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Gay pro baseball player Bryan Ruby found inspiration reading these 39 LGBT sports books

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Gay pro baseball player Bryan Ruby shares his favorite books about LGBT athletes, plus his entire reading list.

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San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Update Sept. 2, 2021: Bryan Ruby, who had provided this list to Outsports to share anonymously in March 2020, has come out publicly as gay. These were some of the books that helped him get there.

Storytelling is the most powerful tool we have, not simply to make change in our world, but to help empower and comfort LGBTQ people across sports. We hear it all the time, how athletes found strength and a sense of community by reading the stories of other LGBTQ athletes like them.

So, when a gay professional baseball player said he wanted to share his list of books about LGBTQ athletes, it was a no-brainer. He said reading stories on Outsports when he was younger and in the closet helped him feel less alone and helped him get through some tough times. The books are a long-form extension of that, allowing him to see deeply inside the entire lives of athletes, many of whom have gone through some of the very struggles he’s experienced.

”Being on the road playing baseball, I end up with a lot of downtime in unfamiliar cities needing something to do,” he told Outsports. “Reading all these books gives me a feeling of connection to other LGBT athletes like me.”

While the player is out to friends, family and teammates, he’s sharing his book list anonymously now, as the uncertainty brought to baseball by the coronavirus simply makes this a problematic time to talk publicly about being gay in baseball. When things are back to some semblance of normal, he looks forward to sharing his story publicly with us.

For now, he hopes you’ll also find inspiration in his list of LGBTQ sports books, because he knows how these stories comforted him at times when he felt a bit alone and isolated.

His Top 9:

1. Beautiful On The Outside: A Memoir, Adam Rippon

“Adam is hilarious. He’s a total character and knows how to tell a story. He seems like the kind of big personality who would be a ton of fun to hang out with in-person. Listen to the audiobook version if you can, so you can hear Adam tell it in his own words. It’s worth it.”

2. My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life, Ryan O’Callaghan

“This one is dark at times, but there’s no better look into what it’s like to live as a closeted gay man in the NFL. Ryan is honest, authentic, and doesn’t hold back sharing his full truth. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.”

3. The Front Runner, Patricia Nell Warren
“Although it is dated (Published 1974) and fictional, The Front Runner has all the feels. It’s a beautiful story about love in a time when the LGBTQ community faced public shaming, persecution, and threats of violence. I still choke up when I think about this book.”

4. My Shot: Balancing It All and Standing Tall, Elena Delle Donne
“Elena Delle Donne is an absolute superstar. I appreciated reading her young adult autobiography because she hides nothing about her struggles with Lyme Disease and how it impacts her sometimes restless, blinding drive to be the best. It’s an honest look into the mental fortitude and perseverance it takes to be an elite athlete. Her up-front and shame-free look into her personal life is admirable.”

5. Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports, Cyd Zeigler
“Rather than an individual autobiography or a fictional narrative, this book serves as a broader look into LGBTQ athletics topics and issues. It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to see the bigger picture of LGBTQ progress in sports. I even sent it to my grandpa after I came out, and it helped him see where I was coming from.”

6. A High Five For Glenn Burke, Phil Bildner

“This is the book I wish I had as a kid. Released less than a month ago, Phil Bildner’s fictional young-adult novel focuses on a closeted middle-school ballplayer coming to grips with the fact that he is gay. It’s a quick read, heartwarming story, and super current as more and more kids come out at a younger age.”

7. Forward: A Memoir, Abby Wambach
“Wambach’s memoir is a fascinating look into the soccer world, a world I admittedly don’t know much about. I’m still shocked she came out to her teammates over a game of Never Have I Ever... The memoir is rich, honest, and fitting of an American sports icon.”

8. Man In The Middle, John Amaechi
“This autobiography tells of overcoming various types of adversity: injury, death in the family, and regularly changing teams, to name a few. Amaechi’s memoir was one of the first books I read by a gay athlete, and it left me yearning for more. He tells a great story and provides a ton of insight into what the world of professional basketball was like during the late 90s and early 2000s.”

