Being Out is a feature that looks at LGBTQ people in sports who have come out since Outsports first published in 1999. Today: College runner Matthew Kravitz.

Like all athletes who come out and share their story, Matthew Kravitz has become a role model for people struggling with their sexuality.

The openly gay college runner at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania received hundreds of emails of support and love after he came out publicly last year, with many people asking for advice. But Kravitz doesn’t just want to make a difference in sports.

The biology and public health major is interning this summer with Hennepin County in Minneapolis using analytics to help track and fight HIV infections in the area. He plans to pursue a masters in Healthcare Administration and Policy for a career in public health.

Here are Kravitz’s answers to our six Being Out questions:

What do you love the most about running?

Running is such a raw sport and that is what creates the beauty of track and cross country. It takes enormous amount of suffering and heart to be successful at the sport. There are no shortcuts or reliance on other teammates. It comes down to not only how much you put into your training, but how bad do you want it.

What does it mean to you to be LGBTQ+ in sports?

It doesn’t just mean I am a member of a community, but also a catalyst and activist in the pursuit to create equality for LGBTQ individuals.

Being an LGBTQ athlete means that you are an individual who other members of the community will trust and try to emulate. After my story was published last year I have had hundreds of individuals email and message me asking for guidance. One particularly comment that really impacted me was an athlete from the South who said, “I know you don’t know me, but it’s just nice to talk to someone. It feels like I can’t talk to anyone else.”

I remember the suffocating thoughts and feelings of being alone in my struggles.

I remember the suffocating thoughts and feelings of being alone in my struggles. I remember how painful it was mentally for me. That’s what I never want anyone else to go through. I never want anyone to feel like they’re alone.

I could not have come to where I am solely by myself. It’s taken the support of my teammates, friends and family to become the strong and proud person I am now. That’s what we LGBTQ athletes are. We’re the people that these individuals will turn to when they’re feeling alone, when they’re not sure how to go forward or even to come to terms with themselves. That’s my role as an LGBTQ athlete.

I put my story and vulnerability out there for everyone to see because I want others to know that they can talk to me at any time. Everybody has a story and everyone wants to be heard.

I want to be the person who will listen and help them through their tough moments. Listening to so many individuals last year has been humbling because I have watched them grow stronger, come out and find themselves. To be one person who can affect the lives of so many others brings a smile and joy to my face. My involvement in this community is far from over.

Matthew Kravitz runs for Lehigh.

What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ kids in athletics or who want to participate in athletics, the kind of advice the younger you wish you had heard?

Everything will be OK. Everyone is afraid. Coming out to your team can be scary, especially when there are those who actively discriminate against the secret that you are holding inside.

I wish I could go back and look at myself and say, “It’s going to be tough, but the happiness and joy that is awaiting you will make all the struggles worth it.”

I know you may feel trapped, misguided and in a position that will leave your life shattered. I felt it too. I too felt like I would lose everything, so its OK to feel that. What you do need to know is that it’s just a fear. It’s always better and happier than you think. You will come to a point where you understand how supportive and loving your teammates can be.

Who is someone that inspires you?

Growing up I used to have animosity towards my little brother (now 19). This wasn’t because he was a bad sibling, but because I envied him. He displayed enormous confidence in everything he attempted in life. He didn’t care what others were saying and he lived a life that he truly wanted.

He did the thing I could never do: be himself, whether it be wearing a bold outfit or speaking his mind. He did it because that’s what his heart wanted. I watched for many years wishing I could do what he did. He isn’t LGBTQ, but he represented everything I admired.

As I grew older I began to admire him. I even emulated his clothing style my senior year in high school because It was a chance to be different. I never told him, but I always saw him as a role model even though he was my little brother.

For 19 years I watched him and observed every little thing he did. He may not be a celebrity or athlete, but he was the biggest inspiration to me growing up. My younger brother taught me to pursue a life that you want, not what others define. I am really proud to say that he is not only my brother, but also one of my best friends.

What are you passionate/excited about right now?

This summer I am interning with the Hennepin County Department of Health in Minneapolis. As an analytical health policy intern, I will be evaluating and proposing remediation to the current HIV epidemic in the area. I have a very strong passion in healthcare and public health which is where I want to pursue a career. Minnesota is a place that I would love to live and this summer could be the beginning to a new start which makes me beyond excited.

What is your most memorable sports moment?

My most memorable moment in sports was winning the 2016 Pennsylvania 3,200-meters track and field state championship. I remember going into the meet and my father told me that I was briefly mentioned as a contender for a medal in the pre-race article. I grew so frustrated because most of my high school career I was always overlooked statistically.

During the warmup, I remember crying because I wanted to prove my abilities and make a name for myself. There were a lot of ups and downs in my high school career, but to finish as a state champion let me know I proved everything I wanted to.

Seeing the tears in my mom’s eyes, the joy on my dad’s face and the awe in my sibling’s eyes was a moment that I will never forget. It reminds me of how beautiful the sport is and why I continue to suffer through the painful days that running can bring.

Matthew Kravitz is from Scranton Pennsylvania. He`s a junior and competes as a track and cross-country athlete at Lehigh University. He studies Biology and Public Health with a Business minor. He can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter or Instagram.

If you are out in sports in any capacity as openly LGBTQ and want to be featured in Being Out, drop Jim an email ([email protected]).

Being Out archive.