I always felt like I couldn’t move in athletics.
I had spent much of my life running, trying to get faster to no real self-satisfaction. Later I would find out my issue was that I was running with weights. The weight of being gay. The weight of thinking everyone would hate me if I said it out loud.
Around the time I entered the fifth grade, I knew I was gay. I would never have admitted it to anyone, even myself, but I knew I was. Growing up in Keller, Texas, I became conditioned to the idea that anything different was considered wrong. So for the majority of my fifth- and sixth-grade years, I promised myself that I would find a way not to be different. I hoped that one day I would wake up and suddenly be normal.
As you might have guessed, it doesn’t work like that.
I felt trapped. I was the only gay person I knew in a town that felt like it was out to get me. So I put up a front. Instead of dealing with all the challenges of being gay, I decided that I would not tell anyone. This only further isolated me away from my teammates, friends, and family.
As any athlete will tell you, sports take a toll on you physically, yet I know that pretending to be somebody you’re not will leave you more drained than you ever thought possible. For me, continually putting on a front drained my body. It felt like by the time it was game day, I had already run the race.
As a runner and soccer player, I had a lot of time to reflect. I was constantly thinking of difficult questions. “Will my parents find out?” “Will my teammates understand?” “Will my coaches hate me?” Hundreds of fearful thoughts circled through my mind when I was in no more than the seventh grade.
However, along with being a scared gay kid in the South, I was also the No. 1 middle school cross-country runner my school and district had ever seen. I was shattering records, winning first place at the meet of champions both years, and was hitting times close to those of a varsity sophomore. I was very proud of myself for proving that I could be great. However, I felt that I wasn’t truly winning.
After I won the eighth-grade meet of champions, I remember it felt like I had won the World Series. My friends all came and high-fived me, parents of kids I didn’t know gave me congratulations, and even an Arkansas running coach gave me his number and told me to “call him when I’m older.” Yet I ruined the experience for myself.
I wish I could go back and win all of those races as a gay athlete. I would prove it to all those kids who said words like “fag” that they just got beat by a gay guy. That the gay guy shattered all of those records and made them look stupid, but I didn’t
I was too scared.
I wish that I wouldn’t have been too scared.
When entering high school, I had no intention of coming out. I still felt that my identity as a gay man and athlete needed to remain separate for the comfort of those around me. Besides, it was my freshman year of high school; why would I want to make it any harder?
It was around the end of the first semester of my freshman year, and my teammates and I had just finished practice. We all sat in the locker room cracking jokes and messing with one another. It was fun.
That was until the conversation shifted to my teammates making some not so funny jokes. They began to yell at one another, “Hey, don’t act like such a fag!” and “Come on, you homo!” The insults and language were nothing new to me, but then one of my teammates caught my response.
They must have noticed me not laugh hard enough or my face wince because they shouted to me from halfway across the locker room, “What Majure, are you gay?” The locker room fell with a quiet laugh. I froze. I had never had someone ask me the question before. I was scared.
I know he didn’t mean that as a question. He meant it as an insult, but I decided not to take it as one. I looked him dead in the eye with shaking confidence in my voice said, “Yeah, I’m gay, is there a problem?”
I paused and sat back down, waiting to be beaten, attacked, or yelled at but instead, my teammates hesitated as if they thought that I was joking. Many of them stood in disbelief or laughed. Somehow they couldn’t possibly fathom that I was gay. It did not compute that their teammate, their friend, was queer. It took about five different people saying, “Are you for real?” and “Do you swear?” for them to start to realize that I wasn’t lying.
The tone in the locker room instantly shifted from the energetic laughter into a confused whisper. I was puzzled by their reactions. My teammates’ shocked faces were entirely expected. However, the confusion that they all had was a surprise. Why were they confused?
After the long awkward pause subsided, they started to ask questions. Yes, some were silly, like, “Who do you think is the hottest guy here?” but many of them had legitimate questions. “How long have you known?” “Were your born gay?” and my personal favorite, “What does gay even really mean?”
I was shocked at their initial lack of knowledge regarding the queer community. How could it be that they didn’t even know what gay meant? At that moment, the realization hit me that I was the first gay person any of my teammates had ever met. In fact, I became one of the few openly gay kids at my school of over 4,000.
After I came out to my teammates — my soccer and cross-country teams the same day — news about my being gay spread around school fast. By the time the next week rolled around, there were people I had spoken to once asking me, “Are you actually gay?” To which now I confidently responded with “yes.”
In the weeks that followed, I began to notice a shift in my school’s sports culture. Although my coming out didn’t eliminate homophobia from my teammates and coaches, I saw less. The homophobic slurs and jokes in the locker room turned into teammates asking me genuine questions, and my coaches’ homophobic language was, for the most part, eliminated. I began to notice myself feel happier and freer as I proudly owned my identity as an athlete and a gay man on and off the field.
Later on, in my junior year, I began to push for queer advocacy beyond just athletics. I went on to write a speech called “The Game of Equality.” It is a speech about homophobia in modern sports. I then started my school’s Gay Straight Alliance, where I now serve as the president.
I am beyond thankful for my coming out. It was the decision that genuinely changed my life and the lives of all of those around me.
I used to feel like being gay was holding me down, but now I know that owning my sexuality is, in fact, what pushes me forward.
Britton Majure, 17, will be graduating from Keller High school in Texas in 2022. He serves as the president of his GSA, plays varsity soccer and is a runner on his school’s cross-country and track teams. He can be reached by email (Britton.email@example.com) or Instagram (Britton_majure).
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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