I was coaching at West Salem High School in Wisconsin when I was told that a parent was angry at me for “exposing high school girls to that sort of lifestyle.”
Up until then, my recent coming out on Instagram as bisexual after years of personal torment had been positive. This parent had requested a meeting with me because I had cut his daughter from the team since we have a large number of girls come out for our program. He made the comment about my sexuality at the end of the meeting, which also included the athletic director.
My response to this parent was that whom I choose to love has no effect on my abilities to coach. My reason for coming out publicly the way I did was to allow people who are struggling with their sexuality to know they are not alone, that they have an ally who went through it and has come out the other side. It allows them to know that what they are feeling is valid.
I also added that I was not discussing my sexuality at team meetings because it was not relevant, but that I will not be changing who I am.
My self-confidence about my sexuality was something I couldn’t have dreamed of a short time prior. Volleyball has been the driving focus of my life. I have always relied on that as my outlet to work through my hard times.
It was my junior year at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and I was on the men’s volleyball club team. At this time, I also took over as the head girls volleyball coach at West Salem High School, where I graduated from high school. There were many people who doubted me for taking on this role at age 20. It was about halfway through the season where I noticed something inside me that just didn’t feel good. I brushed it off and used the season as a way to forget about everything going on elsewhere.
But after the season ended, I fell into a state of deep depression, ultimately leading me to have to withdraw from school. I struggled to get out of bed, go to work and even play volleyball.
I realized that what I was really struggling with was my sexuality. For years, I had repressed my sexuality and never acted on it. I thought that as long as I ignored it, I could be straight. I remember in middle school and high school that I would look at guys and feel the same way I did toward girls. Was this normal? Was this OK? What was wrong with me?
I tried to work up the courage to talk to my friends about it many times, but I was always worried that I wouldn’t be accepted. So, I suppressed it. By doing this, though, I caused myself so much distress that I sank into a deeper depression. Once I came to terms with who I am, I started the coming out process in college. I first told one of my best friends, and then another friend and they were so kind and accepting that I was on a high and I just wanted everyone to know.
I wrote an Instagram post on April 29, 2018, saying, “I am me and that hasn’t changed and it won’t change. I have been struggling with something inside of me for awhile and I am finally putting myself first… I am bisexual,” and posted it.
I shut off my phone but then stayed up for hours, with my heart racing wondering if I would be accepted and still keep my friendships. Eventually I fell asleep and I woke up to my friend telling me to check my phone. I saw all the texts and comments I had received and 90% of them were positive.
Since coming out I transferred to Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to join the men’s volleyball team in their inaugural season in 2019. I found my love for volleyball again, was eventually made captain and did everything I could to make the team better. I had my first season of being able to compete for Viterbo this last season and it is my last year of eligibility. We had completely turned our season around and we were playing the best volleyball we had been playing.
We were on our spring break trip to Florida when we had found out our season would be cut short and we could not continue due to the coronavirus. This was extremely difficult to process because I had worked so hard to get to where I was, and the team had put so much time into turning our program around. I understand everything happens for a reason, but without my experience this season I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends and people who have been so accepting and understanding.
I would never be where I am now if I hadn’t taken the chance to be myself and allow the world to see who I was.
For those of you struggling with your sexuality, please know it is OK to not be OK. Find people whom you trust and talk to them and take the leap of faith when you are ready. Know that if and when you decide to let people know who you are that you are going to be welcomed with open arms into the amazing LGBTQ+ community.
Brett Thompson, 23, is a senior at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and a member of the volleyball team. He was a two-time captain and in his senior season was two-time attacker of the week, ranked seventh in the nation in total kills, 12th in the nation for total blocks and 14th in the nation in kills per game He was also until recently volleyball coach at West Salem High School and left that to pursue another coaching opportunity. He can be reached on Instagram @brettthompson4 or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (email@example.com)
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