I wasn’t looking forward to being in a van stuffed with seven other people for a 14-hour drive. But that’s what I was facing as my Villanova club tennis team headed to South Carolina for a tournament.
A trip I was dreading for its length wound up being one of my favorite memories with the team. Our first day there we played matches then hung out on the beach. I was a freshman on the team and was talking with another player on the team as we walked along the beach.
I had not been planning to come out to any of my teammates yet, but somewhere in our conversation I mentioned that I was gay. It was nothing like I had expected since it was so casual.
Given that I am ridiculously sarcastic, it took a few tries for me to assure her that it wasn’t a joke. Once she was convinced, she hugged me and told me it wouldn’t change anything. She assured me that everyone on the team would be OK with it but told me to take my time and only tell people when I felt comfortable.
Later that night I told one of the guys who was a senior. I got a similar reaction, that it was OK and didn’t change anything. Although his reaction was the same, the fact that it was an older team member who was also a guy gave me extra reassurance. After getting back from the tournament, one by one, I told the rest of the students on the team.
Many of them were confused why I had been so nervous to tell people because it didn’t change how they saw me. To my surprise, I told everyone on the team and I never received a negative reaction.
This was when I realized that coming out doesn’t have to be something eventful. Being gay is not something that is bad or shocking. It doesn’t change who you are as a person and it shouldn’t change how other people see you.
When I considered writing about this story I felt like It didn’t matter.
My coming out was uneventful compared to many other people’s stories, which made me think people wouldn’t get anything out of it. When I was younger, coming out seemed like the scariest thing. When I would imagine it I always expected big reactions, whether they were positive or negative. It ended up being the opposite.
It took me a long time to realize that an uneventful story wasn’t a bad thing. Being gay shouldn’t be anything eventful because it doesn’t change anything.
I realized that I was gay towards the end of my junior year of high school in Minnesota, but I only began to truly come to terms with it by the end of my senior year. I had played tennis my entire life and going to Villanova University I knew that I wanted to play on the club tennis team.
I remember tryouts being fun, but nerve-racking. Getting a call from the president of the team to tell me I made it was a wave or relief even though I didn’t understand how important the team would be my entire college experience.
With each new year there came a bit nerves with how my new teammates might react to a gay teammate. The reactions were consistent with what I experienced my freshman year. On top of acceptance there has also been a lot of curiosity.
For a few of the players on the team I was the first gay person whom they knew. I’m always excited when they ask questions about my experience. They usually asked, “when did you realize you were gay?” or “do you have a boyfriend?” It showed that they are both accepting, and comfortable with me being gay.
Next month, there is a good chance of being elected team president for next year’s team. It would make me so happy to be able to give back to the team that has been so important in me having a positive college experience. Beyond that, it would symbolize a wholehearted acceptance of me as a person that would mean the world to me.
Although everyone has a different experience coming out, and many are not as easy or positive as mine was, I know that my coming out story can and should be the norm.
Joseph Wenger, 21, is in the Class of 2019 at Villanova University, majoring in civil engineering with minors in business and sustainability studies. He is also a member of the club tennis team. He can be reached at Jwenger@villanvoa.edu or on Instagram @Joewenger.
Story editor: Jim Buzinski