This week we’re highlighting the experiences of LGBTQ athletes who have come out to their teams and participated in the Out In Sports study, which Outsports conducted with the Univ. of Winchester and the Sports Equality Foundation. The study revealed widespread acceptance of LGBTQ athletes who come out to teammates in high school and college. You can find more here.
Thomas Roth could not have had a better experience coming out to his teammates on the Kentucky Wesleyan College men’s soccer team.
Coming out to his family had had its bumps and bruises. Roth said they initially “didn’t have a great response,” and it created some strife.
Within his soccer family in Kentucky, there was nothing but support.
“I don’t think I could have experienced a better response for what I needed,” said Thomas Roth, an Out In Sports survey respondent who was a goalie for the Kentucky Wesleyan College men’s soccer team when he came out to teammates in 2018. “They couldn’t have done any better. Camaraderie was always part of my team experience, and nothing about that changed at all.”
Roth had heard gay slurs before. Growing up in Owensville, Ky., almost two hours west of Louisville, he was first called a “fag” in elementary school, when he didn’t even know what the word meant. Roth said he doesn’t “ever remember hearing anything like that” from his teammates, it was always other kids in school.
By the time he got to Kentucky Wesleyan, he surrounded himself with people who would accept him for who he was. That included the men’s soccer team.
“The people I surrounded myself with in college, I was always vocal about different things,” he said of his experience with the approximately 800 students at Kentucky Wesleyan. “Everyone’s kind of like family there.”
Soccer was not his first step out of the closet. There were others at work, and close friends, with whom he initially shared his truth.
“I was already out to my core circle of friends and some people I worked with at Starbucks,” Roth said. “Me working at Starbucks was really the act that pushed me to be more comfortable, because it was in such a safe space there. It got to a point in 2018 where I was slowly telling more people.”
When he did start talking openly about being gay around his team, their acceptance was quickly apparent to him. In 2019 Roth also joined a fraternity, and he found his fraternity brothers to be equally accepting.
“They were super receptive and loving,” Roth said of his fraternity members.
Roth quickly became very comfortable being out around his teammates, joking around with them and openly sharing dating problems. Though that did come with a give and take:
“I had to listen to their problems too.”
Learn more about the Out In Sports study here.