew Langenfeld (M. Swim, 2007-09); J.P. Perez (M. Diving, 2007-11); Zach Schultz (M. Diver, 2004-08); Max Showalter (M. Diver, 2015-17); Michele Van Gorp (W. Bkb, 1994-96); Stephanie White (W. Bkb, 1995-99)
Rutgers (3): Andrew Germek (M. Rowing, 2006-07); Sean Smith (M. Swim, 2002-05); Sue Wicks (W. Bkb, 1984-88)
Wisconsin (4): Ilana Friedman (W. Hockey, 2011-14); Lowell McNichols (M. Rowing, 2009-13); Justin Rabon (M. Track, 2014); Brad Thorson (Football, 2006-07)
*No athletes have come out from Oklahoma State
Baylor (2): Brittney Griner (W. Bkb, 2009-13); Emily Niemann-Nkosi (W. Bkb, 2003-05)
Iowa State (2): Tina Hillman (W. Track, 2011-16); Landon Streit (Football, 2004-06)
Kansas (2): Jessica Smith (W. Soccer, 2002-05); Brad Thorson (Football, 2008-10)
Kansas State (1): Scott Frantz (Football, 2015-Present)
Oklahoma (1): Tanner Williams (M. Track, 2013-16)
Texas (3): Jeff Commings (M. Swim, 1991-95); Matt Korman (M. Swim, 2012-15); Kennedy Lohman (W. Swim, 2017-Present)
Texas Christian (3): Matt Korman (M. Swim, 2011-12); Vincent Pryor (Football, 1991-94); Cooper Robinson (M. Swim, 2011-15)
Texas Tech (1): Sheryl Swoopes (W. Bkb, 1991-93)
West Virginia (2): Andrew Langenfeld (M. Swim, 2005-07); Alex Obendorf (M. Diver, 2014-17)
*No athletes have come out from Washington State
*Cal Poly is a member of the Pac-12 for wrestling only
Arizona (7): Carter Craft (M. Diver, 2011-15); Jon Denton-Schneider (M. Swim, 2010-14); My-King Johnson (Football, 2017-Present); Kennedy Lohman (W. Swim, 2016-17); Lauren Neidigh (W. Swim, 2013-15); Sean Smith (M. Swim, 2000-02); Layana White (W. Bkb, 2011-13)
Arizona State (3): Chip Sarafin (Football, 2010-14); Jerry Smith (Football, 1963-64); Haley Videckis (W. Bkb, 2012-13)
Cal Berkeley (12): Graham Ackerman (M. Gym, 2002-05); Mark Bingham (M. Rugby, 1991-93); Layshia Clarendon (W. Bkb, 2009-13); Victoria Galindo (Softball, 2003-05); Heather Hargreaves (W. Rowing, 2010-13); Helen Jacobs (W. Tennis, 1926-29); Cheryl Lala (W. Golf, 1997-2001); Becca Lindquist (W. Rowing, 2011-12); Mikayla Lyles (W. Bkb, 2010-14); Ryan O’Callaghan (Football, 2002-05); Jen Self (W. Bkb, 1988-92); Hubert Stowitts (M. Track, 1912-15)
Cal Poly (1): Alec Donovan (Wrestling, 2015-16)
Colorado (3): Kate Fagan (W. Bkb, 1999-2004); Jaron Thomas (M. Track, 2014-17); Kenzie Tillitt (W. Soccer, 2013-16)
Oregon (2): James Getzlaff (M. Track, 1991-92); Peg Rees (VB, W. Bkb, SB, 1973-77)
Oregon State (2): Esera Tuaolo (Football, 1987-90); Bojanna “Boky” Vidic (W. Bkb, 1993-96)
Southern California (4): Mark Chatfield (M. Swim, 1971-75); Portia Mitchell (W. Bkb, 2000-02); Sean Mulroy (M. Swim, 2010-14); Steven Stumph (M. Swim, 2013-Present)
