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For this bisexual high school football coach, being tolerated by Christians is enough

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Chris Hashemzadeh has found mutual tolerance is a powerful tool.

Chris Hashemzadeh has found his way out of the closet as a coach of football and track & field.

When one of my coaching mentors told me he couldn’t accept me being bisexual, I was crushed.

I had asked him for a meeting last year, finally ready to share my true self with him as I had done with a select few people in my life. He had been by my side through so many struggles. When I had a diabetic seizure, he was the first one I saw as I woke up in the hospital. He stayed by my side when my family wasn’t there and visited every day for a week.

His wasn’t my first sports coming-out – I had already come out to one of my trainers. When I first came out to Kristi, I was scared because we had become such good friends; No one wants to lose a good friend.

It was a Friday night after a football game, and one of our players had a severe head injury and a concussion. He went to the hospital, and Kristi and I went to see him, staying with him for five hours discussing life and the importance of his brain being healthy. It was such a raw, honest conversation about what’s important in life – and the entire time I felt like I was lying to her.

When it was time for us to go, I knew what I had to do. I literally shook as we walked out of the hospital, the fear of saying “the words” taking over.

Before we reached our cars I stepped in front of her.

“I have lied to you for a very long time,” I said, “and I just want to be honest with you because I trust you, and I want our relationship as friends to grow. I am bisexual. I have been with girls and guys since I was 16, and I hope you’re still wanting to be my friend.”

She said nothing. She didn’t have to. She reached over and gave me a huge hug. I could feel the love in her hug, an embrace that sent shivers across my body.

“Love is love,” she said, “and I just want you to be happy. If you’re happy, then I’m happy for you.”

She made me promise that if I got serious about a guy I’d bring him to one of our traditional “wing nights,” so we could drink beers and talk sports with him. I think it was mostly about her making sure she had approval privileges, which still tickles me.

That night, leaving the hospital and finally coming out to someone in football, I knew I had the best friend I could possibly imagine.

Months later, following coach as he led me into the conference room where we had had so many meetings, I wasn’t so sure. This time we wouldn’t talk football in that conference room, but life – my life.

When we sat down and I came out to him, filled with anxiety, his response hit me like an oncoming linebacker.

“I was brought up by the Bible,” he said. “And my religious background can't allow me to accept this, because homosexuality is a sin."

A quarter of me had hoped for nothing but a hug, but the three quarters of me expected this. As a Christian myself, I had heard all the teachings his brief response referenced. A few passages in the Bible had translated into two decades of hearing messages about the sin of same-sex love. I had beaten myself up about it for as long as I could remember. His response brought it all back to me.

Then the true Christian in him surfaced.

“But Christ teaches us to love one another,” he continued, “and that no sin is worse than another."

He said he will always love me and respect me as a human being and the good person that I am. He also said that he would make an effort to try and understand where I am coming from, which made me happy because he knows nothing about being bisexual.

The fact that he has been willing to learn, and try to understand me better, since that conversation has meant the world to me.

I’ve had the opportunity to share various aspects of my life with him since then. I didn’t choose to be bisexual, I just am. I was born this way. I’ve felt this since I was a kid.

What I have chosen is to be a good person with what I believe are good morals. I try to help people. As a football and track and field coach at Catoctin High School in Thurmont, Md., I try to help the kids I coach be everything they can be. I’m proud of that.

I truly believe that if I am honest with myself and the people around me, while also being honest with God, then I can be who I am and not ashamed of it. God loves everyone. I am bisexual, and God loves me for me.

Coming out to that coach, and so many others, has been hard. But with God on my side, He makes everything easier.

Some LGBT people blanch at the idea of being “tolerated” and not “accepted.” Some people may not like that response that coach gave me. But it was good enough for me, and that’s what’s important. He still loves me and he will also still respect me as a human being.

For me, and my relationship with coach, tolerance is all I need. He is committed to me as a person and I am committed to him, and together we continue to share our ideas and better understand one another. If he’s not at the point of accepting who I am, then so be it.

Hopefully by sharing my story publicly here on Outsports, I can help him and others understand me as a person just a little bit better and give some hope to other bisexual men and LGBT Christians.

If we as a society can all respect each other’s lives as human beings, then we can all work together, coexist and work together to make the world a better one than how we found it.

Could I lose my coaching job by coming out? I suppose. There could be a huge backlash in my local community.

But I know the people I have come out to have all had a better response than I expected. Being a bisexual coach, and being able to open up about my sexuality to other coaches, players and administrators, has made my experience a hundred times better.

Chris Hashemzadeh can be found on Facebook, on Instagram @CoachChrisHashemzadeh, and on Twitter @coach_hash. You can also reach him via email at coachchrishash@gmail.com.

Story editor: Cyd Zeigler