Normally I don’t have any problems writing an article or speaking with people about various topics. I like to share my experiences and point of views with other people. But before my coming out, I felt fear about the reaction in triathlon, my sport, and my profession of sports journalism.
My coming out in triathlon started with a weird situation. It was a dark November evening. After a swim practice, a very good friend of mine gave me a lift home. I didn’t feel well. For weeks, I’d thought more and more intensely about my sexual orientation. I’d made lists about positive and negative reactions about being gay. From today’s point of view this may seem ridiculous to some, but during those dark days in November, it helped me to adjust my thoughts.
My friend stopped the car in front of our house. I wanted to get out, but he locked the doors.
“I’ll open the car after you’ve told me why you’re so angry and negative”, he said.
I was shocked. I knew I was gay, but I didn’t know whether I was ready to speak about it in my sport. Nevertheless I told him about my thoughts, my fears and my doubts. It was like I’d opened a door and all the bad thoughts and images crashed and vanished. My friend sat silently for what felt like far too long. Then:
“That’s the reason you’re so depressed? You’re still Mo. Everyone likes you on the team. Don’t worry!”
To be honest, I didn’t believe him. Nevertheless his reaction and the talk gave me self-confidence to accept myself a bit more.
In the following months, I slowly spoke to more teammates. They were all open to having a gay teammate, and I had the feeling of being safe in this group of triathletes.
Every time I’ve spoken with someone about me being gay, more pressure and bad images have been freed from my mind. I become happier and I focus on my sport with new power. This feeling became stronger and stronger in the following years, and I felt more confident to be an openly gay triathlete. I was finally truly happy on my team and in my local environment.
In the last two years I have made new friends on the international level, too. I had a great time, successful competitions and awesome practices with triathletes from Estonia, Spain, Great Britain and Belgium. Even in this international group my sexual orientation hasn’t been a problem. Of course I had some doubts to come out to them, but after my positive experiences in Germany, I was confident and open. I’m very thankful for these international friendships in my sport.
Some months ago, after a very successful season with a bronze medal at European Championships Age Group Standard Distance in Tartu and a bronze medal at German Championships Age Group Sprint Distance in Düsseldorf, I left my team. In my new club, TuS Griesheim, my teammates are awesome. Nobody has a problem with my sexual orientation. We’re one team and I’m confident we will reach our goals in the second Bundesliga this coming season.
I’m very happy that my coming out in triathlon wasn’t a problem. But I had to make another step, too. In my youth I was a judoka and I was engaged in the infrastructure of the sport. I was a member of the youth board of the North-Rhine Westphalian and German Judo Association.
I had my first work experiences as a presenter and commentator in sport federations. My success in my profession is related to my volunteering in sport. I had a lot of doubts coming out to friends in this part of my life. They’re still very important to me. We’ve had so many good experiences together. We travelled to Japan and had awesome weekends during our activities. It felt like another world, where I must come out one more time.
Once again I made the first step in a car. It was another rainy autumn afternoon. I gave a workshop for the North-Rhine Westphalian Judo Association about Anti-Doping. The workshop was organized by an association’s employee, who I knew since 2006. For me, he is like my father. He gave me so many opportunities to develop my strengths and work on my weaknesses. He opened many doors and gave me the chance to leave my little village in northern Germany. Without his help I’d never be the person I am today.
On that rainy and cold afternoon he gave me a lift to the Cologne main station. It was a one-hour drive. During this drive I came out to him. It was two weeks before the situation with my teammate, so the release of saying the words was even stronger. For the first time in my life I said: I’m gay.
It felt like the first sunny day after an eternal winter. I had the feeling that I’d made the last step to understand who I am. He was just amazing. He gave me advice and understood my doubts, especially to come out in the sport structure.
In recent years he has helped me the whole time and has supported me the whole way. Although I’ve had only positive experiences coming out to my teammates, my family and friends, I had doubts to come out fully in the sport structure. But now I’m ready to share my experiences and point of views here for the whole world to see.
Today I’m a member of the International Student Commission and Media and Communication Commission of the European University Sport Association. I want to strengthen the LGBTQI community and share the values of respect and tolerance in university sport. Therefore I’ll support a project for LGBTQI-athletes in the EU this year.
The last years have made me stronger. I know who I am and what I want to do. I practice hard to support my team in the second Bundesliga, to win a medal at German Championships Age Group and become European Champion Age Group Sprint Distance in Kazan this year.
In international sport I want to build up connections and stand up for our rights. After all my experiences I know that I’ll be supported by my teammates, my family and my friends.
Mo Belmann, 27, is a student of University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt. He studies media development and works as commentator, presenter and sportsjournalist. Mo is member of TuS Griesheim triathlon team. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook, or on Instagram @mo_bel_tri.
Story Editor: Cyd Zeigler