Glen Quayle came out once — to his parents. Since then, he’s simply been “out” as a gay athlete.

The pole vaulter — who competes in NCAA track and field and also competed in the most recent Commonwealth Games — has been on quite the journey as an out athlete.

“I never officially came out,” he told Outsports hours before his year-ending departure from Northern State University in South Dakota. “When I as 16 I told my parents. I never really spoke about it with anyone else.”

Competing for the Isle of Man — an island of about 85,000 people between Northern Island and England — he finished eighth in pole vault at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

During those Games, he also got to visit the Pride House in Birmingham, England, which made a powerful impression on him.

“It was nice to see a space for athletes from different countries where it’s not safe to be themselves,” he said of Pride House. “I’m very lucky to be where I’m from and to have friends and family who are supportive.”

At Pride House he learned about some of the Commonwealth countries — Jamaica, Cameroon, Pakistan and others — where being LGBTQ is illegal. It made the welcoming atmosphere that much more important to him.

“They were so welcoming and happy to have me there. It’s a niche thing to be part of the community and part of sport as well. It was a nice experience.”

Ultimately he chose to attend university at Northern State in South Dakota, where he could compete in pole vault in NCAA Division II.

He had a fantastic freshman season for the Wolves, winning the indoor pole vault title for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and setting school records in both indoor and outdoor pole vault. He finished 12th at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

While he’s found support amongst teammates, he’s also felt some homophobia from the broader community there.

At a party around Northern State last year, he learned that Aberdeen, S.D. — almost 300 miles west of Minneapolis — might not be the most supportive place for an out gay man.

When someone at the party asked him if he was gay, and he affirmed that fact, the response he received was less than kind.

“They said, ‘That’s disgusting,’ and they called me ‘gross,’” he said. “I told them to grow up, and I moved on. That was one of my first face-to-face experiences with homophobia. Not a lot of people will say that to your face.”

Still, the occasional homophobia Quayle has faced in South Dakota has been hard for him to handle.

“It’s been enough to make me not want to be here.”

Regardless of the surrounding community in Aberdeen and Northern State, Quayle said his pole vault coach has been a source of support.

“I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I was super nervous about telling my coach,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to tell people. And I never really did. People just heard about it. My pole vault coach couldn’t be more supportive.”

That has extended to the other athletes on the team as well.

“Everyone is super nice on the team. I have no issues with anyone on the team.”

As Outsports has found in a recent study of out LGBTQ athletes, teammates are, on average, more supportive of LGBTQ athletes than a university’s community at large.

Quayle’s position in the world pole vault rankings put him in competition in the NCAA and Commonwealth Games, and he’s about a half-meter from reaching the pole vault qualifying standard to be considered for Team Great Britain at the 2024 Olympics.

Still, he’s loving the competition and hopes to continue competing in the NCAA and beyond.

So why did Quayle gravitate toward pole vault? If you’ve been 15 feet in the air on a stick, you know why.

“It’s such a rush,” he said. “A lot of other events in track — sprinting or long distance — can be quite painful. Pole vault is just so fun. There’s no feeling like coming down from those heights.”

You can find Glen Quayle on Instagram.