I knew I had to come out to my team when I had a meltdown in my apartment last spring with my roommate and a really close friend present.
I had friends and teammates from my Marian University ice hockey team in Wisconsin spreading rumors about my sexuality. It felt so disrespectful to think they wouldn’t have the courage to ask me face to face. Instead, they would make subtle digs in a conversation to see if I would react.
I was so upset after going out one night that I threw my phone at the wall, punched a hole in my door and was bawling uncontrollably. I knew I could not live like that any longer.
I came out to my team about a month later, in April 2019, after discussing it with my roommate, friends, and telling my coach.
I read a speech at a team meeting for all players who would be returning the next season. This is a slightly condensed version of what I said:
This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I don’t know what to expect and I’m scared.
I’ll get it out of the way early and tell you all … I’m gay.
This has been my nightmare for years and to be honest this day has haunted me for months. To hear the things I hear about people like me from you guys and the hockey community has made this nearly impossible. I just hope you understand: I didn’t choose this, and I hope you won’t turn on me.
We often talk about leaving your ‘shit’ at the door of the rink, but because of this environment, that’s where I’ve had to pick ‘it’ up. I can leave here and be myself, to an extent. But when I come back, I feel judged and uncomfortable.
This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, but I just want this place to be judgment-free zone where we can come and put our work boots on and have fun like ‘brothers.’ I really want you guys to support not just me, but anyone in this room or on this campus that is having a problem.
Now I want to tell my story about how this has come to my own realization, and how it has been, and I want to leave you guys with some things to think about moving forward.
Growing up as hockey players we are exposed to the locker room talk from a very young age, hearing it from our buddy’s crazy dad that says whatever the fuck comes into his head with no regard. We pick it up quickly because we are little sponges. Every guy we’ve ever played against has been a ‘loser’ or ‘fucking fag’ or ‘a cocksucker.’ You get the picture.
We all heard this year each other’s stories, and I’m thankful you guys were brave enough to open up about some of the worst times of your life. But it killed me going up there and talking and not opening up to you guys. But how could I?
I hear the talk. Every. Single. Day. How could I stand up there, in front of you guys and be what you so openly hate?
A little flashback for you guys to try and understand me a little better.
I haven’t always known I was gay. In fact, as many of you know, I’ve had sex with quite a few girls.
I always kind of knew there was something different. Obviously, I didn’t know what. I’ve only really known that I’m gay for about three years. Yeah, I didn’t even know before I came to Marian.
So, imagine growing close to your teammates — ‘brothers’— and then realizing you are what they hate. How do I hide that? Why do I have to hide that? We’ve been friends for at least a year, if not more, and I haven’t changed, I’ve just learned more about myself. Isn’t that what college is for? I’m still the same Brock.
Now, to look ahead, there’s some things I want you all to think about and maybe be a bit more conscientious about:
1) Just because I am gay does not mean I am coming to the rink and looking around at everyone. This is my home, my family, and that’s not how you look at family.
2) I am going to lay my fucking ass on the line on the ice for you all. That’s what I came here for and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
3) I get the slang and jokes and stuff won’t stop right away, but please be a little more courteous.
4) You can ask me questions because — don’t fucking lie to yourself — you’ve got questions.
5) Jokes. I’m OK with some. I’ll let you know when I’ve had enough. Just don’t make them with ill intent, it’s not cool.
6) Please don’t run around yelling this like it’s some sort of big news. I don’t get many things out of being gay, but I do get to decide when to ‘come out.’ Go watch ‘Love, Simon’ — it’ll hopefully open your eyes a little bit.
If we truly want to be a family, we have to trust each other. I am trusting you guys with what is the biggest secret of my life. I am trusting that it won’t be fuel for you guys to be shitty people and hate on me.
I am trusting that we can use this as an opportunity to grow closer and to appreciate the struggles that we don’t see and to know that we truly can leave our shit at the door of the rink and become a family when we walk into the room. We don’t have to all be best friends outside of the rink, but we also don’t have to talk shit. There’s enough other shitty people doing that, we can stick together, and when we walk into the rink, we can be a family for the few hours we are here. We’re all here for the same reason.
So, when I tell you to finish to the line or to bear down on a puck, there’s other guys thinking it. Take it in stride and know that I want you to be your best so that the team can be its best. I’ll listen to you about anything.
I want you guys to know that I do love you all, and I do know that we are good people and that me being gay doesn’t change the fact that I want to do my part to help this team and program become a household name and hold a national championship trophy.
I cried quite a bit while reading it because I knew it wasn’t a solution if my teammates reacted badly. I kept looking to my roommate (who was also a teammate) to calm me. He would nod and I’d keep going.
I had planned that after finishing, I would leave the room and my coach would come in and talk to the team. Before I could leave, one of the guys I thought might react negatively spoke up and said, “Hey Brock. We love you no matter what. I think we all agree and you’re a part of this family and we have your back.” Everyone then got up and bro-hugged and we had basically a huge team group hug.
I was definitely expecting certain reactions from some people, and more times than not, they reacted better than I could have ever wished for. People I thought would disown me or become even more cruel were among the first to voice their acceptance.
It took me quite a while to bring it up again to anyone, but lots of the guys would check in on me and see how it was going. That helped me feel more comfortable. I am so thankful to have had my roommate, who knew for more than a year. He helped me through some of the toughest times when I was getting made fun of behind my back.
After I came out, I was accepted as if nothing changed, and I am extremely thankful for that. I was also voted by the team as an assistant captain for the second straight season.
The whole experience was one I don’t think I could have imagined growing up. I am from a very rural part of Saskatchewan in Canada and have heard every derogatory term for a gay person that you can imagine (and probably more than you know).
Any inkling I had growing up that I might not be straight was immediately brushed away because I couldn’t be anything but straight. I was fortunate enough to be able to move away from home to play hockey growing up, and over those years away from home I learned a lot about myself.
Thankfully, even though my family grew up with a sort of prejudice, they have been accepting and are trying to learn how to change for the better and be more open. They have now twice met my boyfriend of two years and seem to have enjoyed the company.
My journey goes to show the cost of hiding your true self, the importance of a support group and the impact that coming out can have to open the eyes of people. Since I came out, I have had teammates call out people who used gay slurs at bars, saying things like, “It’s 2020, man, you can’t say that.”
I understand the journey of being an athlete in situations where people may not accept you, but I hope my path can empower anyone who is struggling. I want to reassure anyone reading this that there are people out there who will love you for you.
Brock Weston, 25, will be graduating from Marian University of Wisconsin in May 2020. He will graduate with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. He has applied and is waiting for acceptance to medical school to become a physician, aiming for sports medicine. He was a two-year assistant captain on the NCAA Division III men’s hockey team. He can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Twitter (@bwesty_5) or Instagram (@br0ckw3st0n).
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