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Gay rowing coach’s coming out journey culminates in his engagement

It took Iowa assistant coach Lowell McNicholas a while to be comfortable with telling his coming out story. Now he’s posting engagement photos on social media.

Rowing coach poses with fiance.
Iowa rowing coach Lowell McNicholas, right, poses with his fiance, Dave Birr, shortly after getting engaged.
Photo by A Bitter Orange

It took Iowa women’s rowing assistant coach Lowell McNicholas several years to navigate his coming out journey and share his true self with everyone around him.

Now that journey has culminated in finding his soulmate. And as he recently revealed his engagement to fiance Dave Birr on social media, it was clear that every step along the way was worth it.

Two weeks ago, McNicholas took to his Instagram to post photos with Birr captioned with two ring emojis. In one of the pictures, the two proudly displayed their engagement rings to the camera.

As teasers go, the excitement they generated was practically Marvelesque.

Two men get engaged at the edge of a lake.
It’s a beautiful day for an engagement.
Photo by A Bitter Orange

Then last weekend, McNicholas made it official, posting more photos with the caption: “A lil engagement to cap off a wonderful summer. Love you @dive_barr.”

Included in the montage were pics that caught McNicholas in the middle of popping the question and a shot of him on one knee sliding on the ring with a level of joy that is usually associated with the phrase “Beyonce tickets.”

A rowing coach puts a ring on his fiance’s finger.
He put a ring on it...
Photo by A Bitter Orange

Back in 2017, McNicholas told his coming out story at Outsports while he was coaching for his alma mater Wisconsin.

Even as he was figuring out his sexuality, he wrote, “I remember thinking to myself, even if I wanted to ‘come out,’ I didn’t want to make it a ‘thing’ because I believed that no LGBT person should have to put out a press release to announce it.” McNicholas frankly admitted that this led to complications in his first relationship.

As the news of his engagement exemplifies, however, McNicholas has come a long way since then. When reflecting on his coming out process in a message to Outsports, McNicholas asserted that he looks back and asks, “Why didn’t I do it sooner?!”

“It’s another reminder of all the good that follows sharing that part of yourself publicly,” he elaborated, “[It] brought me closer to my friends, to my family, with colleagues, and with student-athletes I get to work with. Allowed me to build a real relationship with a partner who I now get to call my fiance! I am able to experience life in a deeper, richer, more authentic, and more meaningful way. What else could you ask for?”

A man kisses his fiancée on the cheek after getting engaged.
So this day went well...
Photo by A Bitter Orange

Coming out was one of the best things McNicholas ever did and it led to several more of the best moments of his life.