Sports was the only time I felt like I could be my true self, and tune out the rest of the world. It was half my identity, the other half being a lesbian within sports.
Coming into McDaniel College in Maryland as a freshman playing soccer and lacrosse, I was still closeted but specifically choose not to come out in high school because of the fear of bullying.
I knew college would be the perfect opportunity to find myself in a safe space and came out during my freshman year. My “ah-hah” moment was actually a moment I wish on no one in the community.
It was at a playoff game at Johns Hopkins and I was getting ready to take a penalty kick to advance my team to the championship. As I walk up to take the kick a fan yelled out to me: “Hey number six, you sound like a dyke.”
My world froze and my heart raced. I felt like I was in a different universe and couldn’t keep my focus as I became immediately insecure of who I was as an athlete. I thought I was able to hide that part of me and no one would notice — but someone did.
I ended up missing the penalty kick because of the headspace I was in, and costing us a trip to the championship. I felt even worse — now I’m a dyke and I don’t get to take my team to the championship? It sparked me wanting to come out, and just own who I truly was without fear.
That semester I decided to come out to my lacrosse team and coaching staff in a game of Hangman. It would the big announcement I could handle and let my teammates and coaches know who I was behind that jersey number.
My sister and best friend on the team were the only two who knew I was gay and they encouraged me the whole way. I went to the board and drew the lines to equal the phrase, “coach I’m gay.” My sister and friend started yelling out the letters to correspond to the spaces and I was nervously filling them in as everyone watched.
I was getting ready to write the “gay,” and it was easy to write because I had accepted who I was. My teammates and coaches realized what I was writing and I was soon showered with hugs, cheers and loving words. I was finally out and knew I had the support of my teammates and coaches.
This experience inspired me to write my senior capstone and thesis on “How a sports team can effect a LGBTQ+ coming out process within collegiate sports.” My research was the first published LGBTQ+ qualitative analysis done by our communication and marketing department at McDaniel.
I learned even more about myself doing this research by hearing other openly or closeted athletes tell their stories, and them leaning on me as an outlet and someone they could safely talk to. I felt more connected to not only the sports community, but now my community as an LGBTQ+ member.
I was then honored to receive “Female Athlete of the Year 2019” at graduation. It was a great honor because I knew that my story, my process, my research and my community made me into the best athlete I could of possibly be at McDaniel. I never would have received this award if I wasn’t embracing my true self as the only two-sport athlete at McDaniel who was fully out.
McDaniel changed my life. Without my best friends, family, coaches, and teammates I wouldn’t be Lindsey Farrell. They taught me just because I’m gay, it does not make me less of an athlete.
Lindsey Farrell graduated from McDaniel College in 2019 and is the marketing coordinator and lead videographer at Direct Mortgage Loans at their headquarters in Hunt Valley, Maryland. You can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram (@lil_farrell), Twitter (@LindseyFarrell2) or Facebook (@Lindsey Farrell).
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (email@example.com)
Check out our archive of coming out stories.
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.