For a high school athlete who was so terrified of
being gay he contemplated suicide, coming out was huge. But Robert Scott did it
– and, within a couple of months, he was blogging nationally about his life.
Welcome to the gay youth world, 2011-style.
At 14, Robert felt cursed by his feelings for guys.
He identified as a jock; he played football, basketball and soccer, and ran
track and cross country. There was no way, he told himself, an athlete could be
gay. For three years he wrestled with his demons.
At 17, he met Ben Newcomer and Brad Usselman through
TheGYC.com, a gay teen site. They too were athletes – soccer and track – and
though all three lived in different parts of the country, they soon became good
friends. Robert, who lives in Memphis, even met Ben at a soccer tournament in
Brad had an idea: starting a blog. There was nothing
online specifically for young athletes struggling with their sexuality. He
contacted Jim Buzinski, co-founder of the OutSports.com website. Jim understood
the importance of the teens’ idea and provided important help, from
organization to grammar.
One goal, Brad said, was to "change people’s
perceptions that openly gay athletes would be ostracized from their sports
team." Another was to "build a grass-roots movement with my generation" aimed
at gaining equality.
Referring to gay athletes, Ben added, "Gay people
who fit in shouldn’t feel like they have to just because they can."
The blog – called "Walk the Road," referring to
young people exploring their sexuality together (http://bradrobertben.wordpress.com)
– drew nearly instant feedback. A closeted Mississippi State fraternity
member told his own agonizing tale, and concluded: "Many Southerners see the
typical gay guy as one who runs around in high heels dressed in makeup.
However, I can see from you and also myself, we are further from that image
than one can be."
A college swimmer emailed the three, and they posted
his story. He explained that he is still in the closet because he believes
others will define him solely by his sexuality, even though that’s only one
part of who he is.
That’s exactly the message Robert, Ben and Brad
impart. They blog about music, school and their sports teams. They write poetry
and upload videos. Sometimes – not always – they post stories about their own
experiences as gay teens, or pass along emails that other gay jocks have
Publicity on OutSports led to a surge of interest.
Olympians, college athletes and people of all ages – sports fanatics, and those
who only wished they could play – contacted the trio.
Gareth Bale – a 22-year-old Welshman who plays for
Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, and a rising international
soccer star – sent an encouraging word. "His shout-out really boosted our
spirits," says Robert.
Still, when the blog began Robert was not out to his
parents. "I was afraid the people around me would judge me if they ever found
out," he recalls. His parents did soon find out – and Robert’s fears subsided.
He put his last name on "Walk the Road," and began a steady coming-out process
with friends. The blog and coming out became intertwined.
"Hearing so many enlightening stories inspired me to
continue telling people close to me," Robert says.
"I had known so little of all the gay athletes there
really were in history," he continues. "Since creating the blog, my eyes have
been opened to successful gay athletes of today and the past.
"I also realize how much our society is progressing.
It’s almost scary how much the youth of today really don’t care for
discrimination against anyone who is gay. Even one of my teammates knows now,
and we’ve become best of friends since he learned."
Meanwhile, the boys blog on. Last month Brad wrote
about the upcoming track season: his first since coming out to his teammates.
Noting that all successful programs are built around
supportive athletes, Brad wrote: "Some LGBT athletes feel that their coming out
will take away from the team dynamic that has been built. I have heard from
some people that this happened to them on their own sports team, even so far as
to the team being divided over the issue. I am lucky to say, though, that my
team sees past my sexuality.
"They see all of the hard work I am putting in every
practice in order to achieve the best that I can. I am happy to say that even
though my mind went through the worst possible scenario that could take place
hundreds of times before I came out as well as after I came out, it all turned
out well.... There is no time limit on when you have to tell people, just do it
when you are ready."
Dan Woog is a journalist, educator, soccer coach, gay activist, and author of the "Jocks" series of books on gay male athletes. Visit his website at www.danwoog.com.