Marcus Morgan was a first-team all-star for Humber Hawks volleyball last season. | Diego Guillen

The choice of cover image on the Humber Hawks volleyball program — Marcus Morgan, reaching out, fully focused — says so much about this athlete and his team.

The Hawks’ team goals for the 2023-24 season went beyond just retaining their OCAA Conference Championship crown. They achieved that aim, making it four titles in a row to progress to nationals in Canada, where they only just missed out on a bronze medal.

What was also within Morgan’s grasp as he set out on the campaign ahead was a bounce-back opportunity, one that was more about elevating his LGBTQ community than himself.

With family on- and off-court by his side, he seized that chance too.

“Humber has been so supportive,” his mother, Nicola, tells Outsports from their home in Fort Erie, just across the Niagara River from Buffalo. “What that program cover represented was huge.

“Of all the photos they could have used — and there are so many of Marcus flying through the air — they went with that one.”

With his fingertips gleaming like his all-white kit, Morgan was put in the spotlight. But he delivered, with All-Star honors and an MVP award.

Nailed it.

The skin he lives in

Standing at 6-foot-6 and having played up an age level with Team Ontario while at high school, Morgan was being circled by plenty of university and college scouts back in 2021. Humber was the most determined of them, and they got their man.

Becoming a Hawk held great appeal, but so did the academic diploma on offer — cosmetic management.

“I’ve always loved art,” explains Morgan. “I branched out into watching makeup videos online on my phone when I was about 15, just doing research and getting into it.

“I started slowly with eyeliner and the basic stuff, and instantly fell in love with it. I was doing these super graphic looks and really taking my time.

“From there, I was getting more products, learning about base routines and complexion, and I knew this was what I wanted to do career-wise.

“I kept practising and when I looked into Humber through volleyball, I realised they had a program — it was cosmetics and business. I thought that was just perfect.”

Away from the volleyball court, Morgan is a self-taught makeup artist

Morgan never worried that his passions for sports and makeup might not be compatible, as evidenced by the first few posts on his TikTok account from June 2022.

Wearing his Hawks hoodie, he smiles at the camera before the reveal — skin glowing, beauty radiating, jewellery catching the light. The accompanying hashtags include #menwhowearmakeup, #toxicmasculinity and #pride.

A TikTok he made the following month was a response to an anonymous user who had commented: “Wtf… be a man you’re (sic) father wanted you to be.”

With a bicep flex and a bashful smile, Morgan shattered the stereotype. “Being a man is about being comfortable in your own skin,” he wrote in the caption.

It’s now one of his pinned posts, with over 100,000 likes. His account has more than 1 million likes overall.


Replying to @lapshsiq29281 Define a man. There’s no set category a man needs to follow. My femininity doesn’t make me any less of a man. You can be as masculine and feminine as you please. Being a man is about being comfortable in your own skin. Redefine masculinity! #foryoupage #toxicmasculinity #makeup #educating #rebranding #defineaman #mencanwearmakeup

♬ original sound – ob

Morgan’s confidence extends to his easy-going sense of self-acceptance as well.

“I came out as gay, but I question myself all the time. I could be bi,” says the 19-year-old.

“I’m just going with the flow, and I don’t really want to put a label on it. But I did come out as gay and I like to represent the gay community and LGBTQ in general.”

Having been inspired by the stories of other college athletes on Outsports, it was Nicola who suggested sharing her son’s story more widely, with his permission.

“As a mom, I was so scared for him being an athlete who was out. I was terrified. But then as I go through these articles, it’s just so comforting for me to see,” she says.

“The world can be an awful place. It can be so cruel. But Marcus is so confident in everything that he does. I always joke and say that I want to be like him when I grow up and have the confidence that he has.

“He’s always like, ‘don’t worry mama, I got it’ — and he does. He’s got it.”

Morgan’s mum Nicola is his biggest supporter

Overcoming homophobia

In his first year as a Hawks player, Morgan was subjected to homophobia on the volleyball court.

He was wearing nail polish in a match and when members of the opposition team noticed, they made comments and used slur words against him.

Morgan thinks the hate speech was an attempt to unsettle him. He expected as much.

“I’d braced myself for it. I knew those comments would be made so I didn’t let it get to me. I just stayed strong,” he says.

His resolute mentality helped the Hawks to victory that day, but Morgan wasn’t about to bask in the glory. He wanted to act.

“There was a lot of support — my deans, the coaching staff, teammates, my family, everyone was there for me and had my back.

“Even their women’s team would come up to me and say, ‘that’s not how we represent our school, that’s not how we want to be portrayed’.”

He started a conversation about the incident with the opposing college’s dean of students and their athletic director, explaining how damaging it would be if one of their athletes was gay and had overheard those comments or others like that on different occasions.

“Honestly, I didn’t even want anything to happen to those responsible,” he insists.

“What was said was homophobic. But we took that and ran with it.”

Morgan’s moral fortitude and pride became part of his identity as a volleyball player. He got his own slogan — “Tough As Nails” — which was embraced by the Humber community and used as a hashtag online.

His family and fans even turned out with their own nails painted in blue-and-gold colors.

A show of solidarity in the stands for Morgan

The Hawks went on to retain their title, sealing the first-ever four-peat in the program’s history.

Morgan was awarded Player of the Match honors, having scored 21 points in the final. Then when his name was read out as tournament MVP, he was cheered and applauded.

Nicola is proud of how her son handled the situation. “We’ll call it a hiccup. Some ignorant comments were made. We weren’t looking to get anybody kicked off a team. But education needed to happen.

“If other athletes there were struggling with being LGBTQ, we hoped they would have a welcoming environment and not be afraid to come out.”

Spiking the binary

A fortnight later, Morgan and the Hawks were in Vancouver for nationals. They knocked out the reigning champions on their way to a fourth-place finish in the tournament.

Opposition players who knew about the story of Humber’s star man connected with him and showed him respect.

That was also something Morgan had asked for when he was still at high school, back in the summer of 2020. A photo of him holding a placard that says “I AM NOT A THREAT,” taken during a Justice for Black Lives Niagara demonstration, was so compelling that it ended up on display in a local museum.

His mum mentions that image as an indicator of what was to come. Now her son is a face for “duality” in sports. “Yes, I’m this All-Star volleyball player, but I’m also a makeup artist,” he says.

“I’ve been told I have such a balance with masculine and feminine energy, and I’m happy to show that with my interests and how I present myself.”

There are future ambitions — modelling, acting, maybe a move to Los Angeles one day — but Morgan’s main aim for now is to simply find power in being authentic.

His career in cosmetics is taking off already but there are at least three more years for “Tough as Nails” to hammer home his potential on court.

Just don’t box him in.

“My representation is about showing that my sexuality doesn’t define who I am. It doesn’t make me any less of a man or any weaker. If anything, it makes me stronger.”

You can follow Marcus Morgan on TikTok and Instagram.