I am an ally. I am a friend. I am a shoulder to lean on. I wish I could have heard those words come out of someone’s mouth as I was growing up.
I was one of the best players on my baseball team growing up in York, Pennsylvania. I was a utility player, could be called on to pitch in critical situations or come up with a clutch hit when the team needed it most.
However, I felt the sting of words used by my teammates when they “jokingly” would say gay and other words I would rather not reprint. In my early teens, I never let it bother me. I was so focused on dedicating myself to the game that I pushed the words and thoughts about my sexuality aside.
I entered high school with a bright outlook. I excelled academically and athletically growing up and I didn’t think high school would be any different. I had my core group of friends from the academic side of high school but lacked a core group on the athletic side of things.
Playing baseball and throwing javelin in high school were outlets for my repressed sexuality. but going to practice and playing in games felt like I was just going through the motions.
I wasn’t out, I didn’t have a support system and I had no intention to reveal my sexuality to teammates who used slurs as if they were humorous. I couldn’t wait for the day to move forward onto bigger, brighter things.
I felt a calling to attend Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania, for my undergraduate degree. St. David’s is a small Christian university with a lot of passion for community. I went into my first year excited for change. I met an incredible group of friends, who remain by my side until this day. I played club ultimate for the Eastern Exiles and was happy to be a part of a team that was inclusive to all, even though no one knew I was gay.
At Eastern, I never knew who might be supportive of LGBTQ individuals and who might have an opposing view, so I never felt inclined to open up. To counterbalance these emotions, I dated a few girls in my first two years of college. At that point, I felt trapped. I felt as if I was stuck in a rut and my wheels kept turning digging me deeper and deeper.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I began to accept my sexuality. I had a roommate who I got very close with and trusted to tell him about my sexuality. I also expressed how I had feelings for him. The situation turned sour, but looking back, this friend helped to break me out of my shell. Sometimes, things don’t go your way, but how you rebound is what matters the most.
I finally began to feel a sense of acceptance after my experience sophomore year. While I continued to hide my sexuality to my parents, I began to open up a bit more to friends at school.
I had a solid core group of friends who supported me and accepted me for who I was. To them, it didn’t matter if I was gay or not. They loved me for the friend I was to them. However, I still felt as if I couldn’t come out and be with a guy in a relationship.
Losing my brother
Everything changed on Feb. 28, 2018.
My younger brother Dillon was gay and out about his sexuality. He embraced it and it made him the kid he was until the day he passed away (his death was not connected to his sexual orientation).
On Feb. 28, 2018, I lost my brother and ever since, I feel like a piece of me has been ripped away and never mended. We weren’t close and I was never the kindest older brother. However, I loved him with all my heart, and I wish he was here to see how he impacted me to make a change, grow and inspire.
I would call Dillon names as we grew up. I would talk about him behind his back regarding his sexuality. I made the comment “at least I’m not the one who’s gay” directly to his face one day and I would give anything to take that back.
I’m not making any excuses for how cruel I was, but I know why I made these comments: I was trying to make myself feel better about my sexuality. I now know just how awful someone can feel when they are put down and bullied about being gay. It sucks, and I wish it on no one.
After losing my brother, I finally had the courage to come out about my sexuality in July 2018. My struggles with my sexuality continued, but I credit my brother’s memory for helping me make the right choices going forward and breaking me out of my shell.
As a Communication Studies major at Eastern University, I was required to conduct field research and write a senior thesis. Ever since my brother passed away, I knew what I wanted to research during my senior year: the coming out experience of gay male collegiate athletes.
While I had the opportunity to compete as an NCAA athlete, I decided against it because I didn’t want to continue to deal with the hypermasculinity and homophobia of male sports. However, conducting my research on this topic allowed me to make a bigger impact on the world of college athletics than merely participating as a gay male athlete.
My research and thesis focused on many areas of the coming out experience for gay male athletes, including masculinity, athletic vs. academic culture and policies and regulations of college athletics.
These general themes of my thesis were concurrent among all participants and found there is still hypermasculinity and homophobia in men’s college athletics. Also, academic culture was much more accepting and inclusive of LGBTQ athletes. Lastly, policies and regulations regarding inclusivity and diversity were rarely upheld at the institution these participants attended.
If any college athlete, coach or administrator would like to read my entire thesis do not hesitate to contact me. I am very happy to pass on my findings if it can help members of the LGBTQ community in college athletics.
Passion and promise
Even though I have faced numerous challenges growing up as an LGBTQ individual, I haven’t allowed the social stigma of being a gay man in college athletics hold me back.
Ever since my brother’s passing, I have immersed myself deeper into becoming an advocate for the LGBTQ community. As a graduate student at Temple University, I have opportunities opening that allow me to make an impact.
It is my promise as I work toward a career in collegiate athletic administration to do all that I can to help make college athletics a more inclusive environment for all LGBTQ athletes.
Dakota Boring, 23, is a graduate student in the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple University. He is a Master of Science in Sport Business candidate with future goals of working in collegiate athletic administration. He can be reached by email at (email@example.com) or on Instagram (@dak0tab0ring).
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org).