Stanford (21): Jennifer Azzi (W. Bkb, 1986-90); Mark Booth (M. Gym, 1990-94); Jason Collins (M. Bkb, 1997-2001); Josh Dixon (M. Gym, 2008-11); Kwame Harris (Football, 2000-02); Noah Garcia (M. Diver, 2010-14); Brian Jacobson (M. Swim, 1991-95); Toni Kokenis (W. Bkb, 2010-13); Alex Kostich (M. Swim, 1988-92); Lauren Lappin (Softball, 2002-06); Brian Marshall (M. Track, 1985-88); Bryan McColgan (M. Gym, 2002-03); Mariah Burton Nelson (W. Bkb, 1974-78); Cale Robinson (M. Gym, 2011-14); Dwight Slater (Football, 1998); Dana Sorensen (Softball, 2000-04); Kate Starbird (W. Bkb, 1993-97); Xanthe Travlos (W. Field Hockey, 2007-10); Dan Trupin (M. Swim, 2001-05); Guillermo Vargas (M. Track, 2002); Laura Wadden (W. Swim, 2005-09)
UCLA (9): Mari Burningham (W. volleyball & bkb, 1995-96); Brandon Del Campo (M. Track, 1995-98); Dora Dome (W. Bkb, 1985-88); Brian Paul Fell (M. Track, 1996-99); Bruce Hayes (M. Swim, 1981-85); Stephany LaRosa (Softball, 2012-15); Taylor Smith (W. Soccer, 2012-15); Jazmine Sosa (Softball, 2013-16); Jeff Stabile (M. Diving, 1986-88)
Utah (1): Ryan Quinn (M. Skiing, 2000-03)
Washington (1): Dave Kopay (Football, 1961-63)
*No athletes have come out from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky
Arkansas (1): Bobby Blair (M. Tennis, 1983-86)
Auburn (3): DeWanna Bonner (W. Bkb, 2005-09); Thad Ellis (M. Diving, 2009-11); Bianca Sierra (W. Soccer, 2010-13)
Florida (4): Lauren Neidigh (W. Swim, 2011-13); Lisa Raymond (W. Tennis, 1992-93); Abby Wambach (W. Soccer, 1998-2001); Andrea Zimbardi (Softball, 1999-2003)
LSU (2): Seimone Augustus (W. Bkb, 2002-06); Pokey Chatman (W. Bkb, 1987-91)
Mississippi (1): Alisa Scott (W. Bkb, 1984-87)
Mississippi State (1): Courtney Graham (W. Bkb, 1999-2002)
Missouri (8): Vito Cammisano (M. Swim, 2009-12); Greg DeStephen (M. Diver, 2006-10); Blair Hardiek (W. Bkb, 2003-07); Joe Hladik (M. Swim, 2009-13); Bruce Hobson (M. Swim, Indiscernible); Dante Jones (M. Dive, 2007-11); Derrick Peterson (M. Track, 1997-2000); Michael Sam (Football, 2009-13)
South Carolina (2): Tina Buck (W. Bkb, 1981-82); David Testo (M. Soccer, 1999-2000)
Tennessee (6): Lex Clay (Softball, 2007); Chandler Frumin (W. Rowing, 2014-17); Chamique Holdsclaw (W. Bkb, 1995-99); Glory Johnson (W. Bkb, 2008-12); Michelle Marciniak (W. Bkb, 1992-96); Jackie Walker (Football, 1968-71)
Texas A&M (2): Amini Fonua (M. Swim, 2008-12); Stacy Sykora (Volleyball/Women’s Bkb/Track, 1995-98)
Vanderbilt (3): John Amaechi (M. Bkb, 1990-91); Bree Horrocks (W. Bkb, 2017-Present); Garrett Snoeyenbos (Football, 2007)
(Glory Johnson, Derrick Peterson, Zach Puchtel, and Sheryl Swoopes previously identified as LGBT, but their current sexual identity is unclear.)