Last summer going into my junior year of college was possibly the best summer I ever had. I hung out with friends, went on a few vacations, and I made unforgettable memories.
I also came out to everyone in my life.
It had been a long time coming.
As high school crept into my sophomore and junior years just a few years ago, I had started realizing I was different. While everyone was talking about who they were crushing on, I would be sitting there in silence, praying that the topic would change before anyone asked me who I liked.
After experiencing that awkward situation a few times, I felt that I needed to tell someone about how I really felt.
I was close friends with a girl on my high school track team; She is a part of the LGBT community and was totally out. I often looked up to her for that.
One day during practice I had had enough of keeping my secret, so I made a promise to myself that I was going to tell someone before the day ended. I figured since the girl on the track team and I were close friends, and she was LGBT, she would be the perfect person to tell first.
None of that made it any easier.
I ended up catching a ride home with her that day, as I had many times before. Those 10 minutes in the car felt like an hour. Usually we would talk and joke around while making our way home. That day, I was dead-silent.
Halfway through the ride she noticed I wasn’t talking much and asked if everything was OK. I told her everything was fine, and that I was just tired from the workout we did at practice.
I completely underestimated how hard it would be to say those two words: “I’m gay.”
Every time I opened my mouth to tell her, nothing would come out. It was like I had completely forgotten how to speak. Those two words ran though my head for the entire ride home, yet I couldn't seem to blurt them out.
I was able to convince my mind to say the words, but my mind and my body were on two completely different pages.
When we got in front of my house I grabbed my bags and hopped out of the car, barely saying "thanks for the ride."
Later that night I decided to text her, hoping I would be able to come out to her via text message. In the middle of the conversation we were having, I finally found the courage to blurt it out in a text.
"Not that it's a big deal or anything, but I'm gay."
I then set my phone down on the bed and walked out of the room. I did not want to be around when my phone buzzed with her response.
After about five minutes, I returned to my room. I picked up my phone and there was the message:
"Congrats on coming out!! Welcome to the family!!"
I read that message over and over – more than a dozen times – with the biggest grin on my face. A huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. It felt great to finally be able to talk to someone without worrying about accidentally outing myself.
A few days passed and I felt like I was ready to tell another person. Again I went the texting route. Their response was nothing but positivity.
Those two people were the only ones who knew my secret for the next year, when I told my mother. Like most mothers of gay teens, she said that she had known for years and was waiting for me to tell her. As time went on I slowly told a few more people, each one having a positive response.
Still, I was not comfortable sharing my secret with any of the guys on the track team.
I was basically living a double life, being out to a few friends and closeted to my teammates. It would be that way throughout the rest of high school.
I ultimately chose to follow a track and field scholarship at Limestone College in South Carolina. Going into college I did not want to have to live a double life. I decided I would be upfront and say yes if anybody asked if I'm gay, but that was only if they were to ask.
While at Limestone College not only was I on the track team, I was also a part of the concert band and marching band, playing the baritone. So once again I had two complete separate groups of people that I would hang out with.
Early on during my first semester at Limestone I was hanging out with a few friends from band when I was asked if I was gay. Like I told myself going into college, I would be upfront with whoever asked. So, I just came straight out and told them that I was gay. It was only a small group that I told. Meanwhile, I was still closeted to my teammates.
The majority of the track and field team at Limestone College was black. I'd read coming out stories of black men getting completely shunned by their fellow black friends because they were gay. That was literally one of my biggest fears – The possibility of that happening to me made it a lot harder. I didn't want being gay to completely cut me off from the people that I spent most of my day with. So, there I was living a double life again, the complete opposite of how I wanted my college experience to be.
Halfway through my sophomore year at Limestone College I got very unhappy. I wouldn't say I was depressed, I just didn't enjoy the school anymore. Although I wasn't out to my teammates, there were still a few that I was extremely close to. They were basically my second family. These people were the reason I continued attending Limestone College.
Toward the end of the spring semester, a few of my close teammates decided they weren't returning to Limestone in the fall. This was upsetting to hear, but at the same time a relief. I decided to leave Limestone College too.
It wasn't until after I met my boyfriend, that I felt comfortable with coming out publicly. This was after I left Limestone, so I never had the chance to come out to my teammate in person. Instead, they found out via Instagram. I posted a picture of my boyfriend captioned "#MCM goes to the most special and important person in my life." Within seconds the likes and comments started flowing in. All the comments were supportive and positive. It was like they completely looked over the fact that I had just come out – They wanted to make sure I felt as comfortable as possible.
After a few minutes I received a text message from a girl on the Limestone track team.
"I know it might of taken a little bit of courage to post that just wanna say ur awesome and I'm glad you're with someone who makes you happy and you can show it."
This was the first of many messages that I received from my old teammates. They were all so happy that I felt comfortable enough to finally be myself with them.
After leaving Limestone College, I was lucky enough to be offered a scholarship to run track at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, smack between Albuquerque and Oklahoma City. The Panhandle.
One thing that I've learned since coming out publicly, is you have to keep coming out every time you meet new people. To be completely honest, with this school being in Texas, I was a little concerned about how my new teammates would react when they found out they had gay teammate. I decided I wanted to indirectly come out to them, coloring in a rainbow on every pair of my track spikes. I compete in the combine event, better known as the decathlon/heptathlon meaning I have just under ten pairs of track spikes.
At first I didn't think anyone noticed the rainbows I colored in. It wasn't until a week after I colored the rainbows in that one of the other decathletes on the team pointed them out.
"I have mad respect for you being able to express yourself in such a public way," he said.
As if the rainbows weren't enough to convince people I was gay, I also posted a picture of my boyfriend on Instagram to further solidify what some of my teammates may have already been thinking.
If there had been any doubt in anyone’s mind, that did the trick.
While reading some of the stories of other LGBT athletes, I came across Andrew Goodman’s story. He was the reason behind the rainbows on my shoes. I initially colored in the rainbows to drop a hint that I was gay, but it became so much more than that. Every time I put on my spikes I am displaying that I am gay and I am an athlete.
After coming out and receiving nothing but great reactions, I’ve realized people don’t care that I am gay. They are going to judge me based on who I am, not what I am.
Kylon Drones is studying sport and exercise science at West Texas A&M University. You can find him on Facebook, or on Instagram @Kylon_drones or Twitter @Kylon2014. You can also reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story editor: Cyd Zeigler