9. The Only Rule Is It Has To Work: Our Wild Experiment Building A New Kind of Baseball Team - Chapter 10, Breaking Barriers, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
“The final book on my list tells the story of the 2015 Sonoma Stompers, an Independent Professional Baseball team in Northern California. I have included this book because of the chapter on Sean Conroy, who was by all accounts the first openly gay player to appear in an American professional baseball game. There are anecdotes about Conroy scattered throughout the book, but the bulk of Sean’s story is in one place. Skip to Chapter 10 if you want to just read about Sean and aren’t interested in the rest of the story. I want to specifically mention it here because the book was not marketed to the LGBTQ community, and will never show up on any other list of books relating to LGBTQ sports. However, it is a great read for anyone who is thinking about coming out in baseball. It is our best look to-date into how a pro baseball clubhouse may react if a player in their organization comes out as gay. Check it out!”

His full list of LGBTQ sports books is below. He shared with us this message about one of his reasons for sharing this list here:

“While there seem to be several lists on the internet covering fictional LGBTQ sports books,” he wrote, “a definitive list of LGBTQ Sports biographies/autobiographies is harder to pinpoint.”

Baseball

Going the Other Way, Billy Bean

Behind The Mask, Dave Pallone

Out at Home, Glenn Burke with Erik Sherman

The Only Rule is It Has To Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team, Ben Lindbergh (*not an autobiography but note chapter on Sean Conroy)

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey, Ila Borders

Basketball

The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led By Born-Again Christians, Kate Fagan

In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court, Brittney Griner

Man in the Middle, John Amaechi with Chris Bull

My Shot: Balancing It All and Standing Tall, Elena Delle Donne

Figure Skating

Beautiful On the Outside, Adam Rippon

Welcome to My World, Johnny Weir

Football

The David Kopay Story, David Kopay and Perry Deane Young

Out of Bounds: Coming Out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction, and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet, Roy Simmons

My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life, Ryan O’Callaghan with Cyd Zeigler

Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL, Esera Tuaolo

Rugby

Proud: My Autobiography, Gareth Thomas

Alfie!: The Gareth Thomas Story, Gareth Thomas

Soccer

Forward: A Memoir, Abby Wambach

Coming Out to Play, Robbie Rogers with Eric Marcus

Swimming/Diving

Breaking The Surface, Greg Louganis with Eric Marcus

Godspeed, Casey Legler

Tennis

The Autobiography of Billie Jean King, Billie Jean King

American Colossus: Big Bill Tilden and the Creation of Modern Tennis, Allen M Hornblum

Track and Field

The Secrets of My Life, Caitlyn Jenner

Wrestling

Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, Pat Patterson with Bertrand Hebert

Wrestling Reality: The Life and Mind of Chris Kanyon, Wrestling’s Gay Superstar, Chris Kanyon and Ryan Clark

Others

Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports, Cyd Zeigler

Out in Sport: The Experiences of Openly Gay and Lesbian Athletes in Competitive Sport, Eric Anderson, Rory Magrath, Rachael Bullingham

LGBTQ+ Athletes Claim the Field: Striving for Equality, Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Sports Journalism and Coming Out Stories: Jason Collins and Michael Sam, William P. Cassidy

A High Five for Glenn Burke, Phil Bildner

The Outsports Revolution: Truth & Myth in the World of Gay Sports, Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski

‘More Than an Athlete: A Qualitative Examination of Activist Identities Among NCAA Division 1 Student-Athletes’, Yannick Klutch (Lengthy Dissertation)

Fictional

The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach (Owen Dunne character)

A High Five For Glenn Burke, Phil Bildner

The Dreyfus Affair: A Love Story, Peter Lefcourt

The Front Runner, Patricia Nell Warren
...and sequels Harlan’s Race, Billy’s Boy