My life has always been about sports, whether it be as a fan or as a member of the media. Since long before I had any clue about my sexuality, sports have been my life, the way I met people and the way I opened myself up to others. Without sports, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and that includes writing this story.
I always had feelings I knew were a little different than most everyone else. For the longest time, I didn’t put too much thought into them because I thought they were a “phase” everyone went through, and eventually I would grow out of it. We’re all curious, right? I didn’t know how to put words or thoughts to this curiosity or this “phase.” It was my passion for sports that gave me new insights into what these feelings may be.
When Robbie Rogers came out in early 2013, my prevailing thought as a freshman journalism student at Maryland wasn’t about my own feelings, more that it was a joy that a Maryland Terrapin was this trailblazing athlete I could celebrate, because Maryland sports aren’t often worth celebrating. No thoughts about myself crossed my mind then.
As time went on, and as Jason Collins came out soon thereafter, I started to think more and more about what I was feeling. At this point, what I was feeling clearly wasn’t a “phase” anymore, and I wanted to figure out definitively what these feelings were. Sports were and are my window to the wider world and its complexities, the LGBT community included. I had through those stories, particularly Robbie’s, a view into a world I realized I was a part of.
Sometime after Conner Mertens told his story, I finally said to myself that being bisexual “feels right.” Every other time I had thought about how to define myself, the answer I came to never felt right. But after these reading these stories, and a little soul searching, I finally had a real answer I felt at peace with. But I wasn’t any closer to telling the world what I was feeling.
That wasn’t because of any fear of myself or worries about reactions from others, it was because my focus was on getting a job in one of the most brutal and cutthroat industries there is. I had to give my everything to getting that first job wherever it was, and once I got said job, I figured that would be the time to tell my story.
I thought that job would be coming soon after I graduated in 2016, and it didn’t.
As my focus became solely on getting a job, coming out was never on my mind. I didn’t have time to do it because it would take my focus and energy away from what I really needed to do, and when I got that job, then I would come out. I thought that plan was foolproof and would easily work for me.
I still don’t have that job. But even as my hunt was getting more and more frustrating, there was a time in which I said to myself that enough is enough. There was no use waiting to tell people my story any longer, because what I was waiting for might not be coming any time soon.
After I read Robbie White’s story last November, a switch was flipped. That was the time when I pushed myself to do the tough job of telling family and friends what I had been holding off talking about for years. It was a relief to finally tell my family and friends, and after doing it once, it became a tiny bit easier every time I told someone else.
I credit those courageous people in sports who told their stories, from my specific influences to a whole host of others in helping me finally let my guard down. When Landon Foster and Collin Martin came out in June, I knew that this was the “right time” to write this story, one unlike any other in my fledgling career.
Being queer in sports is still not easy, but it’s getting easier. There aren’t as many people out on the field, in the press box or certainly in the broadcast booth, but there’s progress being made, if slowly. I want to help push forward more progress, not just through my own story but by showing empathy to others in sports who need examples of people to follow. As a broadcaster and a journalist, my job is to tell stories that need to be told, and the stories of people being queer in sports need to be told.
I hope my story will help me become a resource for those in sports who need someone to confide in on and off the record. With only one openly queer male professional athlete in the five major sports in this country, and not enough others out in the rest of the sports world, it’s clear that we’re not where we need to be yet, despite all the progress we have made.
If being open and just doing what I want to do makes it easier for anyone in the future to do the same, then I have done my job. If me being open about myself allows athletes, broadcasters, front office executives or even fans to feel that it’s normal to be yourself in sports, even if you’re not straight, then I have done my job.
If I can help anyone understand that being bisexual is something to be celebrated and accepted, then I have done my job.
We live in a time where it’s better and easier than ever to be different. Being bisexual is just another element of me being different. I’ve always enjoyed being myself and embracing all my unique quirks, but until today I haven’t publicly embraced this side of me. I’m happy to do be doing that publicly at last.
I have dreams to be in a broadcast booth calling any number of sports one day. Those haven’t yet come to pass, but perhaps telling my story will make it easier to one day make that dream come true, not just for me but for anyone else who feels “different.” Embracing who and what you are will make it easier to accomplish your goals whatever they may be, because there really is only one you.
This is being published on my 25th birthday. I like the symbolism of starting my life as a publicly out man on an easy to remember day like your birthday. I hope it’s the start of the best of times professionally and personally not just for me, but for someone out there like me who thinks “if he can do it, I can too.”
Matt can be found on Twitter @MattsMusings1, through e-mail at email@example.com and Facebook here.