Outsports continues its new feature, Out in the World: diving into our deep archive of Coming Out stories and updating the stories of out athletes, coaches and other sports personnel who continue to prove, everyday, that Courage Is Contagious.
Dr. Bryan McColgan, MD has the resume that says he’s a dynamic hard charger: Stanford undergraduate who would later serve on the schoole LGBT alumni board; Fulbright fellowship; Medical school graduate at Columbia; Practicing endocrinologist. He in currently working for a firm building interactive applications for mental health.
“What I’m excited to do is work that is geared specifically toward LGBTQ people especially from the health perspective,” Dr. McColgan told Outsports. “You go back to your roots and you want to give back, because there is so much the community needs in terms of providers we can trust.”
Such a view comes from hard-won self awareness borne of his own process of discovery, and sports was a big piece of it. Four years ago, McColgan wrote in Outsports about how sports helped him hide, and helped him come out of hiding:
Even though Stanford and the team could not have been a more welcoming and accepting environment in which to come out, I still could not admit to myself or anyone that I was gay. Wrist surgery forced me to medically retire from the sport, and at the end of my sophomore year I finally came out to my best friend and family.
“Looking at it now, I feel really happy for kids who can be out and be themselves and do sports,” McColgan said. “There seems to have been a lot of progress in that space, at least in men’s gymnastics. I get a little bit of jealousy thinking about it because it didn’t feel that way when I went through it, but I’m more happy for kids growing up.”
McColgan found gymnastics at age 7 and became a high school state champion in Pennsylvania and Junior National Olympic Team member in the sport for 2 years before going to Stanford University and competing there. Injuries derailed him and he was out of the sport after his sophomore year in 2003, and not long after came out as gay to family and friends.
Sports fell lower on his priority list as he pursued medical school on the opposite coast, and they returned to Bay Area to fulfill his residency. That is where the sports bug bit him, ten years after graduating from Stanford.
It would not be in the technical grace of a floor exercise or a vault, but rather in rough dance of scrums. In 2015 found a local rugby club, San Francisco Fog RFC, to play for. A mixed bag of gay men and straight allies led to both hope and anxiety for McColgan, at least for the first day.
“I had a lot of anxiety about who was gay or who was just an ally or who was identified a certain way, and I think that was a part my problem and anxiety, of putting people in these boxes, instead of initially enjoying everyone coming together,” McColgan remembered. “After that first practice, I got the sense that it didn’t matter. Everyone was there for the same reason to hang out, play rugby, support each other and be friends.”
He was an active player for two-and-a-years. Rugby was another surge in his personal evolution. The surge was formed by coming out, and coming into his own, as a physician.
“When I went to see providers, I felt more comfortable when I saw someone with a rainbow pin or some type of identification that they were LGBTQ-friendly or they themselves were,” McColgan said. “Once I got into the position of being a healthcare provider to patients, I felt more of an obligation to stand out. Being that old and proud at work made me want to do something I really love: play sports and be visible.”
In 2017, injuries ended his time on the pitch, but not his involvement with the club. He became a supporter and volunteer. On the playing field, McColgan says, “I wasn’t that good”. But he did manage to score a try — off the pitch.
It was at a team social while still an active player. He met a Bay Area native who had moved to Washington, D.C. for a job in the Obama White House, and along the way picked up rugby and played for a team in the nation’s capital. With the presidential term ending, the prospective recruit for the Fog was moving home and looking for a team. McColgan was readying to close the deal.
“There was an element of pursuing him as a new recruit, but I quickly realized I’d rather date him, rather than be a teammate,” McColgan said fondly.
The prospect, Victor Arellano, eventually joined a team, but it wasn’t the Fog or any rugby team. McColgan and Arellano teamed up and have been together since, and got engaged last year. To McColgan, his experience in returning to sports helped make his own process much clearer.
“I became more open to experience and in turn much more open relationships,” he said. “and this romantic relationship presented itself that I was ready to be a part of.”
They were engaged in 2019, and moved to Sweden in July 2020 to start their life together. They planned to return to the Bay Area for a September wedding, however the global coronavirus pandemic put their plans on hold, for now.
However, their story does have happy ending. For Dr. Bryan McColgan, MD, his return to sport refueled his spirit and it's something he now brings into his life and his work.
“The greatest value was more of an emotional range and really feeling fully invested in the team and in the game whereas before there was an image being projected and I was more concerned with how I was being perceived,” McColgan said. “Overall, it's just a general openness and the ability to enjoy life more.”
Outsports welcomes suggestions for our Out In the World series. Who would you like to hear from again? Also, please reach out if you yourself would like to update us on what you’ve been doing since coming out.
Check out our archive of coming out stories.
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (email@example.com)
If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.