Other captains and I were meeting with our football coaching staff to discuss wearing Pride-ribbon stickers on our helmets during National Coming Out Day, something all other fall sports at my school had decided to participate in.
“We’re doing this and that’s that,” one other captain said. “Not just for Jack, but for everyone else out there. This is something that should be extremely important to us as football players and it’s our responsibility to change how LGBTQ athletes are seen and supported.”
The support and love I had gotten from all my Pomona-Pitzer team until that point had been incredible, yet this is something I’ll never forget.
They weren’t just supporting me, but all others out there who might be in a comparable situation and recognized that we have a responsibility to change the stigmas associated with being LGBTQ in sports. We consider each other family, and that means taking care of each other no matter what.
As with most stories, things haven’t always been so positive.
They say you grow a lot as a person in college, but if you told me exactly how my four years would have gone back when I started, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second.
Friends said I always had my stuff together and that’s why I was the one to venture from Arlington, Virginia, to suburban Los Angeles for college (apart from the fact that they thought I looked like I grew up in Laguna Beach).
But if we’re being honest, I’ve rarely if ever “had it together” since coming to college. I’ve battled depression for most of my life since I was diagnosed at 11, but these four years have been the most trying. I took a semester off in the fall of my sophomore year because I began to believe I was better off dead than leading a life that I hated every second of. This aspect plays a huge role in my story, yet it’s not my focus in this article.
I was told I’d meet lifelong friends, learn how to navigate the professional world and even learn to cook for myself (sorry mom, this still hasn’t come to fruition). Oh, and one more thing: “You might even meet your future wife!” About that … I’m bisexual. So maybe?
Like most every athlete, sports meant the world to me growing up. But as I aligned my identity more and more with being an athlete, I began to feel that every part of my life had to align with what people expected me to be in that role.
For a long time, I was perfectly OK with this and even embraced it. Yet midway through college, when I really started to understand that I liked both men and women, I had an internal identity crisis.
Not only did I not know how to navigate my preferences and how I truly felt, but how would anyone understand where I coming from if I’ve been in this role of the straight jock for my entire life? I didn’t want to be bisexual. I wanted to be straight and take the easier route in a role where I was already liked and accepted.
This absolutely tore me up inside.
I tried my hardest to suppress my feelings and even convince myself that I was just overthinking things. I refused to think about it and wouldn’t even tell my therapist because I felt that if I spoke about it then I would make it real. This unhealthy strategy lasted a while until someone I trusted decided to tell others about my sexuality.
What made this especially difficult is that I hadn’t told any of my closest friends or family, but in a sense, it helped me rip the bandage off. After a few months, I’d come out to just about all of my dearest friends and parents to nothing but positivity, love and support.
I now felt that it was time to let the rest of the world know, and what better way than to post on Facebook on June 1 and rip off another bandage!
“I’m not a very public person but for the sake of transparency and letting everyone know, just wanted to say I’m bisexual. Some of y’all know, some don’t, but yes this is serious lol. Now ya know.”
Almost immediately I had what felt like a hundred texts from family members, teammates and old friends whom I hadn’t spoken to in years — and even people who still had my number from middle school — sending me a few quick words of support and understanding.
I used to hate the quick “Love you <3” texts, but in that moment, I couldn’t help but smile and feel so appreciated. And yes, I might’ve cried a little bit.
As my senior season has progressed, I’ve felt nothing but this same support and love from my teammates, coaches and administration. While I was once scared to death that I’d be an outcast in the sport that meant so much to me, I’ve come to learn that coming out as bisexual has only strengthened my relationship with those involved in it.
We place an emphasis on diversity on our team whether it’s sexuality, socioeconomic background, race or religion. So long as you do your job to the best of your ability and support others, nothing else matters.
This is why wearing the Pride stickers meant so much. It’s not uncommon to have different races or religions on one team, yet it’s not every day that you have a bisexual teammate, especially in football. We initially wore the stickers for our game on Oct. 12 and have kept them on our helmets since.
It showed me that there was no limit to the acceptance and support from my teammates. Not only that, but it was a united and public display of such support for every athlete in the LGBTQ community and I can’t thank my teammates enough for it.
To that end, coming out has really helped me perform both on and off the field. It has taken the biggest weight of my life off my shoulders and allowed me focus on what makes me happy.
As a starting linebacker, I lead the team in tackles, but more importantly, we still have the opportunity to win the most conference games in school history over a four-year stretch going into our final two games.
If there’s one thing I’d tell anyone in similar shoes — if you are out, questioning, or in any other situation — I’d say face your fears and don’t apologize for who you are, whether it be to yourself or others.
You don’t have to fit into a certain mold despite what people may have you think. Gay, straight, or anything in between, the best role you can play is being the happiest version of yourself.
Be confident in yourself and know that the path to finding out who you are is about what makes you and only you happiest. You’d be shocked at how many people are out there that will help raise you up.
Jack Storrs, 22, will be graduating from Pomona College in December 2019 majoring in Economics. He will be working for Goldman Sachs after he graduates. He is a captain and plays linebacker for the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens football team. He can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Instagram @j_storrs.
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).